1991: The French finally savour victory

Excerpt from "Champagne Mumm Admirals Cup" by Timothy Jeffery

Statistics tell the whole story of the first series in the 1990s. The number of countries who had competed in the Admiral's Cup only France, the Netherlands and the USA had sailed in all but one of the seventeen series to date. At their seventeenth attempt the French finally savoured victory.

At first it seemed a gloomy prospect. The Dutch were absent, their line of attendance since 1959 finally broken; the Kiwis could not come to try to regain their crown; and the failure of Sweden and Ireland to raise teams made it seem like a party without old friends.

In one of those conundrums for which the fragmented sport of sailing is famous, the RORC had chosen a new team format for 1991 which actually made it more difficult for countries to assemble their teams. Hatched on the back of the fourteen-strong 1989 series, where the fleet had naturally coalesced around the One-Ton, Two-Ton and 50ft bands, the RORC decided that the event would be better served by requiring teams to field one boat in each rating band.

At a stroke this introduced level rating into an event traditionally built around teams of mixed handicaps. It made racing more exciting for competitors and more easily understood by observers, simply because the order in which the boat stood on the water would be the order in which they would appear in the results. No more conversion of elapsed times into corrected times, no more trying to figure whether or not a boat was saving her time in mid-race. At any time, anywhere, it would be obvious how the fleet stood, and, by adding each of the three boats' placings, any team's progress could be totted up in seconds.

The flaw in the plan was a major one, and it remains a moot point whether the RORC's Admiral's Cup committee of management could have foreseen the declining interest in IOR boast, which then coincided with a world economic slump. The RORC had grown accustomed to the fact that their event was one of the very few for which owners still launched boats. At the end of the 1980s, only the One Ton Cup and the 50ft World Cup had that sort of drawing power, and even then many boats had a second Admiral's Cup purpose in mind.

Fortunately, quality made up for the shortfall in quantity. Indeed, even in the heyday of nineteen teams in the 1970s, the series was decided amongst a handful of teams. Having just eight teams was the logical outcome of survival of the fittest.

When Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the USA joined the fray with Britain, it seemed that only the Aussies and Japanese could be said to lack three top-drawer yachts. The Danes and the Italians, in particular, were seen as the ones to beat.

Italy set out with a clear game plan by giving the nod to three owners, whose places in the team were confirmed twenty months ahead of the Cup. All three went to Bruce Farr for their designs and had the boats built in New Zealand by Terry and Mick Cookson's yard. In a throw-back to the early 1980s, the Italians brought in expertise to bolster their campaigns.

Pasquale Landolfi had become the top One-Ton owner in Europe, winning the One-Ton Cup in 1989 and placing second in 1991. Francesco de Angelis was Brava's regular helmsman, while her crew also numbered the Brazilian, Torben Grael, Olympic bronze medallist in the Star class.

Christian Democrat politician Giuseppe Degennaro launched Larouge to fill the Two-Ton spot and had Robert Ferrarese steer the boat, with Lorenzo Bortolotti, who had been at the centre of Italian offshore racing for the much of the 1970s and 1980s, running the show.

RESULTS

CountryBoat NameOwnerTotal (Overall Points)Overall Total
(By Country)
France Corum Saphir R D Bono 56 88
Corum Rubis Corum Sailing Ltd 42 25
Corum Diamant L Dewulf 38 63 138 75
Italy Mandrake Krizia G Carriero 42 63
Larouge G D Gennaro 44 00
Brava P Landolfi 50 50 138 13
USA Champosa VII M Morita 39 00
Bravura I Loube 48 00
Vibes D Clarke 47 00 134 00
Britain Juno V M Peacock 34 50
Wings of Oracle Oracle 31 50
Port Pendennis E Dubois 47 88 113 88
Germany Container U Schuetz 34 25
Rubin XII H O Schuemann 40 75
ABAP/4 H Plattner 102 00
Denmark Tuborg I U Andersen 19 50
Unibank V Greulich 36 50
Z Forsikring J E Hoest 43 00 99 00
Japan Will R Oda 51 25
Carino T Yamada 5 50
Spica M Muroi 10 00 66 75
Australia Cyclone M Ryan 10 00
Bimblegumbie K Jacobs 27 00
Shardana II C Jacobsen 23 00 62 00
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