1981: Home field psychological advantage
The Admiral's Cup of 1981 was one of controversy. It began with the selection of the Australian team and continued its way on into the following year when the rating of the British yacht Victory of Burnham was challenged, and found to be incorrect, at the SORC. For all that, however, it was a highly competitive series even if the wind failed to produce a great deal of excitement.
There is always a great deal of speculation, prior to a series, as to who will win and there was never more than in 1981. The Australians, having blown everyone out of the back door (alomost literally) in the storm tossed Fastnet two years before, brought home the value of the advantage to the home team. Those were the conditions, or close to them, which they find in the Bass Strait during the odd Hobart Race and they were, therefore, more used to them than the rest of the competitors and continued to race their boats while the rest eased off, happy to survive. The Aussies were revelling in "home conditions".
Does one team have an advantage over the rest? Is there a hidden bonus for the home team? Should Britain win the Cup as frequently as she does?
In almost every other sporting event of consequence the home team does have a psychological advantage. In soccer's World Cup Argentina won against the odds at home in 1978; West Germany beat Holland in the final at Munich four years before that; Mexico reached the quarter finals in the Azteca Stadium in 1970 and, what may be unbelievable today, England beat West Germany at Wembley Stadium on a heady summer's day in 1966. The same premise holds good for the Admiral's Cup and the British team does have the advantage of not regarding the event or the venue with false awe. In 1981 it had won on seven of the previous twelve occasions that the Admiral's Cup had been held and statistically therefore (for what that is worth) Britain had yet another advantage.
The Australians, for their part, were determined to retain the Cup despite the advantages the British might have. For that reason, Alan Bond decided to have his boat built in Britain. "Half-way around the world is as far as I had to go to get the boat I wanted," he said and was more than delighted with the 43 footer which Jeremy Rogers built for him at Lymington. Apollo V was a Peterson design which was built using the latest in plastics techniques and showed a very clean interior on a super-stiff hull. John Bertrand flew to England for her acceptance trials one sunny winter's day and the yacht was packed and shipped to Australia the next, for working-up prior to the trials. Bertrand, as skipper, was to fill the boat with crewmen from he pool he had for the Australia II 12-Metre campaign two years thence with Hugh Trehearn as tactician, Jack Baxter as navigator, John Longley and Scotty Macalister at the point to name but a few. It was to be a powerful team. Apollo V was placed second in the trials and was constantly improving boat. Immediately she was selected at the Melbourne trials she was shipped back to Rogers' yard where 1800lbs of internal ballast was removed and 800lbs added to her keel, thereby improving her stiffness and reducing her displacement by 1000lbs. The rating went up from 32.7 to 33.0
The undoubted star of the Australian trials was the Frers-designed Hitchhiker which had been commissioned by Peter Briggs. Bill Edgerton, who masterminded the building of this 41 footer, used a Kevlar/foam construction (which has since shown the test of time and hard racing), to keep her light. Hitchhiker embarrassed more than a few of the other trialists by finishing boat-for-boat well ahead of many of the bigger yachts on a regular basis. "It was lovely", said Briggs, "sitting tied up at the dock waiting for them. We knew we had a fast boat all right." But after the trials Briggs was determined that Hitchhiker should be faster. He consulted Frers whose advice, somewhat understandably, was "don't touch her". There were minor modifications afoot including the removal of 100lbs of lead from her keel.
|RORC TROPHY||RYS TROPHY||CHANNEL RACE||CHAMPAGNE MUMM TROPHY||FASTNET|
|U.S.A.||STARS & STRIPES||40||22||74||13||129||278|
|WEE WILLIE WINKIE||31||12||36||23||105||207|
|LADY BE GOOD||16||9||58||29||99||211|
|HONG KONG||LA PANTERA||1||40||48||18||51||158|
|RED ROCK III||12||28||8||2||48||98|
|BERMUDA||FLIRT OF PAGET||24||2||2||7||69||104|