1973: German Consistency

Excerpt from "The Admiral's Cup: by Bob Fisher

As the celebrations subsided the teams went home to plan two years ahead and the next assault on the Cup - none more so than the Germans whose best individual placing in any race was a fourteenth by Klar Kimming in the second offshore race. For the South Africans this series was seen as a fact-finding exercise and their sixth place cannot have displeased. The single boat from new Zealand did enough to beat three from France; Improbable had enjoyed the sleigh-ride home from the Fastnet to take fourth place and did something to stir the establishment of the Royal Akarana Yacht Club to send a full team.

At right: SAGA. Click for larger image.1973

The 1972 Olympic Regatta came and went at Kiel; its passing, however, saw many plans for Admiral's Cup yachts discussed among the yachtsmen present. It was the indication that the attitude of the competitors in the Admiral's Cup was about to change. For a long time the paths of the day-racing sailors and the offshore racers had been different; either was very interested in the activities of the other. The change, however, was heralded with the demise of the 5.5-Metre class from the Games four years earlier and the introduction of a truly international rule under which yachts could be handicapped properly. Those who had raced the bigger keel boats now found themselves sailing in IOR boats and they brought fresh ideas of sailing, gear and techniques with them to the offshore boats. The Kiel Olympics provided many of that type of person to exchange ideas and drawings were secretively passed around at social functions while Ted Heath brought Morning Cloud to Kiel.

Certainly the locals were aware of what was going on. They were determined to enter the Cup with a proper chance of winning and enough new boats were built in Germany to the IOR rule for their trials to spawn a hot team. With Berend Bielken, the German reserve in the Flying Dutchman class behind Albert Buell, there was a nucleus of talent around which to build a German team although no one imagined the power that team captain Hans-Otto Schumann and Dieter Monheim would contribute. The Saudade, Rubin, and Carina team - two from Sparkman & Stephens and one from Carter - looked nothing more than average until they showed their ability in Britain.

The bigger talking-point was of the two sisterships from the board of Bob Miller (later Ben Lexcen), Alan Bond's Apollo II and Gary Bogard's Ginkgo. Their clean-up of offshore events in Australia throughout the previous southern hemisphere summer, culminating in their battle royal in the Sydney-Hobart Race, was on most lips. They were very different from any 'normal' IOR design, featuring much less beam and very workmanlike deck layouts which included 'pits' to protect the crew working on the otherwise flush decks. Not only that, these two boats were loaded with crew talent. Bond and Bogard had been able to attract the top small-boat sailors of that country who were not so reticent about going into blue water as others elsewhere in the world, and they were applying the science of small-boat racing to their racing offshore in these two 45 footers. It was a revelation.

Ragamuffin remained a force in Australian offshore racing and completed the team with Syd Fischer as its captain. He was described then by the team manager - again the Aussies had Gordon Reynolds as their driving force - as "by far the most experienced...a very capable helmsman, seaman and skipper. Pretty complete...it all boils down to experience of good, long, ocean races." That Fischer and his fellow skippers were all millionaires was counter-productive to the fund-raising to send the team to Britain. It took some time for the average sailor in Australia to realise that the fund-raising was for the crew member, ordinary working guys, before the money began to roll in.

Ted Turner is every bit the ocean racing skipper that Fischer is, with the added attraction of being every media man's delight. His sayings punctuate many books and articles on ocean racing and the man and the sailor have since gone from strength to strength, always making the greatest progress when the odds are stacked against him. For his first Admiral's Cup they could not have been less in his favour.

Turner owned the One Tonner, Lightnin', rating at 27.5 foot, 1.5 foot lower than the Cup's bottom limit (for 1973 the rating band was 29-40 foot IOR). Firstly, therefore, he had to bring the boat up to the lower limit by increasing the sail area, removing the propeller and modifying the keel. The boat incidentally had to have all these changed again immediately after the Fastnet Race in order to compete in the One Ton Cup in Sardinia almost straight after the Admiral's Cup.

The exercise was one which Turner enjoyed. He is essentially an organizer, much like his team-mate Jesse Phillips, the owner of Charisma. Phillips entered the sport later in life than most and tackled winning from a management standpoint. He had recruited Bill Ficker, Intrepid's skipper in the 1970 America's Cup, to steer the boat and John Marshall and Andy MacGowan to head the crew.

It was a bold mix which worked. Charisma, a Sparkman & Stephens design, was close to the upper limit for the Cup as was the third of the American boats, Salty Goose, designed by Bob Derecktor and jointly owned by him and Wally Frank. Her hull was almost double ended - rather like the "pintailed" Ganbare of Doug Peterson which was about to win the One Ton Cup that year. Salty Goose was a leader in the stripped-out accommodation plan below. One of her crew remarked, "It's best to be a sail on board here, they have better accommodation than the men." The search to keep the boat light had led Derecktor to eliminate everything but the essentials with no concessions. Salty Goose had another America's Cup skipper, Bob Bavier from the 1964 Constellation, as her helmsman. The Americans were taking this seriously although their choice of boats, two at the top of the ratings and the undersized Lightnin', left their selectors open to criticism.

Holland, on the other hand, placed their faith in three boats from Frans Maas, all of very similar size. It meant that, if conditions favoured them, they would all do well but when the weather was against them, they would all go down. And this is exactly what happened.

After their debacle two years earlier the French were determined that nothing should go wrong. Seven boats fought out their trials in the Solent and the Channel, the big Sparkman & Stephens Milene II of Albert Mirlesse joined by the Carter near-minimum rater L'Orgueil V of Gilbert de Moutis and Jean-Louis Fabry's Finot-designed Revolution. The last was appropriately named and few on seeing her would have predicted her astonishing future.

The French were joined by the Italians in holding their trials in Britain although these resolved a choice from only four. Giorgio Carriero's Sparkman & Stephens Sagittarius was supported by two Carter boats, Serena Zaffagni's Mabelle and Raoul Gardini's Naif, the latter with the designer at one of her twin wheels. The total number of teams was down to 16 but there was no denying the improvement in the standards. The South Americans were quick to appreciate this and maintained their high-grade challenges from Brazil and Argentina. Erling Lorentzen's Saga, a big red Sparkman & Stephens design at the top limit of the series, won many hearts and was the base for the samba band in Groves and Gutteridge Marina, a band which injected a huge amount of fun into the 1973 Admiral's Cup and which was never better than after the first inshore race when Saga was second to Saudade. To the forums they brought were added beer cans and whistles, the odd cymbal and maracas - for Saga, read Fiesta.

In Britain there was a refreshing attitude among the offshore sailors of seriously wanting to retain the Cup. It was reflected in the vast number of boats that were entered for the trials; 32 paid their entry fees of which only four were designed in Britain - Sparkman & Stephens topped the lists with 22, of which eight were production Swan 44s. To choose but three from these was going to give the selectors plenty to think about - and they came in for much criticism for not taking the easy way out before they started and saying that the top three boats on points would be chosen for the team. As it happened...

There were several that came close to making the team, a fact realised by the selectors when they named four reserves: two Swan 44s, John Prentice's Battlecry and Leslie Holliday's Kealoha with two other Sparkman & Stephens one-offs, Ron Amey's Noryema IX and Oyster, jointly owned by David Powell and Richard Martin. The last two together with Chris Dunning's Marionette, another from Sparkman & Stephens, made up the RORC's team for the Onion patch the next year.

The rules of the competition state that a substitution may be made up to 24 hours before the first race and the selectors felt there was value in keeping the four boats together with the team for further practice just in case one boat was damaged beyond repair at the last moment. It was real belt-and-braces stuff but it did help to hone the team to a fine edge. So, too, did the trials in the Solent with almost as many boats taking part as there are in the Cup itself. No team should have been better prepared than the one from Britain.

Ted Heath had progressed his development with Olin Stephens and his new 45 foot Morning Cloud represented the latest in the thinking of the Madison Avenue firm with the valuable input of the Heath sailing 'think tank'. Clare Lallow was once again chosen to build it in wood and the varnished topsides gleamed as she went down the slip at her launching. Throughout the planned ten-race series of trials she lived up to her promise and would have been top of any points table. It left the selectors with only the problem of the other two from 31.

Robin Aisher was one of those frustrated Olympic sailors with a bronze medal to his credit in Mexico and nowhere to go but offshore. He had carefully considered how to plan a successful campaign with the help of his friend Tony Boyden and gold medallist Iain Macdonald-Smith. The two medallists persuaded Boyden to go to Dick Carter for a 40 footer, a development of Carter's One Tonner Ydra which had come close to winning the One Ton Cup in Sydney and had shown her paces in the Solent the previous year in Cowes Week. It would turn out to be another no-compromise boat with spartan accommodation and the cleanest deck of any offshore vessel - even the spinnaker poles were stowed in tubes that took them off the bow and into the centre section of the boat. Frigate was a pointer to the way the dinghy sailors would develop offshore boats; very radical at the time and for some while to come a base line from which others worked.

Aisher was one of those who was prepared to experiment with gear and one item to which he paid great attention was the twin-grooved forestay which enabled his crew to change headsails without having a bare foretriangle. He developed systems within the boat for the crew aided by one of them who studied the critical path analysis of each routine manoeuvre.

The crosslinked system for the winches involved six underdeck clutches and allowed up to five men to crank on any one winch at a time. There was a cradle on the mast which slid up and down with the root end of the spinnaker pole attached. It eliminated the windage of the tracks which are normally associated with this gear.

Frigate's crew combined experience with sparkle. Navigator David Arnold had done the job professionally as a deck officer in the Merchant Navy while Roger Dobson could take over in an emergency; David Low had already done three Admiral's Cups; Robin Knox-Johnston had sailed round the world alone, the first man ever to do it solo non-stop; Robert Dean and John Hollamby were veterans of the Sovereign 12-Metre Challenge who had continued to race offshore; while Aisher and Macdonald-Smith knew the best way to get the boat to the front in an around-the-buoys race. It presented an awesome prospect to it opposition.

Don Parr had been reserve with Quailo III the previous time and the production Nicholson 55 continued to turn in the top results. Parr had decided, in consultation with Peter Nicholson, to increase the sail area for 1973. Luckily enough he was able to sell his entire wardrobe from the boat to the owner of a new Nicholson 55 and start from scratch with a new suit of 21 sails. Rather than increasing the height of the mast, which would have meant a new spar and rigging, the extra sail came from increasing the genoa overlaps to 165 per cent. It certainly supercharged the yacht's performance, giving her the power to get out of trouble in the lighter breezes.

Two other factors helped Quailo III: the ability of her crew, many of whom had raced for some time with Parr, and the addition of Peter Nicholson as helmsman. Nicholson is an acknowledged Solent expert who, in the confines of that area, is generally regarded as worth "a foot of rating". The whole being the sum of the parts, Quailo III was able to produce what was necessary and after the first rush of attention to the new-season boats, she began to attract a considerable amount of attention and her consistency put her in the team.

A brisk 20 knot south-westerly greeted the 48 Cup yachts at the start of the Channel Race off Southsea. It dictated the starting tactics and added to the headaches of the crews within minutes as some boats' spinnakers blew out. Often the question was whether to put it up, keep it up or stow it. All too often the answer was wrong. The red-hulled Revolution with Finn sailor Andre Nelis on the tiller squeezed out Lightnin' at the weather end of the line to lead the Cup fleet away down the Eastern Solent, through the forts to the Owers Light Vessel off Selsey Bill.

It was Quailo III which was first to set a starcut spinnaker, almost at gunfire, and set the trend for some of the others. She, however, had the power in her hull to support it that smaller boats did not. The sight of her kite brought a reply from Ginkgo, with designer Bob Miller on the wheel, and Saudade. Ther German boat was soon in some trouble when it flogged a couple of times due to bigger boats up-wind of her and then it split at the head and down both leeches. Before long others had gone the same way, Apollo II's and Quailo III's, while Frigate's snap-shackle of halliard came undone and nearly ran over the sail as it dropped into the water ahead of the boat.

The run to the Royal Sovereign was followed by a reach across the Channel to the Le Havre bouy and for the bigger boats a fetch back to the Nab. The new Performance Factor in the handicap correction was beginning to work in favour of the smaller boats but their luck was compounded when the wind backed after they had rounded the Le Havre buoy and gave them a spinnaker reach back across the Channel that turned the ratings upside-down. There are times when the reverse is true, when the top-rated boats get in far enough ahead that the corrected time placings look like a descending order of ratings, but not so this time; the little boats had a field day.

Top honours went to Revolution. She was one of the first to have her spinnaker up and drawing on the leg home, surfing over the waves in 30 knots of wind and occasionally wiping out in a broach. Just in front of her was Frigate and Revolution's crew could see the white spinnaker of their British rival. It was a goad to drive them even harder, as it was for Frigate's crew, sitting as far aft as they could; the press of sail grew and just when it was time to take Frigate's tallboy down, the Almighty did it for them. There was a "boing" and it fell down. Aisher and his crew claimed second to Revolution for their efforts with Turner and Lightnin' third. Morning Cloud's eighth made things look good for Britain but the forty-second of Quailo III was enough to drag the team to sixth. Germany, with 232 points, came out in front of Holland with 224 and Italy with 218. Saudade had managed fourth place and it was the consistency of her team mates Rubin and Carina II at thirteenth and fourteenth that gave them the lead.

The first inshore race of 1973 will long remain a classic in the memories of those there. The weather forecast was sufficiently bleak in the morning to make the Cowes Week Race Committee believe that the force 8 to 9 blowing in the Solent would continue and racing was cancelled for the day. It left the Solent clear for the Admiral's Cup yachts, whose racing was under different jurisdiction. The RORC and the RYS decided, as the wind moderated a little, to start the race on time at 1000. Cowes Roads and the Solent were unpleasant places to be that morning as the rain, driven by 35 knots of westerly wind, stung the face and reduced visibility. The conditions nevertheless produced some of the most exciting racing for competitors and spectators alike that the Cup had ever known.

Beating along the Island shore soon after the start, Quailo III and Charisma were engaged in a close contest with Saga and the Finnish Safari. Behind them there was a similar scrap between Ginkgo, Saudade, Matrero and Apollo II, Peter Nicholson judged his tack out to Hampstead Ledge, against the tide, to a nicety and led by 40 seconds from Saga. After a short reach to the now non-existent Solent Banks buoy, spinnakers were hoisted for a long run to the East Brambles. Inevitably Saga went to the front and stayed there for the rest of the race, but the Quailo III versus Charisma battle continued.

The real race was being run slightly further back in the fleet where Ginkgo and Apollo II led their pack at the end of the first round with Saudade right behind them.

Berend Beilken described it later as a dinghy race. And on the second round he showed what a good dinghy racer he was. Beilken moved Saudade up to seventh place on this round ahead of both the Australian boats which rated higher. It gave Saudade the overall win in what was essentially a big-boat race as the second place of Saga would endorse together with Quailo III in third place. It was, however, a day for Australian celebration. With Apollo II fourth, Ragamuffin fifth and Ginkgo seventh, the team from down-under closed the gap on the Germans to a mere 12 points. It was a relatively good day for the British trio with Morning Cloud ninth and Frigate fifteenth, the home team moving up to third.

The second inshore race was held in 15 knots of south-westerly breeze, a one-round affair that took the boats as far west as the Lymington Spit and as far east as the Warner. It was also the day for Salty Goose to lead the fleet but a day on which the well-sailed middle-rating yachts were to shine. Saudade repeated her performance in the previous race, seventh across the line and first on corrected time - exactly the reverse of Salty Goose which dropped to seventh on corrected time.

It was Britain's day, however. Morning Cloud was third and Frigate fourth while Quailo III, which had been fifth home was eleventh on handicap. It gave Britain six more points than the Australians - Apollo II, Ginkgo and Ragamuffin were fifth, eighth and tenth - so what three races gone the Germans had only a six-point lead over Australia, who in turn were 24 points ahead of Britain. It held great promise for some exciting tactics in the Fastnet.

It was the only thing that did, for the Fastnet of 1973 proved to be an anti-climax. There were mixed winds and a great deal of fog all the way to the Rock but, even at that stage, the race looked as though it could still be one of great excitement with the big Cuthbertson & Cassian 61, Sorcery, beating the previous record to the Rock. Charisma was an hour and three quarters behind her, the first of the Admiral's Cuppers with her team mate Salty Goose next after Saga. Then came Recluta and Quailo III.

Ginkgo rounded the Fastnet at 2200 on the Monday evening, nearly 60 hours after the start. Ragamuffin was 20 minutes behind her while her sistership, Apollo II, was an hour and a half behind. Only a few minutes separated Rubin from Saudade, an hour ahead of Morning Cloud but in sight of Carina III. There was still a lot of racing to do.

Then the wind began to fade, the more so as they neared the Bishop Rock, and from there it was the favourable tides that were to give almost as much help to the finish as the wind. It was now a race of what might have been. At the Fastnet the corrected time positions would have given Australia and Britain a shared Admiral's Cup with 806 points each. So much for speculation. The tide-dodging and luck would settle the outcome finally.

Saga was first home at 0715 on Wednesday, having taken 43 hours to make Plymouth from the Fastnet. Then her chances of winning seemed remote but the wind was to fade further.

For Ted Heath it was his first race of the Cup series - he had flown home from the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in Ottawa two nights before the start of the race. Morning Cloud was made to suffer from the avid attentions of the Press as she beat down the Solent towards the Needles at the start of the race and it might be that her later poor position was due to this. At the Fastnet, Cloud had been way back on her expected position and she had only closed to a sighting position of Frigate as she rounded the Bishop early on the Wednesday morning. After that fortunes changed and, by the Lizard, Morning Cloud was two and a half hours ahead of Frigate. Aisher had crept into Land's End Bay and been caught without wind as he tried to round the Lizard peninsular against a foul tide and drifted back.

As the wind faded so Saga's chances became brighter and eventually it was certain that she would be not only top Admiral's Cupper but the winner of the Fastnet Cup as well. Carlos Corna's Recluta III finishing 5 1/4 hours behind her was her nearest challenger but still Erling Lorentzen's Saga had 27 minutes to spare. Charisma took third place with Salty Goose fourth. The Cup, however, went to Germany because of the consistency of their three boats. Saudade capped an amazing series with a seventh and Carina II and Rubin claimed tenth and eleventh. The Australians, who were so close before this race, could not match this - their twelfth, fifteenth and sixteenth for Ginkgo, Apollo II and Ragamuffin left them 51 points behind in second place, with Britain third another 30 points behind.

The Cup had had a boost with a win by a new nation, a stimulus to the old guard to improve and a sign to the others that there was no need to believe that this series was any longer the province of Britain, Australia and the United States alone.

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