1965: The Cup stays in Britain

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

Heads were scratched and owners in several countries went into huddles with designers to discuss methods of building boats capable of Cup-winning ways for 1965.

By then the number of teams had risen to eight with the debuts of Australia and Ireland. For one of the Irish team boats this was no new role - Myth of Malham was back in the Admiral's Cup at 18 years old and with new owners, Brigit and David Livingstone.

Dennis Miller had decided to go it alone for this season and to that end went again to Olin Stephens. Maybe he felt the need of a change of crew after one magazine editor had pointed out that, when Clarion won the Fastnet, "she was crewed by a team of seven men, four well over fifty, two approaching fifty and one who let the average down badly: he was only thirty-eight!"

Whatever the reason, Miller attacked the new project with the same eye for detail. His 43 foot Firebrand was built at Lallows and their instructions were to "keep her as light as possible, yet strong". The aim was to increase the ballast:hull weight ratio as much as possible. The rig was unconventional by the standards of the day, employing rod rigging for the first time and in going to Ted Hood's loft in Marblehead for the sails. Miller also saw to it that his crew learned how to set the sails and another rarity appeared, more than one genoa track, so that the sails could be barber-hauled to alter the slot. With the addition of a bendy boom the whole rig became an eye-opener for Miller's rivals. It did not take long for them to copy his choice of sailmaker at least.

Camper & Nicholsons produced the other two British boats, Quiver IV for Ren Clarke and Noryema IV for Ron Amey. They were both developments of Roquette, which Peter Nicholson had designed for himself the previous season, and were a definite trend away from the famous yachtyard's norm. They were out-and-out racing boats of the offshore breed of the time; there was no consideration given to cruising, perhaps for the first time in any boat built in Britain.

Fifteen boats took part in the selection trials which were held over five offshore races and two round-the-buoys events in the Solent. Noryema IV, two feet smaller than Quiver IV, had the best record after the offshore races, with Firebrand, Quiver IV and Bluejack III (formerly Roquette) not far astern. In the first of the Solent trials Firebrand and Noryema IV must have clinched their selection, then it was Quiver's turn to win the next with Noryema and Firebrand second and third. The selectors were in no doubt as to which boats were to defend the Cup.

The most marked debut in Cup racing came in 1965 for Australia. The country was already making its mark in yachting with the well-organised challenge by Gretel in the America's Cup and a challenge for the Admiral's Cup was a logical step. Ocean racing in Australia then centred around the Sydney-Hobart Race and boats were built with winning this classic in mind. To do so they had to be capable of running in the strong nor'easters that blow on to the New South Wales coast and then to be able to go to windward in the south-westerlies of the Bass Strait, winds that come from the Roaring forties and are cold and dense. The Australian selection trials were held in very strong winds, ones which would suit the Hobart winning boats. Indeed, the three times winner of that race, the Halvorsen brothers' Freya, a 32 foot 6 inch waterline double ender, was top boat and a similar 30 foot waterline yacht, Camille, owned by Ron Swanson was second. Gordon Ingate's 30 foot waterline Caprice of Huon, then 1 years old, only scraped into the team by one point. The old Robert Clark design, with almost metre-boat lines, proved to be one of the most competitive yachts in Britain that year. Ingate sailed her with all the flair and verve that he had shown in earlier racing in Dragons and 5.5-Metres, a display which did not go unnoticed by the other competitors in the Cup. They could hardly have failed to notice as Caprice won the Channel Race and then took both the Britannia Cup and the New York Yacht Club Cup.

Despite Caprice of Huon's performance in the Channel Race, the British team led on points. The German team did not make the start; their three boats had been held up by bad weather in Calais. With Firebrand and Noryema finishing second and third, Quiver's sixth set the seal on Britain's success. Camille and Freya were fourth and seventh to keep Australia within four points of Britain.

Cowes Week sailing instructions, or their complexity, were the undoing of the Australians in the Britannia Cup. At the end of the first round both Camille and Freya went the wrong side of the limit mark on the Squadron Line. Freya, realising her error, went back but lost more than half an hour. Camille had finished the race before her crew discovered that they had made the mistake. For them there was nothing to do but to go out and sail the 33 mile course all over again to salvage what team point they could. It was typical of the dogged competitive spirit that the Aussies had shown from the start but, with one non-starter and five boats disqualified in the race, Ron Swanson and his crew picked up six points for their trouble.

It was Britain's turn for a setback in the New York Yacht Club Cup. Firebrand retired from the race after she hit a buoy. Freya and Camille were, however, ninth and tenth while Quiver and Noryema posted results of third and sixth. The gap between the two leading teams was only 14 points going into the Fastnet.

The Fastnet was anti-climatic for the Australians. There was a light downwind leg to the Rock and a beat home to Plymouth. The British team came on strong with Quiver IV scoring top points and Noryema IV third after Figaro. Dennis Miller's Firebrand came in ninth and the Cup remained in Britain.

In the light airs the short-masted Australian boats did better than might have been expected. Camille and Caprice were respectively fifth and seventh while Freya was eleventh. Caprice, however, lost what all through had been unassailably hers, the top points score for the series. Both Quiver IV with a 6,3,3,1 scoreline and Noryema IV, with one of 3,2,6,3, beat her; the Fastnet points with their triple loading were too much for Ingate and his crew.


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