1963: New blood for Britain
Excerpt from "The Admiral's Cup" by Bob Fisher
By 1963 the change in attitude towards the series had begun. Yachting World had already noted that "Offshore racing is steadily gaining in popularity everywhere and few yachtsmen who have experienced it can fail to understand why, but also there is something special about the atmosphere of a regatta and the appeal of the Admiral's Cup series is undoubtedly due to the combination of both worlds. The series is timed to provide about two weeks' concentrated racing with time to enjoy a little shore life between races." The social life was there, as it always had been in Cowes Week, but with a growing entry for the Admiral's Cup it was becoming, as Sir Myles Wyatt had wanted, more international in its character.
New boats were built with the Cup in mind - the first defeat at the hands of the United States wrankled - a sure sign that the stature of both offshore racing and the Cup were being taken more seriously. New blood was coming to the forefront in Britain, giving the sport a much needed injection of talent and ideas. The three boats chosen for the British team in 1963 came from three separate lineages and their owners' attitudes were refreshing. They wanted boats with which to win and were prepared to sacrifice comfort for efficiency. They were not the only owners who thought that way either; others had built with the Cup in mind too, but had failed in the selection trials. In 1963 five offshore races and two round-the-buoys events had been considered by the RORC selectors, Wyatt together with Michael Vernon, the Vice-Commodore, and the Secretary, Alan Paul It was not so much that these boats failed; more that they were eliminated by a narrow margin.
The Hon. Max Aitken chose an almost "establishment" route to quiet revolution with his new Outlaw. He went to John Illingworth and Angus Primrose for the design of this 48-footer and to Souters at Cowes for its building. Illingworth had made his mark in offshore racing in many ways but specifically on the Cup with Myth of Malham. His feelings about masthead cutter rigs were well-known and it would have been a surprise if Outlaw had not been designed around this type of rig. Outlaw was "fast as a witch" to windward and good downwind. Where she did have some trouble was in broad reaching. She was cold-moulded of eight skins of one-eighth inch mahogany and was probably lighter than any offshore racer of her size at the time. Her varnished topsides gleamed, pronouncing, if anything,m her reverse sheer. The aptly chosen sail number, 1963, marked Outlaw as a boat of the year.
Dennis Miller first sailed with Derek Boyer on Pym; he had navigated for him on a Belle Ile race and they had won by a prodigious margin, even for those days. The partnership was a good one and hardened for the '63 season with the commissioning of a boat designed by Sparkman & Stephens. These two Birmingham industrialists had sharp eyes for detail and open minds towards development. Miller wanted instruments to help night sailing and Boyer agreed; it was Miller's years of flying in the Fleet Air Arm that gave him a leaning to instruments, then very much unheard-of in ocean racing and viewed with partial disdain by many. Clarion of Wight was built at cowes by Clare Lallow. With a 30 foot waterline, Clarion was 43 feet 5 inches overall with a beam of 10 feet 9 inches, an example of classic Olin Stephens design of the period. She quickly proved herself an all-round boat. Clarion was launched half an hour before Outlaw on another of those social days for which Cowes is worthily reputed.
Ron Amey, who had previously been more interested in motor-cycle racing, pinned his faith on Camper & Nicholsons. He asked for, and got, an improved Quiver III with more sail, as Noryema III. He secured selection on his performances offshore but Amey was one of those who relentlessly sought improvement in his racing performance. He realised that there was a different approach needed for aces in the solent as opposed to the offshore ones. Quiver III had not made a very impressive start to the season; new sail improved her and then she showed everyone the way round the buoys in the Solent. Amey figured that it was not just the sails. He asked Quiver's helmsman to go aboard Noryema for the inshore races of the Cup and her performance improved immensely.
Germany entered the Cup for the first time, making six teams with those who had raced two years earlier. The serious competition for the home team was expected to come from the USA but there were early surprises when the Swedish team took a big lead in the Channel Race. Vagabonde won class I and the race overall, while Staika III took class II and was second best Admiral's Cupper. The big American Dyna, a 58 foot welded aluminium yawl from Sparkman & Stephens, failed badly, snatching only two points more from the race than Noryema III, which had been caught on port tack at the start by the American Windrose and was subsequently penalised by having 5 per cent added to her corrected time. As a result Britain was at the bottom of the list with Holland on 46 points, the USA and Germany had 52, France 56, while the leaders, Sweden, had 90.
Light winds and strong tides saw the Britannia Cup go to a small boat. Once again the double-ender Staika III struck a blow for Sweden by taking the cup, only this time she did not receive the support she had before and, while Sweden still led, the margin was down. Outlaw had tried an experiment in downwind tacking that day and it had failed to come off. She was fifteenth of the eighteen Admiral's Cup yachts to finish and while Clarion and Noryema were fourth and fifth Britain moved into only fourth place behind Sweden (119), USA (93) and Holland (81) with 79 points. Two days later the British cup ran over with joy when Clarion, Outlaw and Noryema III occupied the first three places in the New York Yacht Club Cup after a race in moderate to fresh winds. The boost to the team's morale could not have come at a better time for, although the Swedes still led with 134 points, Britain had headed the USA - 130 to 129 - with Holland on 118.
It was all to hang on the Fastnet, a race in which one bad performance by any member of the three leading teams would result in that team having no chance of winning. When the day for the start came there was no doubt of the test ahead. A force 6 westerly was blowing with a forecast of plenty more to come and of a veer to north-west as the leaders were due to round the Lizard on their way to the Rock - the sort of forecast that makes many a sailor dream of golf.
Britain's hopes of a Cup win nearly evaporated on the start line when Clarion was involved in a collision with Primevere. Both flew protest flags and while Clarion had been on starboard tack, Primevere, which was skippered by Captain John Illingworth no less, claimed that she had called for water and that Clarion should have given way. The upset did not affect Miller, Boyer or any of their crew. They tucked the incident behind them and went out to try to win the race.
The Americans might rightly have thought that it was not their day either. Figaro's mainsail split right across before she had got out of the Solent; meanwhile her crew were in the process of retrieving their inflated life-raft which had broken loose soon after the start. Two years earlier the same boat had formed a sewing circle to repair a spinnaker and a mizzen staysail on the way back from the Rock. This time the purposeful sewing began earlier in the race and was well underway as Figaro sailed out through the Hurst Narrows under staysail and mizzen. Bill Snaith and his crew must have doubted their chances then but they were to be well pleased later with their one hour win in class I and being placed third best among the Admiral's Cup fleet.
Outlaw, too, had her share of early damage. Her gooseneck broke before the start and she crossed the line under headsails only while the crew worked to repair it. They did and the repair held for the rest of the race.
The wind had lessened later in the race and the smaller boats began to reap the benefit. Clarion was to carry all before her to win the Fastnet Cup and to be the top individual points scorer in the Admiral's Cup, but not until after the protest committee had found in her favour concerning the incident with Primevere at the start. With Outlaw and Noryema III finishing seventh and ninth the Cup returned to Britain.
A thirteenth for Windrose of the USA and a fourteenth for Sweden's Dione put paid to those countries' chances, while Holland fell back when Corabia was dismasted.
|CHANNEL RACE||BRITANNIA CUP||NEW YORK Y.C. CUP||FASTNET RACE|
|CLARION OF WIGHT||34||53||13||28||5||08||09||15||3||26||58||18||86||34||13||54||115|