12 Metre North American Championships preview

The 2011 12 Metre North American Championships fleet at Bannister’s Wharf in Newport, Rhode Island
At the 12 Metre North American Championships this week America’s Cup Icons Ted Turner and Dennis Conner will reunite with Gary Jobson and Tom Whidden. History will repeat itself when two of sailing’s most famous skippers reunite with their winning tacticians. Turner, an American media mogul and philanthropist who is also an America’s Cup Legend, will sail American Eagle, in the Traditional Division at the regatta, while Conner, affectionately known as 'Mr. America’s Cup,' will sail KZ-7 (Kiwi Magic) in the Grand Prix division.

The three-day regatta takes place September 21-23 in Newport, Rhode Island, with racing starting each day at 11 a.m. on Rhode Island Sound, where the Cup races were staged from 1930 until 1983. The nine participating 12 Metres will be berthed at Bannister’s Wharf, reminiscent of the glory days when America’s Cup legends roamed the docks there after racing each day.

Turner has won the 12 Metre North Americans for the last two years here, sailing American Eagle as he did in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s to win most of the world’s greatest ocean races with her. His performance in 2011 earned him first place in the Traditional Division as well as the Pine Brothers Trophy for Best Overall Performance.

'It’s a great thrill to reconnect with my long-time friend Ted Turner,' said Gary Jobson, who served as tactician for Turner when Courageous handily beat Australia to win the 1977 America’s Cup. 'Ted is one of the heroes of our sport. He retired many years ago, but when he is on the water his competitive drive continues.' About Conner, Jobson added, 'Dennis Conner is one of the most successful American sailors of all time. Any time he is on the water he has a way of lifting every competitor’s game.'

The 2011 12 Metre North American Championships fleet racing in Newport, Rhode Island
Conner, a four time America’s Cup Winner (1974, ‘80, ‘87, ‘88), will have an impressive crew aboard KZ-7 (Kiwi Magic), which is currently owned by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Foundation. Whidden, one of the most experienced America’s Cup sailors in the world, has campaigned with Conner for three of Conner’s America’s Cup victories (1980, 1987 and 1988), while three other crew members have also sailed with Conner during various America’s Cup campaigns: Jerry Kirby (2003), Dave Kulver (’92, ’95) and USMMA Foundation President Ralf Steitz (’92, ‘95). (Also sailing with the team will be Michel Maeder, who sailed with Baron Marcel Bich in 1980.)

'This will be Kiwi Magic, powered primarily by Stars & Stripes,' said Steitz, recognizing the irony that during the Louis Vuitton Challenger series held in Fremantle, Australia during 1986/’87, Conner had challenged the fairness of KZ-7’s fiberglass hull against the slower aluminum hulls being used at the time. 'We will, of course, also have five USMMA midshipmen sailing as part of the 15-man crew. It’s great to give these young people an opportunity to sail with these great legends in our sport, these America’s Cup notables who also are truly among the greatest sailors in the world.'

In addition to American Eagle and KZ-7, Columbia, Courageous, Intrepid, KZ-5, USA, Victory ’83 and Weatherly will be racing. Other celebrity yachtsmen participating include America’s Cup veterans Jim Gretzky, Andy MacGowan, Tom O’Brien, Dave Pedrick, Scott Perry, Reggie Pierce, Richie Sayer and Bill Shore.

A special private-invitation event on Thursday, September 20, will kick off the 12 Metre North American Championships in style and serve a good cause by supporting the national nonprofit Hope For The Warriors®. The organization was founded by Robin Kelleher, the wife of a Naval War College Officer, and supports wounded U.S. service members, their families and families of the fallen. Cocktails and dinner will be served at the 12 Metre Yacht Club, located on the third floor of the famous Clark Cooke House on Bannister’s Wharf. During the dinner, the 12 Metre Yacht Club Station Steward Gary Jobson will introduce Jimmy Gubelmann as the new Commodore of the 12 Metre Yacht Club. Also making presentations will be Ted Turner and combat-wounded veteran and solo distance sailor Ronnie Simpson. For more information, contact Carol Swift at carol(at)swiftmorris.com or visit the Event website.

The event concludes on Sunday, September 23, with an Awards Ceremony at Ida Lewis Yacht Club, which also serves as the Organizing Authority of the event. Herb Marshall, Vice President of the 12 Metre Americas Fleet, will present the Gubelmann Trophy for the winner of each class in the North American Championships; the Ted Hood Trophy for the highest points overall for specific regattas during the season; and the Pine Brothers Trophy for best overall boat in the North American Championships. Ted Turner will present the Ted Turner Trophy for noteworthy contribution on or off the water.

12 Metre Class Association website