While history didn't quite repeat itself on the final day of the 12 Metre Worlds at Newport on Saturday, it came pretty close.
The final races of the 2009 12 Metre World Championships were sailed on a sparkling Rhode Island Sound as helicopters buzzed and spectator boats jockeyed for front row seats to the action - evoking memories of 26 years ago to the day when the longest winning streak (132 years) in sporting history ended with the loss of the "Auld Mug" to Australia. On this day, however, instead of just two Twelves there were 17 making their way around the old America's Cup stomping grounds off Brenton Point and with many of the same spectators there to pay homage as the helicopters droned above.
Notable for traveling the furthest to be part of this largest gathering of Twelves since the Cup left Newport: Challenge 12, which William Borel (FRA) had shipped from Europe early in the summer, and Australian Skip Lissiman who was onboard the Cup-winning Australia II in 1983. "It's fantastic to be back in Newport," he said. "I wanted to be back in particular for the anniversary and [to celebrate] I will be going down to O'Brien's Pub where they have the original boxing kangaroo flag. We're going to exchange it with one that the entire crew signed last year when we celebrated the 25th and take the original flag back to the museum in Australia."
For the final act of the world championships, two races were sailed in all four divisions - Grand Prix, Modern, Traditional and Vintage - before The Candy Store Cup was re-run after being abandoned on day two of racing. Bill Koch (USA), on Kiwi Magic-KZ7, won the Grand Prix division after adding finishes of 1-3 for a net total of seven points. Lexi Gahagan (USA), driving Wright on White-KZ3, finished 3-2 to place second overall in the division standings, one point back.
The Traditional Division saw the only real upset of the championship as Charlie Millikin and Carol Swift (USA), on American Eagle-US21, fought back from a three-point deficit with a 1-2 today to tie Weatherly's Clay Deutsch (USA) who finished 2-3. With eight points apiece, the tie-break went in favour of American Eagle earning Swift a surprise swim off the dock at Bannister's Wharf courtesy of the crew. In the Vintage division, Einar Sissener (NOR), on Gleam-US11, was one point out of first when the day began and placed first in both races to win by three points over Kip Curren (USA), on Northern Light-US14.
"In the Modern fleet, on any given day any boat can win, they're all that close," said Dennis Williams (USA) after winning that division on Victory '83-K22. He explained that it was Courageous who was their biggest competition after they had "two good races today and in conditions that were really pretty crazy. They had a first and second and I think we were two points apart with one throw out, so very close. The wind was shifting left and right and the velocity was up and down …it was a very crazy day, it was not predictable. Everybody worked hard trying to keep the boat on track with the shifting winds."
In addition to winning his first world championship title, it was "nice to put a little icing on the cake," said Williams about winning The Candy Store Cup which gave a single start for all divisions and sent them on a course back from Rhode Island Sound, past Castle Hill Light, and into Newport Harbor for a finish off Bannister's Wharf where champagne was awaiting all the teams. "It was great," said Williams of the 2009 12 Metre World Championship. "Everyone on the boat enjoyed it, we had a great time, great crew. It was just fabulous. The competition was great."