'The last time the 12 Metres raced for the America's Cup in Newport was in 1983 when Australia II narrowly beat Liberty, ending the longest winning streak (132 years) in modern sports history,' said ITMA Class Registrar and event organizer Jan SLEE of Newport. 'Here we are 23 years later sailing off Newport, in September, as the America's Cup once did, and with an incredible array of 12 Metres still competing,'
Herb Marshall, ITMA Vice-President, Americas Fleet, and the event's presiding officer, explained that the 12 Metres represent 30 years of America's Cup racing. 'The 12 Metre Era ended in 1987, after Stars & Stripes beat Kookaburra III off Freemantle, Australia, to reclaim the Cup for the U.S.,' said Marshall. 'Subsequently, an explosion of technology relegated many of the yachts to a life of chartering, serving as workhorses for corporate entertainment and team building. Soon, however, several owners undertook restorations that sparked a renaissance in this international racing class.'
'The effort of preserving these classic boats, some now as old as 80 years, has put them back in competitive condition,' said ITMA President Paul BUTTROSE, 'and some are even more high performance now than during their hey day.'
The entrants fall into four divisions - Grand Prix, Modern, Classic Traditional and Classic Vintage - which define the 12 Metres not only by construction date but also by keel and rudder configuration. In addition to the North American title at stake, the Museum of Yachting's Ted Hood Perpetual Trophy will be presented to the team with the best record for the 2006 season as determined by six American qualifying regattas.
The ITMA's 2005 World Championship, which doubled as the 2005 North American Championship, was also held in Newport, and that event's world titleholder - Edgar CATO (USA) will defend his title in the Grand Prix division aboard Hissar KZ 5. There will be no shortage of local knowledge aboard KZ 5, with Newporter Brad Read at the helm. In the Modern division, Craig MILLARD's (USA) Courageous US 26, which topped the Modern division in 2005 to become the North American Champion, will be another to watch, driven by Newporter Jamie HILTON (USA). Courageous is noteworthy not only as the first 12 Metre to be built of aluminium alloy but also as having raced in more America's Cup campaigns (five) than any other. Newporter Clay DEUTSCH (USA), another 2005 North American Champion, will defend his title in the Classic Traditional division aboard Weatherly US 17.
Sailing in the Classic Vintage division is 2005 North American Champion Onawa US 6, lead by Earl MCMILLEN (USA) and Chuck PARRISH (USA). A host of America's Cup veterans will also be competing, including Bill KOCH (USA), the owner/driver of Kiwi Magic KZ 7, and Andy MACGOWAN (USA), who will steer USA US 61.
On Wednesday, 20 September, registration will be at the Bannister's Wharf event tent at 1600 followed by a Welcome Reception hosted by the event's New Zealand wine sponsor The Jibe. The Skipper's Meeting is scheduled for 1800 at the Clarke Cooke House, followed at 1900 by the commissioning of the 12 Metre Yacht Club - Newport Station. Gary JOBSON is slated to be the first Steward of the Newport Station, which will be officially headquartered at the Clark Cooke House's 'Gilbert Stuart Room.' 12 Metre Yacht Club Officers Jennifer STEWART, ITMA Secretary, and Jan SLEE, ITMA Class Registrar, expect a sizable gathering for the commissioning.
Racing takes places Thursday through to Sunday, starting at 1100, with after race dockside parties scheduled each day on Bannister's Wharf. On Friday, competitors will be treated to a 'Brazilian Fling' dinner party compliments of Roger WRIGHT, owner of the Brazilian entry Wright on White KZ 3 at the 'Gibbs-Tillinghast House.' The regatta dinner will be held on Saturday at '41° North' at Christie's Landing.
USA US 61 has sponsored web video coverage by t2p.tv, the sailing-on-demand service, which will include coverage of Friday and Saturday's racing. Other event supporters include Crystal Spring Water, Sebago and Team One Newport.