Two living sailing legends - Brad BUTTERWORTH and Tom WHIDDEN - and two of the most outstanding contributors to the America's Cup - Hank HAFF and William FIFE - were honoured at the Rolex America's Cup Hall of Fame Induction.
Halsey HERRESHOFF, president of the Herreshoff Marine Museum, presided over the ceremony that doubled as a fundraiser for the America's Cup Hall of Fame. The Rolex event attracted many who made their own special mark on the America's Cup, including Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Ken READ, Henry H. ANDERSON, Ted HOOD, Bruno BICH, Dave PEDRICK, Jerry KIRBY, Mike TOPPA, Peter HARRISON and 2003 inductee Gary JOBSON, who entertained the 300-plus audience of America's Cup devotees with career-summarizing videos on each inductee.
"I accept this award hesitantly,"
said Brad BUTTERWORTH of New Zealand. "Because one of the problems about being honoured like this is all the guys I've sailed with - Matthew MASON, Simon DAUBNEY, Murray JONES, Russell COUTTS, Warwick FLEURY - are the best guys there are and I wouldn't be standing here without them."
Butterworth continued by praising his idols in the sport, especially fellow inductee, Tom WHIDDEN, against whom he first sailed in Perth, Australia in 1987 aboard Chris DICKSON'S KZ-7 Kiwi Magic. "It seems like only yesterday we were in Perth and were beaten by Dennis Conner 4-1 in the Louis Vuitton Cup final,"
he recalled. "We couldn't understand how the old guys could beat us, but then I got to know Tom Whidden."
"I used to look up to those guys as my role models,"
Butterworth continued. "Eventually I formed a great friendship with them. I learned a lot from Tom and I thank him especially tonight."
For Hall of Fame inductee Tom WHIDDEN of Essex, Conn., USA, the evening capped a career spanning eight campaigns for the America's Cup. Gary JOBSON presented him for induction, summarizing. "His strongest attribute is his honesty. It's good to win, but the real measure of someone is how you lose. Tom's been in some of the most unique spots in all of sailing and, unofficially, he has sailed in more Cup races than any other person."
The compilation of images culled by Jobson from WHIDDEN'S career and set to Billy Joel's 'This is the Time' inspired a standing ovation.
"Of all the honours I've received in 25 years of America's Cup racing, this is the most outstanding,"
As a young sailor, he began making sails and learning to trim them. "I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be a sailmaker,"
said Whidden. "I got my start in America's Cup racing in Newport in 1979 and I had the luck of becoming the trial skipper in 1980 for Dennis CONNER'S Freedom."
Whidden tasted his first victory early and it inspired his future involvement.
As Conner's tactician aboard Liberty in 1983, Whidden played a key role in the historic match in which the slower defender pushed the faster Australia II to the limit. "Our best Cup race ever may have been the one we lost,"
In 1987 he helped Stars & Stripes regain the Cup in Perth, and a year later won his third Cup match aboard Stars & Stripes, the catamaran.
Dennis Conner sent a telegram marking the occasion. Betsy WHIDDEN, Tom's wife, displayed a poignant photograph taken of Conner and Whidden after their Cup win with then-President Ronald Reagan.
"For those of you who like to dream, reach and go for it,"
said Whidden. "It's amazing what you can accomplish."
Entrepreneur and founder of the GBR Challenge for the America's Cup Peter HARRISON presented William FIFE III of Scotland. He recounted the historic days of America's Cup competition when, in 1899, Sir Thomas LIPTON chose Fife to draw the lines of the first-in-a-series of yachts named Shamrock. Notably it was Shamrock III, hailed as the largest, fastest and most advanced racing boat known that sparred against Reliance, Captain Nat HERRESHOFF'S winning entry of 1903. "Fife's name remains connected with Lipton as his famous patron,"
said Harrison. "Both were successful, however neither fulfilled their Cup ambitions."
Long celebrated as one of the best yacht designers in history, Fife's designs set a standard of excellence for the creation of able, fast boats of remarkable beauty.
Selection Committee member John ROUSMANIERE presented the late Henry Coleman HAFF, whom he called 'that foxy old Hank Haff' while noting his America's Cup accomplishments. "He was the oldest winning skipper in America's Cup history, taking it at the goodly age of 58 when he won in 1895."
"Nobody in America's Cup history has sailed in the afterguards of more Cup winners. Not even Brad BUTTERWORTH and Tom WHIDDEN and Russell COUTTS can match his record. Haff was skipper or tactician of four winners over a stretch of 14 years. Only three other sailors have done so well - Dennis CONNER, C. Oliver ISELIN, and Nat HERRESHOFF. That places Hank Haff in the pantheon of Cup gods."
Held in the Grand Ballroom of Rosecliff, the famed "summer cottage" built in the Gilded Age of Newport, the evening's notable guests included Peter HARKEN; Elizabeth MEYER, founder of the International Yacht Restoration School; Dyer JONES, regatta director of America's Cup Management, organizer of America's Cup 2007; Dr. Robin WALLACE, advisor to many America's Cups and chairman of the Rhode Island State Yachting Commission; Honorable John WOOD, New Zealand Ambassador to the U.S.; and Honorable Jane CUNLIFFE of New Zealand.
For more information on the America's Cup Hall Of Fame and the Herreshoff Museum, please visit the website at the address below.