America’s Cup Legends Turner and Conner to reunite For 12 Metre Championship
America’s Cup history will repeat itself this week in Rhode Island when the 12 Metre North American Championship features two of sailing’s most famous skippers, Ted Turner and Dennis Conner, reuniting with their winning tacticians, Gary Jobson and Tom Whidden, respectively.
Turner, an American media mogul and philanthropist, will sail American Eagle in the Traditional division at the regatta, while Conner, known as “Mr. America’s Cup,” will sail KZ-7 (Kiwi Magic) in the Grand Prix division.
The three-day regatta takes place from September 21-23 in Newport, Rhode Island, with racing starting each day at 11am on Rhode Island Sound, where the Cup races were staged from 1930 until 1983.
All 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 and where those who attended the 12 Metre America’s Cup reunion two years ago revisited.
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. His performance in 2011 earned Turner 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 his skipper when Courageous 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.”
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.
Tom Whidden, one of the most experienced AC sailors in the world, sailed with Conner in three of his victories (1980, 1987 and 1988), while three others have sailed with Conner during various AC campaigns: Jerry Kirby (2003), Dave Kulver (’92, ’95) and Ralf Steitz (’92, ‘95). Joining them will be Michel Maeder, who sailed with Baron Marcel Bich in 1980.
“This will be Kiwi Magic, powered primarily by Stars & Stripes,” said Steitz, recognising 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 fibreglass 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,” said Steitz of the program of which he is president.
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 organisation 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, 12 Metre Yacht Club Station Steward, Gary Jobson, will introduce Jimmy Gubelmann as the new commodore of the Club.
Also making presentations will be Ted Turner and combat-wounded veteran and solo distance sailor Ronnie Simpson.
The event concludes on Sunday, September 23, with an Awards Ceremony at Ida Lewis Yacht Club, which also serves as the Organising 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.
Regatta Sponsor is Pine Brothers, while Supporting Sponsors are Boston Beer Company, Harbor Town Wine of NZ (partner to the 12 Metre fleet), Sebago and Atlantis.
Grand Prix – yachts built for the 1987 America’s Cup
KZ-5 ~ KZ5, Kip Curren, Newport, R.I.
KZ-7 (Kiwi Magic) ~ KZ7, Dennis Conner, San Diego, California
USA ~ US 61, Andy MacGowan, Middletown, R.I.
Modern – yachts built between 1974 and 1983
Courageous ~ US 26, Ralph Isham, New York, N.Y.
Intrepid ~ US 22, Jack Curtin, New York, N.Y.
Victory ’83 ~ K 21, Dennis Williams, Hobe Sound, Fla.
Traditional – yachts built between 1958 and 1970
American Eagle/Hope for the Warriors ~ US 21, Ted Turner, Atlanta, Georgia
Columbia ~ US 16, Alain Hanover, Weston, Massachusetts
Weatherly ~ US 17, George Hill, Newport, R.I.
Further information: www.12mrclass.com