As I put pen to paper, here at my house in Newport, Rhode Island on 3rd February 2014, I am watching the snow falling and I think back to those America’s Cup days of 1983. It is all fresh in my mind as I have just listened to Sir Ben Ainslie on Desert Island Discs pay the most generous comments in respect of our “Victory Challenge” for the ever controversial but legendary America’s Cup.
Without doubt, the Oracle team were more than fortunate to be able to call upon the services of Sir Ben for the most crucial race in last year’s series on the waters of San Francisco. He proved to be the ingredient that reversed an almost certain New Zealand victory into a USA success. This all augurs well for a British challenge next time around, which is rumoured to be held in San Diego or Hawaii. San Francisco were not pleased enough to host it again but wherever the cup goes, interest will follow.
“I used to sail a 12 metre; I was an Americas Cup challenger for Great Britain: but here I am in 2013 having just as much fun and it’s certainly much cheaper!!” – Peter de Savary
In common with many other British sailors, we all hope that the necessary sponsorship will be forthcoming and, in which case, “Britannia may still rule the waves again”. I, for one, would be willing to contribute in many different ways to Sir Ben and his team and, without doubt, there would be roaring support and enthusiasm throughout the country.
In the days of 1983 I could do 100 push ups and mildly resembled an athlete! I enjoyed helming a 12 metre although I embarrassed myself in a collision with Bruno Trouble (his name says it all!) whose over-excitable French reaction would have lead one to believe it was all my fault! The British team of 1983 was a very mixed bag of those with talent, those with humour, hard workers, dedicated fanatics, social pleasers, young boys and girls and a few with genuine handicaps. As one would expect of a prolonged campaign in a foreign land we had an amazing mixture of fun, achievement, failure, anger and frustration, but above all that we enjoyed the benefits of adventure and a challenge, where doing ones best was just not enough. We honourably upheld the flag and returned home or elsewhere much better for the experience. All of us have continued to pursue our lives without losing the memory of 1983.
There remains to this day a camaraderie of spirit between those of us who were part of the 12 metre challenge “Victory” for the America’s Cup. It is a sort of fraternity and, as far as I am concerned, one of the great privileges I have enjoyed in the company of amazing men and women, boys and girls and bloody boats! Well, Sir Ben, I wish you much luck; at 70 years of age this year, I am down to 25 press ups and have little resemblance to an athlete. The memories are dear and I hope you will succeed in mounting a new America’s Cup challenge for all of us mere sailors to enjoy.