After competing against the top international match-racing sailors for four consecutive days, Ed Baird, the 42-year-old skipper from St. Petersburg, FL and skipper for the America's Cup challenger, Young America (1999), has won the 19th international Knickerbocker Cup, held on Manhasset Bay from Oct. 3-7, 2000. Baird entered the final round of competition against Australian James Spithill, and won the series in two straight match races. Earlier in the day, Baird, along with crew members Andrew Buttner (Boston) and Andy Herlihy (Boston), and Mark Mendelblatt (St. Petersburg, FL) defeated Ken Read (Newport, RI) the skipper on Dennis Connor's Stars and Stripes, two races to one, in the semifinals. This was the first time Baird and his crew sailed together, but they "got the job done" and are looking "forward to competing together again in two weeks at the Bermuda Gold Cup, the last stop this year on the professional match racing circuit." The final rankings: 1. Ed Baird, USA, 2. James Spithill, AUS, 3. Andy Green, UK, 4. Ken Read, USA, 5. Peter Holmberg, USVI, 6. Chris Main, NZ, 7. Bjorn Hansen, SWE, 8. Luc Pillot, FRA, 9. Maxim Taranov, RUS, 10. Carsten Bech, DEN, 11. Sebastian Destrehan, FRA, and 12. Dawn Riley, USA. Previous winners have included: Rich du Moulin, Larchmont YC (1984), Dave Dellenbagh, Cedar Point YC (1985), Dave Perry, Pequot YC (1988, 1992), Paul Cayard, St. Francis YC (1991), Ed Baird, St. Petersburg, FL (1993, 1994), Russell Coutts, New Zealand (1996), Peter Gilmour, AUS (1998), Tomislav Basic, Croatia, (1999).
The winning team. Skipper Ed Baird is the second from the right.
In 1977, as Ed du Moulin and his longtime friend, Arthur Knapp, Jr., were watching the Congressional Cup in Long Beach, CA, the preeminent match race event in the US, they thought it might be a great idea to have a similar event on the east coast. Five years later, the Knickerbocker Cup was born. In the early years of the Knickerbocker Cup, the format was to gather the best-known East Coast skippers, add some up-and-coming stars, and invite the best of the women skippers. A variety of yachts, all donated by their owners for use during the race, has been sailed in J36, NY 36, Soverel 33, CS 36, Melges 24 and now the J105. The KYC Cup has grown to become a leading match race event as it now has the status as part of the World Match Racing Conference, of which P/C Ted Weisberg is the current vice president. It is one of only two international match races held in the United States this year, and is an ISAF Grade 1 world ranked event. This years co-chairmen were P/C Ed du Moulin, P/C Joel Sterling, P/C Theodore Weisberg, and V/C Jeffrey Wenger. Boat owners who so generously contributed their boats for the event: Michael Aiello (Yankee Doodle), Damian Emery (Eclipse), Brian Dougherty (Revelation), John Coffey (Tern), John Sutherland (She Is The Boss), Joshua Burack (Peregrina), John Peterson (Last Tango), William Baldwin (Cyan), Marrin Pozefsky (Peekaboo), Guy Jedlika (Tigger), and Dimitrios Spentzos (Sovereign).
Match racing differs from what is seen on our bay each weekend. A very simplified explanation: Instead of many boats charging the starting line to get a great start, match racing involves two boats who try to gain advantage during a furious maneuvering battle behind the starting line and then sail for the line at the starting gun. The typical strategy in the before-the-start maneuvers are circles, with each boat chasing the other hoping to gain controlling position. The idea is to try to block the other boat from crossing the starting line first. Once the race begins, the windward leg of the course will find the lead boat covering (staying between the wind and the competition) and the trailing boat tacking (altering course from one tack to the other) to gain clear air. The upwind leg can lead to tacking duels as the trailing boat tacks to get clear air, while the lead boat matches her tacks to maintain the lead. Strategy for the downwind leg changes, as the trailing boat has the advantage because it can block the wind of the lead boat. The lead boat, therefore, must work to keep clear air, and at the same time maintain a position between the following boat and the next mark. Basic rules: beat your competition across the starting line, and stay between your opponent and the next mark once the race has started.
On Thursday evening, Oct. 5, as part of the Knickerbocker Cup, Ed Baird, Dawn Riley and Ken Read held a lecture on their America's Cup experience and predictions for upcoming cups. Dawn Riley announced that the America True syndicate sold its racing yacht, USA-51, to the One World Challenge backed by telecommunications entrepreneur Craig McCaw, who will use the boat for training and testing in its bid to win the America's Cup from New Zealand in 2002-3. Riley said that with the proceeds of the sale of USA-51, America True will be able to expand its True Youth program for at-risk kids and its support of other professional sailing programs. They have plans to launch a new America's Cup campaign in 2006. After Riley's announcement, discussion centered around New Zealand's chances in 2002 (don't count them out), salary caps (each skipper had differing views), the continual debate of boat speed over boat handling (a lot of speed comes from hard working good sailors) and on-board umpires vs. umpires in trailing boats (prefer trailing in boats) and afterguard decision-making: computer vs. seat-of-the-pants (30 percent computer vs. 70 percent seat-of-the-pants). The discussion ended with all three skippers in agreement that a more elaborate weather program will be needed to win the next America's Cup, as the wind patterns in Auckland makes sailing down under very difficult.
The Knickerbocker Cup came to an end on Saturday evening, as participants, family and friends gather together at KYC to honor the participants in the 4-day event. After the awards ceremony, all enjoyed a delicious dinner, followed by dancing. Leaving KYC, thoughts of this year's successful Knickerbocker Cup - great competition, top notch sailors, expert management, exciting sailing, and warm and welcoming KYC members - were mixed with anticipation for the 2001 KYC Cup.