Peter Gilmour, and his crew, Kazuhiko Sofuku, Tatsuya Wakinaga and Yasuhiro Yaji, from OneWorld Challenge for the America's Cup has won the 2001 International Knickerbocker Cup, hosted by the Knickerbocker Yacht Club, held from August 29- September 3.
The last day of racing on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 3, brought difficult conditions for the four teams who reached the finals in this ISAF grade 1 match racing regatta. The wind was shifty and light, causing the Race Committee to postpone competition until shortly after noon, when wind ranging from 3-6 knots sent the RC out to set up courses. The skippers in the finals were all America's Cup helmsmen: Peter Gilmour and James Spithill are with the OneWorld Challenge out of Seattle, Ken Read is with Team Dennis Conner and Stars and Stripes, representing the New York Yacht Club, and Ed Baird was skipper of Young America, the challenger for America's Cup XXX. This year's finals were especially exciting because then it was Ed Baird, who won the Knickerbocker Cup in 1993, 1994, and 2000 against Peter Gilmour, who won the Cup in 1998. Ken Read, the hometown favorite, who is hoping to bring back the America's Cup to the East Coast, was matched up against James Spithill. Unfortunately for both Read and Spithill, the semifinals had to be cancelled due to lack of wind, which did not give these two top-notch skippers a chance to move up in the final standings.
Manhasset Bay was crowded with spectator boats as the finals on Monday provided match racing at its finest - even if the wind did not cooperate fully. The first two races gave one win to each of the four skippers, forcing a third and final match. Even with fluky wind, this was exciting to watch as each team worked hard to gain advantage at the start and tried to predict where the wind might be best on the race course.
Twice the RC used an alternate rounding mark as the wind kept shifting all over the bay. The final match found Gilmour on the right side of the bay with a little wind that carried him to the finish line before Baird. Spithill and Read were close at several points in their final match, but it was Spithill who took the honors at the finish line.
America's Cup Hall of Famer Ed du Moulin, past commodore of the Knickerbocker YC and founder of the Knickerbocker Cup, awarded first prize to the Gilmour team and congratulated them on their win. He continued, "This is not the first time you have been presented with the Knickerbocker Cup, it's the second; and you need one more to tie Ed's (Baird) winning three Cups." Peter Gilmour replied that he was "delighted to have won the second time, as the series was close, with four America's Cup skippers in the finals."
A regatta this size takes a tremendous amount of man-hours to plan and orchestrate during the week-long event, which at the Knickerbocker YC is done by volunteers. Most of the yacht clubs that host a match racing event at this level of competition have at least 2,000 members to help support the club. Knickerbocker YC, whose members number about 200, supports this international event year after year with great success. According to Ted Weisberg, the president of the Match Racing Association, and a director of the Swedish Match Racing Grand Prix Tour, skippers, crew, umpires and all those associated with match racing on an international level, think the Knickerbocker Cup is one of the best match racing events of the year, and look forward to coming to Port Washington because "of the warm hospitality that is always extended" to the competitors. Rumor has it that several skippers agreed to compete in this year's event only if housed by the same family as in previous years. What a tribute to KYC! Members of Knickerbocker who deserve mention: The Governing Committee: Ed du Moulin, Chairman Emeritus, Jonathan Helfat, Ted Weisberg, Jeffrey Wenger, Joel Sterling, Robin Helfat and Tinette Sterling. Others who put in an inordinate amount of time toward the KCup: Commodore Mitchell Uiberall, Burt Lowatsky, Norman Schefer, Stu Powell, James Lyman, Michael Aingorn, Donald Abrams, Manny Greene, Bernard Shore, Peter Rosenberg, Bob Ebenau, Claire Lowlicht, Jewel Prince, Sue Greenfield, Stanley Wolin, Sara Wolin, Leslie Lindenbaum, Donna Wenger, Dick Farber, Marla Freeman, and Jon Mostel. Members from Manhasset Bay YC provided additional help on Race Committee, mark boats, and other on -the -water support .
As in past years, skippers and crew sailed in J105's for this year's event. Owners of the boats who demonstrated their dedication to match racing and their generosity in lending their boats for the entire week: Yankee Doodle, Mike Aiello, Tigger, Guy Jedlicka, Stigandi, Peter Lilleby, Ceol N Mara, David Frizell, Last Tango, J.P. Peterson, Peekaboo, Marvin Pozefsky, Sovereign, Steven Schwartzapfel, Snyergy, (name unavailable), Odessey, Dimitrios Spentzos, Maestro, Christopher Stavrou, and Curragh, Peter Tuiti.
For the uninitiated, match racing can be somewhat confusing; therefore, the following is an attempt to help readers understand the format of match racing. Two yachts compete one on one and the first across the finish line is the winner. It is before the start that match racing is so very different than what is seen on our bay. Action begins at the ten-minute and then a five-minute warning gun, which serves to notify the yachtsmen that the match is about to start. Four minutes before the start the next signal is given. The yachts then begin to approach each other from opposite ends of the starting line. The yacht on the port end flies a yellow flag and the starboard yacht flies a blue flag. This marks the beginning of the twisting and turning typical of match racing. The yachts chase each other, both trying to avoid being early across the starting line or ending up with the other yacht in a controlling position behind them. If one yacht makes a premature start its flag is shown on the starting vessel and there is nothing for it but to return and make a new start. The start gun is also the five-minute gun for the next pair.
In any true duel, the secret is outwitting your opponent, and in match racing, skipper and crew try to do this before the start to give them advantage. Trying to force your competition to make a single mistake is the goal, so each skipper will try to force his competition over the starting line. Another tactic is what is called "stealing from your opponent," which means using sails to "steal" the wind from the other yacht, causing it to lose speed. That's where the spectator will see the two boats very close together on the race course, as one competitor is trying to "cover" the other. For the spectator, watching a match race is exciting because the races are usually close with the winner not being determined until the final few boat lengths toward the finish line. A heated match may have 30 or 40 tacks to windward and 10 - 20 jibes sailing downwind. Really good match racing, with skilled skippers, like the competition displayed at this year's Knickerbocker Cup, is not only exciting, but also fascinating to watch because of the strategies employed.
Match racing is different in how protests are handled. Sailors who are protested during a race on Manhasset Bay wait to return to land to face a Protest Committee, who will determine who should be assessed a penalty by listening to arguments from all involved parties. In match racing, a jury boat follows each pair of racers throughout the match, with two umpires who make on-the-water decisions together. The book of rules and existing precedents set the limits of acceptable behavior on the course. The umpires must know the rules by heart and be able to make irrevocable split-second decisions; their knowledge and experience are crucial elements during a match. The way it works is this: The yachtsmen show a yellow/red protest flag if they think their opponent has violated the rules. The umpires then decide whether a penalty is warranted and whom to penalize. The penalty can be made good at any time during the match. Thus the skippers and crew know immediately that they have committed an infraction. The Umpires at the 2001 Knickerbocker Cup include: Jeff Borland, Principal Race Officer; John Standley, Chief Umpire; Andrew Alberti, Tom Allen, Don Becker, Joe Butterfield, Arthur J. Wulschlager, David Collins, James C. Moore, Andres Otto, Mary Savage, and Steven Shepstone.
The Knickerbocker Cup has grown to become a leading Match Race Event, having gained status as part of the World Match Racing Association, of which Past Commodore Ted Weisberg is the current President. The dream of having an East Coast Match Racing Event, which started 20 years ago, has become much more than the founders, Ed du Moulin and Arthur Knapp, could have expected. Today the Knickerbocker Cup is one of only two Grade 1 Men's Match Racing Events in the United States, the other being The Congressional Cup in Long Beach, CA. Past winners have included top names in match racing: Dave Dellenbaugh, USA (1985), Paul Cayard, USA (1991), Ed Baird (1993, 1994, 2000), Roy Heiner, Netherlands (1995), Russell Coutts, New Zealand (1996), Peter Gilmour, USA (1998), and Tomislav Basic, Croatia.
2001 FINAL STANDINGS for the 20th International Knickerbocker Cup:1. Peter Gilmour, USA; 2. Ed Baird, USA; 3. James Spithill, USA; 4. Ken Read, USA; 5.Cameron Appleton, New Zealand; 6.Andy Horton, USA; 7. Morten Henriksen, Germany; 8. Mathieu Richard , France; 9. Jes Gram-Hansen, Denmark; 10. Lars Nordbjerg, Denmark; 11. Andrew Arbuzov, Russia; and 12. Gustav Nilsson, Sweden.