A scene from the 25th Knickerbocker Cup in 2007. This year's Cup starts Thursday, Aug. 21 through Sunday, Aug. 24.
Normally, this column does not cite a full report but there are always exceptions that merit this self-imposed rule. In an email Report #8, titled "The Ultimate in Good Sportsmanship," Gary Jobson talks about a truly inspiring incident in the Olympic Games that have given the world so many exciting events. He writes, "Every now and then in sailing something very special happens, that is worthy of high praise. The story of the Danish 49er team is amazing. On the way out to the racecourse in the medal race Jonas Warrer and Martin Kirketerp Ibsen were leading in the standings. The wind was blowing about 20 knots and the seas were huge. Unfortunately, they slammed hard into a big wave and the mast went over the side. This was the end of their gold medal quest.
On the way back to the Qingdao Sailing Center the duo was feeling pretty low, as the other nine boats were sailing out to the starting line. Meanwhile in the media center the Croatian sailing team coach was watching the world feed television pictures of the Danes sailing in with the mast cracked in half. He summoned his own 49er crew to rig their boat. When the Danes arrived at the launch ramp Palve Kostov and Petar Cupac had their 49er rigged up and ready to go. The Croatians had been eliminated and stood in 17th place, and out of the medal race. The Danish coach meanwhile informed the race committee of the boat swap about 15 minutes before the race start.
With renewed spirits Warrer and Kirketerp headed for the starting line about one half mile away. As they rounded the large seawall the 49er starting sequence was already under way. The fleet took off leaving the Danes in the Croat boat struggling to get to the starting line. Under the rules you must cross the starting line within four minutes of the actual start. Could the Danes make it?
They were now in the race of their lives against the clock, not the rest of the fleet. American rules advisor Dave Perry was on the starting line watching his watch. The seconds were racing by. Several coaches, out on the water, and even some race committee were yelling encouragement. The Danes crossed the line with a whopping three seconds to spare. Further up the course the 49ers were struggling. One boat after another capsized. It was a race to remember. Eventually the Danes made it across the finish line in last place. BUT three boats were unable to finish the race due to equipment problems. So Warrer and Kirketerp placed 7th.
A sticky issue developed after the race. The International measurers protested the Danish over the boat swap. The International Jury headed by the highly respected John Doerr of Great Britain spent two days listening to testimony and discussed the issue thoroughly. The jury ruled that the boat swap was proper. The 7th place finish gave the Danes 61 points. Spain, with 64, was in second. Denmark had won the Gold. But the real heroes were the great sportsmen from Croatia.
Thanks to Gary Jobson, the international sailing community has a story to tell its junior sailors about an Olympic team from Croatia that set the standard for sportsmanship. Jobson was correct - the Croatians are the real heroes. And these are the kind of stories that make the Olympics live on in memory.
In last week's column, there was a mistake about results of the Make a Wish Regatta over at Port Washington YC. Thanks to Catherine Einhaus, the results can be corrected this week. The top fund-raiser for the event was Lillian Kennedy. Winners in the Red Fleet:
1. Elizabeth Einhaus, PWYC; 2.Ali Andromidas, PWYC; 3. Matthew Harris, PWYC; and 4. Shanna Rae Savignano, PWYC. Blue Fleet winner: 1. Danielle Rutigliano, SEAW; 2. Steven Polis, PWYC; 3. Liam Monarchio, SCLF; and 4. Matthew Lyons, PWYC. Top boats in the White Fleet: 1. Emma Haley, SCLF; 2. Gerard Eastman, SEAW; 3. John Amorosana, PWYC; and 4. Liam Mansfield, PWYC . Green Fleet Winners: 1. William Charon, SEAW; 2. Margeaux McCann, Hempstead Harbor YC; 3. Bennet Kudder, SEAW; and 4. Jake Scheblein, SEAW. The Sportsmanship trophy went to Ally Steck, MBYC and Matthew Lyons, PWYC.
If you are walking in town or down by the water in Port Washington, you may see some athletic-looking individuals speaking various languages. That is when they are not racing in the 2008 Knickerbocker Cup, which starts today and runs through Sunday, Aug. 24. This year the Knickerbocker Cup is part of the World Tour Qualification Series (TQS), which means that the winner of the 2008 Knickerbocker Cup will receive an invitation to the Bermuda Gold Cup. So in addition to racing on Manhasset Bay, which always gives the competitors trouble with shifty winds and strong currents - a challenge skippers seem to relish, they will have an added benefit of a chance to get an invite to one of the most prestigious match racing events on the World Tour.
Top on the list of teams is last year's winner, Chris Van Tol, Van Tol Racing, USA, with an ISAF ranking of 36 who is returning to defend his title. This rather young team, who called themselves the "zero to hero" team, have made it big time on the international match racing circuit. In addition to Van Tol, the contenders will include top-ranked Andrey Arbuzov (Russia), followed by Keith Swinton (AUS), Sergey Muskihiin (RUS) Evan Walker (AUS), Juan Ignacio Grimaldi (ARG), Phil Robertson (NZ), Takumi Nakamura (JAP), Robbie Allam (GBR), Francesco Bruni (ITA), and a female skipper: Elizabeth Baylis (USA). Ms. Baylis recently took first place in the Mayor's Cup in Long Beach, USA.
The Knickerbocker Cup was founded by the late Edward du Moulin, who was a past Commodore of Knickerbocker YC, a member of the New York YC and the Storm Trysail Club, and an inductee into the America's Cup Hall of Fame, and his late friend Arthur Knapp. 26 years ago, the two friends had just returned from the Congressional Cup in California and thought it would be a good idea to bring match racing to the East Coast. Since that day, the cup has grown in prestige and in recent years has become a platform for launching many match racing careers.
Spectators are welcome to come and watch the excitement. On Friday, Aug. 22 at 8 p.m., Ted Weisberg will talk about his experiences with the World Match Race Tour, and give an exciting update on the international racing scene as it pertains to match racing. You won't want to miss this! The public is invited to attend. For more information about the Knickerbocker Cup, see www.kyc.net and for information about the World Match Racing Tour, go to www.worldmatchracingtour.com.