11 August 2017

30th Anniversary of New Zealand's Admiral's Cup Win

In the early hours of 12 August 1987 (UK time), and 30 years ago today, New Zealand's team of Propaganda, Goldcorp and Kiwi finished in fourth, 11th and 20th in the Fastnet Race to win the coveted Admiral's Cup for New Zealand for the first (and only) time. The New Zealand team had amassed 1,365 points to hold out the British team of Jamarella, Juno and Indulgence by some 84 points. They had gone into the Fastnet Race, the final race of the five-race series, with a lead of 109 points, and just needed to stay close to their British rivals to secure their win. They did this to near perfection, with Propaganda just one place behind Jamarella, and Kiwi pushing Indulgence into 25th. Juno had an impressive 2nd place, but this was not enough to overcome the overall Kiwi dominance.

From the RORC History page:

1987 was the year when the New Zealanders achieved what they had long threatened since their first challenge in 1971; the double - the Cup and the top-boat slot with Propaganda (below) sailed by 'Billy' Butterworth and his boys.'
Their effort was uncommonly like the German bids of 1983 and 1985 - a home grown-effort based around a small group who had all the right skills. New Zealand yachting was, and remains, an illusion. Although in the 1980s the Kiwis won virtually everything worth winning, this giant in sailing is actually a country of only three million people. And while the Kiwis are boat-crazy, having one of the highest per capita ownership rates in the world, there is scarcely any grand-prix IOR sailing at home to speak of.
Goldcorp (finished sixth yacht overall)
On a roller-coaster of success, the Kiwis had won the World Youth Championships, five medals at the Los Angeles Olympics, had made the Whitbread Round the World Race their own, won the Kenwood Cup and made an indecently impressive debut at the America's Cup. In 1987 at Cowes, they beat the Germans and twelve other nations at their own game. They came with the best-prepared team; their boats had excellent speed and the sailors were good enough to sail a textbook series which minimised risk and maximised points. Only Propaganda seemed to have an extra cutting edge with her phenomenal upwind form. Don Booke, the team manager from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, was not exaggerating when he said: 'We believe we won the cup twenty-four months ago. We sat down and got contributions from everyone who had been involved in the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup and had monthly meetings at the Squadron. Our big job was to change the triallists from enemies into friends.'
Kiwi, the "big boat" of the New Zealand team, finished seventh overall
So the Kiwis put in a full twenty days practice in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour before coming to the UK, and then had another twelve days sailing in British waters, with video analysis to bring crew technique and sail shapes to race-readiness. They even sailed a practice overnight race in the Channel, something few teams had contemplated before. The squad were coached by Californian Rod Davis, who by then had put his roots down in New Zealand through marrying the sister of ace sail designer Tom Schnackenberg. He prepared their programme, advised on sails, suggested new gear and moved crew around. John Clinton, the sail designer for the KZ-7 12-metre, came over to England to re-cut the sails, though Rick Dodson thought the Kiwis had anticipated British conditions pretty well. Dodson, who had been Swuzzlebubble III's mainsheet trimmer when she'd been top Admiral's Cup boat in 1981, was now skippering Mal Canning's Laurie Davidson-designed One Tonner Goldcorp (ex Mad Max).
Propaganda - the fastest One Tonner at the 1987 Admiral's Cup, and the top individual yacht overall

No mean sailor himself, with five America's Cups and an Olympic gold and silver medal to his name, Davis was worth listening to. 'I am the catalyst to help them figure out how to do things. You win the Admiral's Cup by putting three boats in the top ten or twelve places in every race. You do that by not breaking anything, by not doing anything stupid and by staying outside the protest room - no bogies, no double bogies, no sand traps!' Admittedly, Davis had good ingredients with which to work. Goldcorp had been re-vamped stripped out by Dodson and Davidson, to be turned into the winner of the New Zealand trials.

The video of the 1987 series can be seen here, and more photos from the series can be seen here.

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