What would the Pro Football Hall of Fame be if it only included on its list of honorees quarterbacks, coaches, and general managers? Woefully incomplete is probably a good place to start.
The America’s Cup Hall of Fame was suffering from a similar problem, having filled its walls over the years with skippers, tacticians, designers and campaign managers while all but ignoring the draft horses that make sure the skilled laborers in the back of the boat can look as smart and talented as they do when winning a Cup race.
The reasons for this are many, not the least of which is that the concept of career trimmers or grinders or bowmen is relatively new to the sport of sailing. Many AC Hall of Famers worked their way through the ranks, eventually earning their induction credentials at the wheel or calling the tacks.
Regardless, the Bristol, R.I.-based Hall made a large step in the right direction at the 17th America’s Cup Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, where the 2010 inductees were honored in front of a packed house at the New York YC’s Harbour Court station.
The list included two trimmers, a bowman, two navigators, and a strategist. Four of the inductees were part of what longtime Cup commentator Peter Montgomery called the Tight Five, Russell Coutts’ key group of lieutenants that sailed with him on the successful Team New Zealand campaigns in 1995 and 2000 and with Alinghi in 2003 and 2007, though Coutts was long gone by that time. Coutts and Brad Butterworth are both in the hall, and with good reason, but it was high time for these four sailors—headsail trimmer Simon Daubney, main trimmer Warwick Fleury, strategist and up-the-mast acrobat Murray Jones, and bowman Dean Phipps—joined them.
A fifth New Zealander, navigator and designer Mike Drummond, who played a large roll in BMW Oracle Racing’s most recent campaign among many other successful campaigns with Team New Zealand and Alinghi, was also honored as was hall founder and three-time Cup winner Halsey Herreshoff.
As the dinner, presented by Rolex, was also part of the 12-Metre reunion that took place last week, there was no shortage of reminiscing about the old days of wire sheets, overlapping genoas, and triangle courses. When Ted Turner made a comment about how he’d like to see the Cup still raced for in 12-Metres, he got a hearty response from the crowd.
But this class of inductees—not including Herreshoff, who competed only in 12-Metres—more than any other in the history of the Hall of Fame, spoke to the changes in the America’s Cup since 1983. They are professional athletes. And while Fleury, Daubney, and Phipps all sailed in the 12-Metre era, they made their name in the tippy, loaded, carbon-infused America’s Cup Class yachts. They are specialists, though they could probably sail circles around just about anyone in any position. As Daubney, a three-time Olympian, put it, “I made a career out of pulling the jib onto the top spreader and looking at it.” If only it was that simple.
Hopefully, as the Hall of Fame moves forward, it will continue to remember that the best tactician or skipper is only as good as they guys pulling the strings, turning the handles, and wrestling the sails in front of him.
Each inductee took their turn at the microphone. Two of the best speeches came from Jones, and Daubney. They are below, as best as they could be made out amidst the laughter.
Before that, however, one note about Herreshoff. It’s easy to make the joke about how long it took him to get into his own hall of fame. Heck I made it twice on Saturday night. But his record speaks for itself. Herreshoff started his Cup career as a bowman on Columbia, winning the Cup in 1958. He sailed in six campaigns and four America’s Cup matches in the Newport 12-Metre era. He is known at the bookends of that stretch of Cup history, as he was the first man across the finish line when the Cup restarted in 1958, and the last, as navigator on Liberty, when it closed in 1983. If anything, being the caretaker of the hall probably kept him on the sidelines longer than he deserved.
Murray Jones induction speech
[First few words were missed, but he was responding to Peter Montgomery who talked about Jones coming up with the idea to send the strategist up the rig in 1995 to gain a better perspective on the breeze.]…it would be a good idea to go up to the jumpers or well up the mast, have a look at the breeze and get a better look at what it looks like. For the last 15 years, I’ve regretted most of the time, coming up with that idea.
Sometimes it’s quite nice to get off the deck and away from these guys, they do annoy you at times and say ridiculous things. Sometimes I have regretted it, we’ve had our moments up here.
I remember one time we were sailing in the Cup in Auckland [in 2003]. I was with Alinghi against Team New Zealand and it was a really close race. We came round the top mark and I was already up the mast and we came straight into the spectator chop from all the spectators coming up the starboard layline.
Someone in the back of the boat, it might’ve been a grey-haired guy [Butterworth], didn’t put the [top-mast runners, I think] on hard enough and the rig’s going back and forth and I’m just getting slammed into the rig. A lot of the time you’re pretty bruised up there. I end up slamming into the jumper rod. I wear contact lenses so I can see well and one of them flipped out. Fortunately it landed in my sunglasses. I’m still getting banged around, I’m trying to hang on to the rig and Russell’s yelling out from the bottom. “Should we jibe or not, Team New Zealand is right behind us. What do we do?”
I can’t see hardly anything. I said “Yeah, jibe, jibe.” [I was thinking] Anything’s got to be better than what we’re doing right then.
Anyhow, we jibe, I get the contact lens of my sunglasses, put it in my mouth, flick around to the other side of the boat, clear the gennaker off the jumpers, kick the mainsail battens to jibe the battens. Finally get back onto hanging onto the jumper rods supporting myself and then I thought “Oh yeah [my contact lens].” And then Russell’s going, “Are you sure we’re going to the right way.”
So I get the contact lens out, I’m banging round, trying to get that the contact lens in without poking my eye out. A couple of minutes later I finally get it going and I say, “Yeah, this looks perfect.”
Simon Daubney induction speech
It’s absolutely an honor for me to be here because for me, the America’s Cup has been my life. As a kid growing up, it was an absolute dream. I’m sure like all the sailors in the room, it’s always been the pinnacle. I remember the first time I came to Newport, I was just a kid, I think it was 1980. I remember Courageous and another boat were stored in a shed, I remember looking through the nail holes in the shed, just thinking, “That’s Courageous,” I just couldn’t believe it.
It’s important to remember how absolutely cool [the 12 meters were]. One thing I said long, long time ago, or some friends reminded me I said, while being bored by some old 12-meter sailor telling some old stories, if I ever, ever start going on like that just make a quick chop to the back of the neck.
The reality is, there’s no way you could talk to this crowd without having some 12-Metre stories and just talking about it, [I realize] how lucky that I was around just right at the very end and I got to sail with wire sheets and bolt cutters. Kids today, they just don’t get to do that stuff.
I love the boats, I love the Jubilee [in Cowes, in 2001], I loved sailing with Russell, these guys. It was pretty special.
The good thing about sailing the America’s Cup for someone like me, who’s basically uneducated, is you get to sail and work with a lot of really, really smart people. And it’s true, I made a career out of pulling the jib onto the top spreader and just watching it.
[Peter Montgomery] attributed me with the flippers to support the [roach on the fat-head jibs]. Coutts told me that would be a good idea. I spent my whole career looking up at the thing, and it was like, “Why didn’t I think of that.”
We’d sit around in our offices, meeting with people who’d come from all fields, motor racing, Formula 1, scientists, people who paid attention in school, and they’d say: “Talk to us Simon, what do you think?” I’d say, “What you mean, what do I think?” What do you think [Tom Schnackenberg]? Who cares what I think.
To work with these guys when we were sailing with the New Zealand team to working with the fantastic group we had with Alinghi; let me tell you, the feeling that you have were you’re be going into any race, anyone who raced in those four cups, no matter what country they were from, to have that support, to get that eye contact before the race and just know that you can power ahead and do anything because you’ve got the support of everyone around you. It’s just the coolest feeling in sport. I love that part of the Cup.
It’s so cool being in the room with the people who are already in the hall, all those legends, so I’d like to thank them, and I’d like to thank the Herreshoff museum.