Looking around at the full house at the Jane Pickens Theater in Newport, Rhode Island, last night, there was no mistaking that it was old home week for 12-Metre sailors enjoying the chance to relive the 12-Metre class's America's Cup heyday, 1958 to 1987. Filmaker Gary Jobson, winning tactician in 1977 aboard Courageous and newly elected US SAILING president, emceed the evening, which kicked off with a panel discussion among well-known past Cup sailors who told stories from over the years. The panel included the likes of Halsey Herreshoff, who crewed on multiple defenders, and David Elwell, the New York Yacht Club commodore who crewed aboard Intrepid and Valiant in 1967 and 1970. The audience, itself, featured dozens of boatbuilders, designers and other former competitors, including 1974 winning skipper Ted Hood.
The main draw for the event was the premiere showing Jobson's 52-minute film based on the recently completed 12-Metre World Championship, held in Newport in late September. But listening to the retelling of stories of Cup summers now over a quarter century ago was well worth the price of admission alone.
Seventeen 12-Metres participated in the 2009 Worlds, grouped in different divisions depending on age, and Jobson's film included some footage of every boat, as well as original footage of several of the boats contending for the Cup when they were new. Using onboard cameras, the film followed the action in several individual races, giving viewers a great sense of the teamwork and dialogue that goes into racing as part of a 16-person crew on a heavy, complicated boat.
One of the fun things about the film was its emphasis on the owners of the individual 12-Metres, each of whom is an amateur sailor with a love for a class of boat that represents a key piece of the sport of sailing's history. Their enthusiasm for their boats, most of which have required significant investments, shone through. Most of them also said their boats were "challenging" to sail, probably because during this particular week in September, the wind was generally very light during the races. Twelves are big, heavy boats that when powered up can sail fast and point like crazy, but when under-powered they're not easy to keep going in the waves. The week's weather was challenging for the film-maker as well: dramatic bow waves and high-speed crossings were in short supply.
But sailors know to make good use of whatever breeze that they are given, and Gary Jobson did the same. Anyone with even a casual interest in sailing will enjoy every bit of this film, which airs on ESPN Classic today (Saturday, Nov. 7) at 1 pm EST and will no doubt be shown again. DVDs of the Jobson Sailing Inc. film can be ordered from the International Twelve Metre Association for $25. (Checks to Jennifer Stewart, 40 Mary St., Newport, RI 02840.)