Regatta director predicts exciting times’
Bermuda meet Iain Murray, the regatta director for the 35th America’s Cup to be contested for on these shores in June 2017.
Mr Murray is serving a second successive stint in the key role and has been tasked with collaborating with all of the teams as well as with Harvey Schiller, the commercial commissioner, in setting the competitive parameters for the event.
The Australian comes highly recommended for the job given his wealth of inshore and offshore sailing experience and expertise in boat design.
He won a record six consecutive 18ft skiff world titles between 1977 and 1982, and in 1984 won the Etchells World Championship.
However, Mr Murray is most noted for his appearances at the America’s Cup in 1983 and 1987, racing in the old 12-Metre Class Yachts.
During the 1983 America’s Cup challenge in Newport, Rhode Island, he sailed on Syd Fischer’s Advance.
Australia II went on to win the Cup to bring America’s 132 years of dominance in the event to a grinding halt.
After Australia II’s historic victory, Mr Murray joined Kevin Parry’s Taskforce ’87 syndicate and co-designed and skippered their Kookaburra yachts.
Kookaburra III won the defender elimination trials against three other Australian syndicates off Fremantle, but lost to Dennis Conner and Stars & Stripes 87 in the America’s Cup Match.
Mr Murray was also on board One Australia when it sank during the 1995 Louis Vuitton Cup.
The Australian, who celebrated his 57th birthday last week, has also carved out a name for himself as a boat designer.
The modern version of the 18ft skiff was designed by Mr Murray, who also conceived the Nippa 2.65 metres dinghy for sailors at youth level.
Mr Murray was reappointed as America’s Cup regatta director by the America’s Cup Event Authority competitor forum, then comprised of six teams, last December. He is in Bermuda for the first time since his reappointment, assisting with preparations for the America’s Cup World Series event here from October 16 to 18 — and the bigger races to follow.
“It looks like a nice place to go yachting,” Mr Murray told The Royal Gazette. “Nice breeze and beautiful, clear water.”
The technological advances in boat design will make for exciting racing, which could potentially surpass the spectacular drama witnessed in San Francisco in 2013.
Mr Murray agrees. “Leading into the last America’s Cup, there were so many major changes and collectively we learned so much about how to design, build and race these foiling multihulls,” he said.
“Now we have the chance to fine-tune and make adjustments to make it even better.
“The last time was really the first time the crews were racing flying boats. But this time around I think the acceptance of flying boats, whether it be in the little Moths or the bigger America’s Cup cats, the understanding of the technology and the development of the boats and skills of the crews will really take it to a higher level of close competition.
“There’s been a spreading and understanding of the technology, and the teams are working at a higher level of more sophisticated technology.
“You will see the competition come down more to the players than just the technology — and that’s a good thing.”
A disputed revision to the class rule for the Qualifiers and Match, which prompted the withdrawal of Italian challenger Luna Rossa, will result in the teams competing in 48ft wing-sail foiling catamarans that have the potential to sail faster than the larger AC72 used at the previous event in San Francisco.
It was in California where Oracle Team USA retained the “Auld Mug” after pulling off arguably the greatest comeback in sporting history against Emirates Team New Zealand.
“We haven’t had the electronic clock on them but I think these boats are going to go as fast as the old 72-footers did, and they were doing 30 knots upwind and 40-plus downwind,” Mr Murray said. “They are more lively boats, so they are going to be a real handful to sail.”
Mr Murray’s duties as regatta director will include laying out the racecourse for the high-performance America’s Cup Class catamarans in the tight confines of the Great Sound.
“It looks like an interesting racecourse,” he said. “With these boats going fast, there’s a lot of opportunities for people to make the most of the conditions, so I think we will see a variance in the winners.
“There’s a limited space of water out there and the problem is these boats go so fast, so they are going to chew up the space pretty quickly.
“But it’s up to us to manage and I’m sure we can get up to two miles in length out there — and that’s plenty!”
He added: “These are exciting times for Bermuda; there’s this breath of new technology and a very high quality sporting event coming to town.
“Bermuda is a proud sailing nation. I’ve spent a lot of time with Bermudians in international competitions and they have always been very proud to showcase this beautiful country.
“I think they are going to take it to new levels because it’s an ideal venue.”