Day of drama for the crew of Courageous
By Colin Thompson
After scraping a shoal on the way to the Great Sound, the crew of America's Cup Challenger Courageous must have figured the worst was behind them.
They were in for a rude awakening.
Having already encountered a brush with the Island's notorious reefs, Courageous' eventful day continued when the American 12 Metre yacht collided with sparring partner Defender and Cleopatra, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club's race committee boat, while match racing in the Great Sound.
Among those who witnessed all the drama that unfolded on that fall day in 1984 was sailor, sailing coach and RBYC archivist, Paul Doughty.
“I was out on a charter that day and the people I had on-board were tourists,” recalled Mr Doughty, who has logged more than 30,000 miles sailing at sea.
“I was explaining everything to them and we were killing ourselves.
“Courageous obviously wasn't having a good day. On the way to the Great Sound she struck the shoal at World's End and suffered some damage to her winged keel, then she collided with Defender and then hit the back of Cleopatra, so it was three strikes so to speak.
“In race one Courageous collided with her sparring partner Defender. She collided while executing pre start manoeuvres. “I can't remember the extent of the damage, but I don't think it was a lot. It was more like a scuff more than anything else. Then in the second start, Courageous collided with the back of Cleopatra and after she collided with Cleopatra for the start of the third race the race committee all came out with life jackets on. It was just hilarious.”
Courageous and Defender were shipped to Bermuda to allow their crews to prepare for the 1987 America's Cup in Perth, Australia during the winter months, which would have been impossible to do back in the United States around that time of year.
“Having two America's Cup 12 Metres on the Island was a big thing in the local sailing committee at the time,” recalled Mr Doughty, who has competed in five Marion Bermuda Races and six Newport Bermuda Races and also raced extensively off the US East Coast.
“It was also kind of cool for us in the boat charter business as well because it was something really genuinely interesting to look at and talk about.
“My love of sailing goes right to the love of the America's Cup even as a boy.”
Courageous, the first all aluminium-hulled 12 Metre class yacht, was the third boat behind New York Yacht Club stablemates Columbia and Intrepid to win the America's Cup twice.
With skipper Ted Hood at the helm, Courageous successfully defended the America's Cup for the United States in 1974.
After the 1974 America's Cup, Mr Hood built a new boat which he thought was faster than Courageous, and sold Courageous to Ted Turner.
Mr Turner won the 1977 America's Cup defender trials in Courageous, beating Mr Hood in the process, and then went on to successfully defend the America's Cup later that year.
The 12 Metre Class is a rating class for racing sailboats that are designed to the International rule.
The first 12 Metres were built in 1907 and used in the America's Cup between 1958 and 1987. Bermuda sailor Alex Wadson sailed on the 12 Metre with British syndicates Lionheart and Victory at the 1980 and 1983 America's Cup in Newport, Rhode Island.
“Those boats have heavy displacement and you needed brutes to sail them, not athletes so much,” Mr Doughty said.
“Back then they used rowers and coffee grinders because they were more powerful then the sailors.”