Saturday, November 6, 2010

BMW ORACLE Racing victory tour visits Canada

BMW ORACLE Racing Team continued its North American victory tour on Friday with a visit to the Royal Canadian Yacht Club city club in downtown Toronto (right).

The team’s diverse, multi-national composition is well known, but it was the “Canadian Connection” that helped to bring victory in the 33rd America’s Cup last February.

Canadians are likely more familiar with the Stanley Cup than the America’s Cup, but the “Auld Mug” of 1848 pre-dates “Lord Stanley’s Mug” by 45 years. Canada is a four-time challenger for the America’s Cup (1876, ’81, 1983, ’87), yet this is believed to be the Cup’s first visit to Canada.

“We did a show for the young sailors of the area in the afternoon and then a bigger show at night for club members, guests and media that included the Cup,” said Paul Henderson, former President of ISAF and an RCYC member. “We had to cut off the evening at 400 guests. It was very well received. RCYC was a good host club.”

Henderson was an unflinching friend for BMW ORACLE Racing during the lead-up to the 33rd Cup. His daughter, Martha, is the RCYC Vice Commodore responsible for marketing and organized much of the evening’s festivities and was a member of the 2008 Canadian Olympic Sailing Team.

Tom Ehman, Ian Burns, Brian MacInnes and Magnus Clarke flank the America's Cup

The night featured team members Tom Ehman (Head of External Affairs), Ian “Fresh” Burns (Design Team Coordinator) and Brian “Puck” MacInnes (Sailing Team Grinder), who hails from Nova Scotia.

The team’s visit to Toronto honored the friendship of local sailors who were unwavering in their support of the team: Fred Eaton, Magnus Clarke, Rob Patterson, Rossi Milev and Paul Henderson.

Magnus Clarke (right) emphasizes a point of discussion

Clarke, Patterson and Milev were among the “Night Crew” and camped out on the 90-foot long and wide USA 17 when it was moored for the night. The 18 storey tall wingsail was always trying to generate lift, even on the mooring.

Skipper James Spithill would hand over the giant trimaran to Clarke, the “Night Skipper,” as soon as USA 17 was tethered. But the “Night Crew’s” task was far from easy, especially on a winter’s night in Valencia when it blew 60 knots.

“It was a really exciting project to work on. I have a lot of respect for the guys we were working with,” said Clarke. “It was exciting times.”

Clarke was the crew aboard the International C Class Catamaran Championship winner Canaan last August. Together with skipper Eaton, the two won the trophy for the second time in a row with a 3-1 victory over BMW ORACLE Racing team skipper James Spithill and coach Glenn Ashby.

Eaton and Clarke’s C Class catamaran experience was valuable to both the sailing crew and shore team. as they learned about wingsails before USA 17’s giant Cup winning rig was stepped.

“We were thrilled they wanted to come up and train with us,” Clarke said. “The first time we went out to match race them it was Fred and I against Jimmy and Glenn. We went through them to leeward upwind and won two races in a row. I was told they didn’t get a lot of sleep that night discussing what happened on the water.”

The rivalry may have started off in the Canadians’ favor, but by the time the I4C was underway last August, the Aussies had turned the tables. Ashby and Spithill dominated in the pre-starts of the C Class championship, but lost out to the newer and faster Canaan, which sported a taller wing that made it a rocket downwind.

“It was a relief to get it over with,” said Eaton, who was also honored during the evening. “We got two boats through in one piece and executed our goal of winning. We were thrilled with the results.”

The evening was hosted at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club ...

And featured upwards of 400 guests

Team members sign posters for area youth sailors who attended an earlier presentation

(All pictures courtesy Joaquim "Joe" Santos,