Midwest Group Is Seeking America’s Cup
The quest by Gary Jobson and his Heart of America cohorts to bring sailing’s fabled America’s Cup to the nation’s midlands started in an unlikely spot--the chambers of the New York State Supreme Court.
“We started dancing with the idea of putting together a challenge a few years ago,” Jobson said. “But first we had to go in front of the New York Supreme Court and convince the judges that Lake Michigan was an arm of the sea.”
In order to officially mount an America’s Cup challenge, the sponsoring yacht club must have direct access to the sea. The Chicago group was forced to prove that Lake Michigan was such a body of water before the New York Supreme Court because that court has been enpowered to determine who can challenge for yachting fabled trophy.
Once Jobson and company received a favorable ruling the difficult undertaking of raising the millions needed to fund an America’s Cup challenger began.
“The Midwest has been behind us from the beginning,” said Jobson, who was in San Francisco with the rest of the Heart of America crew for a series of training races. “So far about 3,000 people have come forward to donate anywhere from $25 to $10,000. We’ve also landed MCI Communications and CIBA Consumer Pharmaceuticals as major sponsors. Right now, we’re two thirds of the way to our goal of $7 million.”
The Chicago syndicate, skippered by Buddy Melges, has charted a frugal course in it efforts to capture the cup. First, while many teams were spending thousands of dollars to send its crews to Australia to sail in the World 12 meter championships earlier this year, Heart of America sent only key personnel to race on other boats.
Second, the challenge decided to train on Clipper, an old 12-meter boat, and build just one new boat with a revolutionary design.
Last, the syndicate sent its crew to the West Coast to train against American syndicates--Golden Gate Challenge and the Eagle Challenge--and Canada’s Canada II group.
“What you have to avoid in the America’s Cup is peaking too early,” said Jobson, a veteran of three Cup defenses. “We’ve planned a schedule that we feel will have us peaking by the time the trials are run (starting Oct. 18th off Perth).”
The group’s new boat--designed by little-known Midwesterners Scott Graham, Eric Schlagater, Jim Gretzky--will be launched May 1 in Newport, R.I., and then shipped to Chicago for a May 31 christening. From there, the boat and Heart of America crew will travel to Newport Beach, Calif., for a series of races against Eagle new boat.
Like other syndicates, Heart of America used the latest technology to design its new boat. Chrysler has allowed the group to use its computer and the David Taylor laboratory--the Maryland lab where America tests its submarine designs--was used for tank testing.
Jobson said if Heart of America is successful in capturing the cup, the defense races would be on Lake Michigan off Chicago in 1991.
“Racing on Lake Michigan would force the boat designers to come up with entirely new ideas because of the wave conditions,” the helmsman said. “Waves tend to be choppy, much different than on the ocean.”
The cup defense would also be very profitable to the Chicago area.
“We feel it would bring in a $1 billion of business,” Jobson said. “It would lead to a great deal of development along the lakefront.”
However, before there is a defense in 1991, Jobson said the rules governing the America’s Cup will likely undergo a great deal of change.
“There are now 42 12-meter boats in the world,” he said. “That’s more than any other time in America’s Cup history. What that means is the next time there will be more people who know how to sail 12-meter boats. The talent pool will be considerably larger.”
Jobson also says he hopes the way a defender is chosen will change. Currently, the yacht club that wins the cup has control of the defense.
“I think it’s time to review the defense process,” he said. “I think everyone should be thrown in together like the NCAA basketball tournament.