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Land-Based Team Is Also Important to Eagle’s Success

Behind every America’s Cup campaign are some people who seldom get off the beach but are no less important than the sailors.

Besides skipper Rod Davis, the Eagle syndicate from the Newport Harbor Yacht Club includes several with impressive America’s Cup credentials, among them Robin Fuger, who has worked with more 12-meter boats than anyone else--nearly two dozen, at last count.

Fuger, an Englishman, is Eagle’s logistical coordinator, the man who has the boat ready to sail when it’s supposed to. He has worked on five other America’s Cup campaigns for France, England and the United States, among them Dennis Conner’s Liberty effort in ’83.

Bill Ficker, the chief adviser, defended the Cup with Intrepid against Australia’s Gretel II in 1970.

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Gerry Driscoll, director of operations, sailed Intrepid in the ’74 trials. He is the liaison between the board of directors and the boat’s crew.

Naval architect Johan Valentijn has designed four other 12-meters. He brought Fuger along for this one.

Project specialist Bill Crispin, the syndicate’s first employee, has managed numerous international racing events. His specialty, he says, is “anything that needs to be done,” from the front office to the boat.

Carl Hathaway, the project engineer, has been instrumental in setting up the shore facilities at Fremantle, the Perth suburb in Australia.

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Eagle crewman Mike Toppa, who grew up around the America’s Cup in Newport, R.I., contrasted Eagle’s operation to others he has been involved in.

“This has a lot more preparation behind it,” he said. “A lot more, well-thought-out preparation. The reason is there are a lot of experienced people. Everybody’s done it (and) has a really clear view of what we have to do to win this thing.

“A lot’s been said about the fact that America II (from the New York YC) started in ’84, and other guys have been sailing for two years, but shoot, they’re all building new boats. And if you look at the crop of new boats, we’re one of the first ones in the water. No one builds a boat at the 11th hour, unless they’re not happy with their others. But we have a good boat.”

Toppa pointed out that although Eagle wasn’t launched until April, its crew will have as much time with their final campaign boat as any of the other U.S. syndicates, and more than some.

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“We’re gonna peak at the right time, physically and mentally--our boat, our sails,” Toppa said.

“I don’t envy the guys on America II or in Dennis’ (Conner’s) campaign. They’ve been at it for so long and it is so structured that you can get burned out.”

Practice, testing and tuning, without racing, are boring, Toppa said, adding: “I’ve done that.”


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