The Harbor Report: Catching up with some past cup racers

During the next two weeks all eyes will be focused on the San Francisco Bay Area and the Americas Cup. I was fortunate to receive a press pass and plan on attending races Sept. 7 and 8.

I decided to research and contact a number of Newport Beach residents who have competed in the Americas Cup. We have a large number of people who have competed in the trails but only six who have raced in the cup.

Most all of you have heard the name Bill Ficker, the skipper of Intrepid during the 1970s defense of the cup against Gretel II. Ficker is a long time Newport Beach resident and a long time member of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club and still might have a lapel button with " Ficker is Quicker" on it. Another crew member aboard Intrepid, also a Newport Beach resident and Harbor 20 sailor, is George Twist.

I asked Twist how he liked the new format of the 72-foot catamarans in the Americas Cup this year.

"I am positive about what they are doing this year, this is new stuff and its pretty exciting," he said with enthusiasm in his voice. "There is nothing like these AC 72s but I do hope that they change the boats for the next event. The boats are fast but they are not much for tactics or strategy."

When I asked Twist about the good times he had back in the summer of 1970 he was quick to say, "The competition was only on the water. In town we were all good friends and we had fun with our opponents."

He went on to tell me about the favorite meeting places in Newport, R.I. The Candy Store and the Black Pearl were two places that most of the crew would show up at after racing each day, he said.

It was "just a lot of fun doing this," Twist told me.

Twist plans on attending the Intrepid reunion during the cup and thought it best to watch the races on television.

My next call was to Dennis Durgan, who is now one of our area's prominent residential real estate agents. In 1980 Durgan was invited to join the Freedom campaign as Dennis Conners' tactician. They raced Australia, known for her flexible mast, and beat the competition 4-1 in the best-of-seven series.

When I asked Durgan about the new format he said, "I am keeping an open mind. I am not sure if taking these boats to the limits stays with the tradition of the cup and match racing."

Durgan is an easy person to talk to and we could have spent a couple of hours talking about sailing. When I asked him about some of the good times during that summer in 1980, he recalled being at a formal dinner in a tuxedo with the Australia crew members. Once the Aussies heard it was his 21st birthday they made sure he made it to the Candy Store where they had 21 shots lined up on the bar for him.

"During this time it was all about the camaraderie, no one was a professional. We got a Rolex if we qualified for the cup. We had 11 American citizens on the boat and the pressure felt bigger than competing in the Super Bowl," he said with pride in his voice.

Durgan said he was headed up to the Bay Area to watch the races this weekend.

I then gave Andy Rose a call. He also sailed on Australia, as tactician, in the 1977 Americas Cup and challenged Ted Tunner aboard Courageous.

When I asked Rose about the new format he replied, "I am a tactician and the shorten races are a very limited place for this type of sailing."

When I inquired about some of the good times he referenced the fact about camaraderie and how the teams used to stay at the large mansions in Newport, R.I. He told me a story about complaints coming from town that the crew was getting a little out of hand.

When Australia syndicate owner Alan Bond was told about this he gathered the crew and told them not to wear team shirts when they went into town at night. Andy is taking most of his crew from his boat, It's OK, to watch the races this week.

The two other people from Newport Beach who raced in the cup are Jim Titus, who crewed aboard Intrepid, and L.J. Edgecomb, who sailed on Courageous. It's interesting to me that out of the six people from Newport Beach we had one helmsman and three tacticians.

This past week we also had two skippers in the Red Bull Youth Americas Cup. Michael Menninger and Charlie Buckingham sailed in AC 45s and both were racing for the USA on two different teams.

It makes me smile to look back at our past and dream about the future on what our harbor has done and what it can do.

Sea ya!

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

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