Throughout the 1990’s I sailed J24s and in the latter part of that decade, the team that I sailed with got pretty good. I was one fifth of a team called Fuzzy Duck – legends in the bar, weapons-grade at the end of year class-association gathering, wrecking balls at Cowes Week and somehow, pretty slick on the water. We got to a level to challenge nationally, flirted with Europe but always knew that there was another level.
In Wales (of all places) in 1994, Ken Read came over to the UK already a four-time world champion (he went on to record six) and won his fifth title and the story of how his crew could steer the boat downwind through crew movement alone entered the lexicon of sailing myths. The American dominance of the fleet in that era was incredible. King Kenny moved on to bigger and better things only to be replaced by Bill Fortenberry, Chris Larson, Vince Brun and in 1998, Terry Hutchinson all etching their names on the trophy. The Americans were very very tough to beat.
That ’98 win in J24’s was almost inevitable. Terry Hutchinson was a huge name on the scene in Corel 45’s and Mumm 36’s having already bagged a Congressional Cup in ’92. But it was just the start as he went offshore with success in the IMS division, won three world championships in the Farr 40 class and then found his forte in the TP52 class where the Quantum Racing Team were pretty well unbeatable.
Terry’s Cup career has been interesting. The America One challenge in 2000 that came so close and was put to the sword ultimately by failure of luminous sailcloth (I kid you not), saw Terry on mainsheet. Dennis Conner’s last hurrah Stars & Stripes campaign came in 2003, say no more. Terry then had a decent run with Team New Zealand in 2007 that saw the Kiwis through to the final but ultimately aced by Alinghi despite two race wins in the Match. A brief flirtation with the Swedes of Artemis in 2011 and then a near-ten year break from the competition before arriving as skipper and Executive Director of American Magic.
The Cup is a long game littered with disappointments, heartbreak and heartache. It’s difficult to win. So many elements have to come together: Funding, building, design, testing, team, support crew. If one element fails, you simply will not win. Ultimately success trickles up from the security guards at the base to the chefs, to the comms team, through marketing and up through the designers, boatbuilders, sailors, mechatronics team (!) right to the management and team principals.
Hutchinson knows this game borne from long experience and what has been assembled at American Magic is exemplary. They have got so much right in this cycle. In Hap Fauth, Doug DeVos and Roger Penske they have Team Principals with quiet ambition, long experience and a firm hand on the tiller. In Phil Lotz they have the experience and respect to be expected of the position of Commodore of the most prestigious yacht club in the world. And in the New York Yacht Club they have the full, undying support of a membership that has been this way before. Meanwhile, Marcelo Botin’s design team are close to the best on the planet.
On the water, Hutchinson has assembled a no-nonsense team buried in the analysis and with their feet on the ground. Results are flowing. The performance is undeniable. Off the water, Terry is protecting his sailors on the podium, keeping the message on track and it’s the blueprint for how a challenger should conduct themselves. No controversy, get on with the job. Quietly let others take the limelight. Say the right things. Be courteous. Humble and then hit hard.
This is Terry’s time and the Challengers have got it all-on to try and catch them. It will be close with Prada but the world is waking up to the magic in American Magic.
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