Today’s UBS Jubilee Round the Island Race, starting at 1000, retraces the course sailed by the challenger America and the British defenders 150 years ago tomorrow
This is the day for which we have all been waiting. Today, at 1000, the first of nine classes will start from the Squadron line and head east up the Solent and around the island following the imaginary wake of the America, ploughed on 22 August 1851, 150 years ago tomorrow.
First off is the Vintage, Classic and Spirit of Tradition class, Division Four but the big Kahunas start at 1105 when the considerable 12-metre class piles over the line. Modern IMS and IRC Division One starts 10 minutes later followed by the ACC class another ten minutes later at 1125 before the final start at 1140. This is for the big boys: the Js, Cambria, Adix and their outsize classmates.
Bertrand, back at the helm of Australia II with Bondy over his shoulder, could scarcely take it in. “The round the island race is the re-enactment of the original America’s Cup. We’re all so familiar with the history of the original yacht America coming out to challenge the best of the British boats and waiting for the challenge to be accepted before eventually going on to beat the best they could offer. So to race around the island now with our boat and our team against all these other incredible boats representing the history of the America’s Cup will be a very special day.”
The man whose red-hulled Liberty he sensationally beat in 1983, Dennis Conner, was positively bubbling with enthusiasm. “It’s a thrill to be part of this historical event with all these wonderful sailors and this sense of history. What happened here in 1851 was an incredible achievement and that level of accomplishment is one thing that hasn’t changed despite all the others changes in the America’s Cup. Where else can you go back 150 years and revisit all the history of this amazing event.”
Ten other America’s Cup winners joined Conner and Bertrand, including 92-year-old Olin Stephens, Ranger’s helmsman in 1937, for a commemorative photocall on the Royal Yacht Squadron Green. The man behind Team New Zealand, Sir Peter Blake, summarised the event in one word. “It’s the history. That’s what this is all about. It’s 150 years, and as far as I know, there’s no other sporting trophy that has such a wealth of history behind it. That’s why everyone is here.”
Team New Zealand’s Dean Barker was just 26 when Russell Coutts stuck him behind the wheel for the fifth and final race of the America’s Cup 2000. Despite this early blooding, Barker is humbled by the company. “It’s actually quite daunting looking around and seeing the guys standing beside you and thinking about what they’ve accomplished in their careers.”