Light and fluky winds off Newport Rhode Island on July 19 forced the last day’s racing to be cancelled, and meant Vim avoided a three-way battle for the Racing Division title in the Rolex IMS Offshore World Championship 2000.
The Nelson/Marek 43’s owner Craig Speck and helmsman Terry Hutchinson were all smiles as they stepped off the boat that Bruce Nelson had redesigned so effectively for championship. The previous day, there was a dark, brooding silence as the Vim crew finished some way behind their closest rivals in the high-scoring, 128-mile offshore race. After winning the first three inshore races, their fifth place gave Idler, George David’s Nelson/Marek 52, and 1999 Champion the Frers 39 Atlantico Yah Man the opportunity to close the gap. The stage was set for a thrilling showdown – but the patchy breeze and relentless drizzle put paid to that.
Hutchinson, the America’s Cup mainsheet trimmer from the AmericaOne campaign, paid tribute to his owner: “He took Bruce’s and my recommendations about the boat, about the crew choice, and now it has paid off. Bruce did an outstanding job in preparing the boat for the IMS rule.” The speed that Vim showed on the first day’s extreme conditions – 30 knots and six knots – surprised even some of the crew. The new fin keel had been fitted to the hull just two weeks before, so this was the first big test of the boat in her new configuration.
Ken Read, the America’s Cup sailor who was calling tactics for owner/driver George David on Idler, was disappointed not to get a crack at Vim. “I don’t know why they didn’t sail us today. Yes, it was fluky but we could have raced.” Nevertheless, he was gracious in defeat and ready to praise the crew of Vim. “The fact is they sailed better than us, and I’ve had my share of regattas where we’ve won when racing was cancelled on the final day. You live by the sword and die by the sword.”
Tomasso Chieffi was sad not to get a chance to defend the title he won at last year’s Rolex IMS Offshore World Championship in Sardinia. But he was certain to be back for next year’s event, scheduled to take place either in Italy or Spain. With Atlantico Yah Man sold to a Portuguese owner, the Italian America’s Cup sailor said he would be looking for another boat to race. “I’m getting older, and every year I aim to sail a boat that is one foot longer.”
Whilst one Italian team failed to retain their title, another Italian crew blitzed the competition in the Cruising/Racing division. The only new boat for the championship, Vincenzo Onorato’s Farr 42 Mascalzone Latino proved to be every bit as fast as the Americans had feared.
One boat, Morning Glory, filed a protest against the Italians for infringing rules about offloading sails after leaving the dock. With the racing cancelled, the protest came to nothing, but tactician Vasco Vascotto was annoyed that the protest had been filed at all. “I like to win regattas by sailing them and proving the boat is fast,” said the multiple world champion. “This was not a port/starboard incident, this was a technicality, and I think that what someone was trying to do was not good for the regatta.”
But whatever the rights or wrongs of the matter, the Americans were quick to acknowledge the powerful challenge from the Italian crews. At the prizegiving on the lawn of the New York Yacht Club, the president and CEO of Rolex Watch USA, Walter Fischer, presented Rolex chronometers to the top two skippers in each division. He then threw down the gauntlet for the top American boat in each division, Vim in Racing and Agincourt in Cruising/Racing, to accept a generous offer to have the boats shipped free of charge to next year’s championship in Europe.
In just its second year of existence, the Rolex IMS Offshore World Championship has become established as one of the top events in the racing calendar. As Ke