Rugby Jerseys and America’s Cup >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News

With the passage of Pierre de SavaryDavid Redfern reflects on his time working for the sponsor of Britain’s formidable America’s Cup challenge.


Joined by Royal Burnham Yacht Club member Kit Hobday, Peter decided around 1979 to challenge for the 1983 America’s Cup. which they did while campaigning for the Ed Dubois-designed Victory of Burnham in the 1981 Admiral’s Cup, winning their sector.

A legacy of that event is seen around the world today in that Peter wanted the crew to look like a real team and not just a collection of sailors, so his boat manager Jim Alabaster went to the sports shop Lilywhites at Piccadilly in London and returned with a mountain of blue and yellow striped rugby shirts, matching socks etc.

After successfully campaigning with Victory of Burnham, Dubois was enlisted for the 12-metre yacht Victory ’82 (K-21), but her design was not the largest of the 12 and work began with a consortium of designers to create a new Victory ’83. Aluminum boat building was in its infancy at the time and distortion issues in welding processes were among the problems with the K-21.

Aircraft manufacturers were watched, including British Aerospace now BAE, but they were too busy. Eventually, Fairey Allday Marine was commissioned to build Victory ’83 (K-22), funded by a rental tax in Peter’s new St. James’s Tower in New York, which was used in Leonardo DiCaprio’s film The Wolf. of Wall Street. It was one of the last challenges funded by non-sponsored private funds.

Designed primarily by Ian Howlett with a team of top British designers, the K-22 was overall a much better yacht. During the design process, an innovative keel design was proposed with a wing at the bottom of the blade. To maintain secrecy, a confidential decision was requested and it was declared legal.

This was to have far-reaching consequences for Australian team owner Alan Bond and designer Ben Lexen when the New York Yacht Club challenged the legality of Australia II’s fin keel. Peter gave Ben Lexen his endorsement letter and it collapsed the NYYC argument, which Ben called in his book a moment of grace.

A newcomer to its first America’s Cup, Victory ’83 took on all the challenges to take on Alan Bond’s Australia II in the Challengers Series final. Although not strong enough to win, it should be noted that this was Alan Bond’s fifteenth year in the America’s Cup, so Peter had done very well in a first challenge.

His campaign headquarters for the 1983 America’s Cup challenge was a Glasgow-built veteran yacht previously owned by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. With a giant inflatable bulldog on her back deck, it was hard to miss.

During the campaign, the USA and Australia were known to be great team players, which the Brits weren’t always, and mischief was done in an attempt to destabilize Dennis Conner’s side .

For example, a motorboat set out to follow Dennis on his trials, pointing satellite dishes at his 12-meter. It was secret equipment from our sponsor that allowed us to hear everything that was said on the boat. It was of course nonsense and the dishes were nothing more than trash can lids, but it caused Dennis enough stress to get a restraining order to keep our team more than a hundred yards away!

The following year, Victory ’83 beat Australia II and all the other current twelve in the World Class Championship in Porto Cervo, Italy. Continued success launched the aspiration to challenge for the 1987 America’s Cup in Perth, Australia.

A sponsor, a major international cigarette company, was about to sign the dotted line to make big money when the Premier of Western Australia banned cigarette sponsorship. Another sponsor, the Del Monte Company, was also close to a sponsorship deal until the company’s director had to flee the country under threat of arrest and went to live in Turkish-occupied Cyprus.

Having been unable to participate, Dennis Conner winning the 1987 edition, a challenge for the next America’s Cup in San Diego was issued and Blue Arrow, a global recruitment company, incorporating Manpower in the United States, underwrote 12 million sterling for the campaign.

Peter had previously bought the Docks and Ship repair yard in Falmouth and set up a super yacht building business called Pendennis Shipyard. A new yacht club has been formed – Pendennis Yacht Club – and a challenge has been issued.

blue arrow

This time, the most radical America’s Cup yacht ever built at the time appeared as a monohull, meeting all the requirements of the deed of gift but with an extraordinary design that gave the appearance of a trimaran but was definitely a monohull capable of 35 knots. more. There is footage of the yacht sailing in Falmouth in an IMAX film about sailing.

However, the Challenger of Record against the San Diego Yacht Club was Michael Fay for New Zealand. A letter accepting the Blue Arrow challenge was received from Michael but he had yet to see the radical design, being busy creating his 120 footer. When he realized Blue Arrow’s potential, he canceled the Challenger Series.

I spent days with Peter, Alan Bond and others trying to persuade him to change his mind, but he was adamant. It was a strange situation. The two groups negotiated in the same hotel with the Kiwi group on one floor, our group on another, never meeting in person but passing messages to each other.

With the Challengers series dead and Peter unable to compete again, he has now retired to smoother sailing restoring a Herreshoff schooner, Vagrant at a shipyard in Antigua. He married Lana on the boat in the harbor of his new creation, The St James’s Cub.

It was from then that I moved on to other projects in his huge industrial and leisure empire and finally left in 1985 for other sailing related projects including sailing 3500 miles on a replica caravel to commemorate John Cabot’s 1497 voyage to the New World which he called Newfoundland.

Life was very exciting with Peter. We only had one argument, and it was my fault. He will be hard to follow and I would put him alongside Lipton and Sopwith for his energy and love of sailing. A big and too soon a loss for the sport.

Derek Clark with the pin controller.

Learn more about Blue Arrow:
The radical boat was designed and built in just eleven weeks. The design team was led by Derek Clark with Rob Humphreys, Tony Castro and Ed Dubois. It appeared on 20 July 1988 at Pendennis Dockyard, Falmouth.

The first sail was with Jo Richards at the helm and immediately hit 17 knots under the mainsail. The two-foot-wide monohull was supported by a 60-foot crossbeam with a keel at each end. The crossbeam could be moved approximately two feet forward and aft, in accordance with the rules that there may be sliding pins.

The genius was how the keels had wings like airplane fins that were hydraulically controlled with a rotating handle controlling the oil pressures. This kept Blue Arrow nearly level in all conditions, creating great speed and incredible acceleration. She was making 30 knots in 18 knots of wind and no doubt with further development she would have gone even faster.

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