Granted, the spectacle of the Jubilee was something that may likely never again see its equal in sailboat racing. The organizers at the New York Yacht Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron invited some of the most distinguished and significant vessels in existence to their party. Not only were former America’s Cup contenders and pretenders on hand, but these thoroughbreds were book-ended by vessels as avant garde as the ‘90-foot German Frers-designed Stealth and as classic as the 75-foot Cambria (circa 1923). That many of these vessels had been lovingly restored for the occasion is laudable. The organizers also augmented the pageantry by inviting royalty and glitterati and gave the scene authenticity by attracting many of the sport’s super stars, both past and present. Even from a distance, it all seemed larger than life. From the gallant display by the Royal Airforce’s Red Arrows overhead on Sunday to the mid-week tuxedoed gala, to the Saturday prize giving, it was nothing short of grand. That’s a positive for the sport, right?
Despite all the glitz and glamour, it’s hard to avoid one lingering question: What’s the lasting value that will be taken away from all of this pomp and circumstance? Certainly many of the sport’s leading photographers captured the occasion on film and digitally for posterity; that definitely counts. And we now know for sure that most of the more recent America’s Cup boats are faster than their predecessors, which will no doubt make the designers and syndicate heads happy. And we learned that the British-based America's Cup syndicate has the potential to be a serious contender when the Cup matches take place in 2003. But what impact did the Jubilee actually have on the sport in general, and how, if at all, did these proceedings serve the rank and file sailor?
Did the movers and shakers in the sport—the powers that be who were on hand to commemorate the occasion in Cowes—make any headway on the myriad problems that face sailing? Did they use this rare opportunity to engender better ideas regarding how to make sailboat racing grow worldwide? Did they foster novel approaches to simplifying the complexity of our sport’s rules or it’s measurement systems, or come to terms with the many criticisms that our more extreme events regularly elicit?
The celebration in Cowes last week was obviously a smashing success with great glitz and glitter, but what the 500 or so credentialed members of the media didn’t convey in their ample output was what the Jubilee experience meant to Joe Winchgrinder and Bobby Bowman. We know how Gary Jobson felt about the occasion because we sampled streaming video of him pontificating from the dais during the gala, but we don’t know how it all went down for anybody aside from the touted members of the afterguard.
And that’s the point. Sailing’s populace and its future participants aren’t, by and large, millionaires and rock stars, they’re just regular folks. The Jubilee may have been a grand occasion for them as well, but if so it was left unsaid. Don’t blame the organizers, they’re efforts were well intentioned; 150 years of sporting competition deserves a little fete, even on a grand scale. And don’t blame the participants, they just wanted to sail and have a good time; it's summer in the northern hemisphere after all. Blame me and my colleagues in the media. Maybe those who were on hand were just too engaged in the celebration to spell out the enduring value of this occasion for the rest of us. Either way, it's only fair to suspend full judgement on the issue until all of the print publications have had a chance to deliver their take. With any luck, they'll help the sailing community find meaning behind the grandeur.
Honoring America for the Jubilee by John Rousmaniere
The Crew Members' Manifesto by Dan Dickison
Buying Guide: Lightning Protection
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