Iceboater Fingerprints…..

If you are ever in Osterville MA there is something to be seen….

On your way to Crosby’s Yacht Yard (72 Crosby Cir, Osterville, MA 02655) you’ll see a big red boat in someone’s back yard. It will look familiar and yet out of place, odd to see a boat that size in a back yard.

A closer look will reveal that it is Il Moro De Venezia, the 1992 challenger for the America’s Cup. She was the fifth(!) boat built by that syndicate and won the challenger series by a nose from the New Zealand challenge. The Kiwi campaign was notable that year for a boat with a twin keel and a bowsprit. She showed flashes of speed but the Kiwis just couldn’t get her dialed in enough to edge out the Italians. There were some amazing moments along the way, with some races being decided by a matter of feet.

As you pull away, scratching your head and making a note to look these races up on YouTube you will next be taken aback by the boat Il Moro met in the Cup final that year, Bill Koch’s America3 (“America Cubed”). The boat sits on the grounds of the Nauticus Marina (339 W Bay Rd, Osterville, MA 02655). She was the end product of a massive, science-driven, spare no expense campaign. They went through several design iterations, tried out dozens of crew, went through several skippers, developed a totally new sailcloth (known as “cuben-fiber”), and recruited the best builders and technicians available.

Two of these were Bill Mattison and Jeff Kent. Bill had worked on the Heart Of America campaign in 1987 and had been building and racing soft water and hard water boats in Madison, Wisconsin for decades prior to that. He is a legend in the Skeeter class and among any type of iceboater. In fact, he is going into the National Sailing Hall Of Fame this fall (see my earlier post about him). His years of building and sailing Skeeters helped develop the skills needed to be a key part of the shore support team for the delicate, highly strung IACC class yacht. His fingerprints are all over that program….

We all know Jeff Kent. He started messing around with carbon fiber in the early 1980’s, making parts for DN iceboats and Tornado catamarans and who knows what else. He was drawn into the A3 program to build spars, spinnaker poles, jockey poles, steering gear, and miscellaneous other bits. His fingerprints are also all over the place on that boat….

One of the key bits was a kelp cutter on the leading edge of the keel. The kelp in San Diego was all over the place and frequently would get caught on the vertical leading edges of the keel fins. Crews would try to dislodge the strands with poles, poking at them as the boat sailed along. The extra drag was bad enough but the distraction had to be even worse. As I understand it Bill and Jeff went to work and developed a system that would slice the kelp off, basically a utility knife blade that slid down a VERY narrow groove on the front edge of the keel fin when pushed down by a crew member on the boat. It worked like a charm and certainly was a factor in the close races!

So congrats to Bill and Jeff for being part of that. Another iceboater that was involved was a guy named Buddy Melges, another Wisconsinite who sailed scows and Skeeters a bit….

Of course he is yet another legend and he was the man who steered during the races. No doubt the scows and skeeters prepared him well- The proof is in the final score! His fingerprints are there too- And I’m willing to bet that even in the middle of an America’s Cup race his mind was on winter sailing here and there….

Well done boys!

Check out the photos-
First is A3
Second is the top of the keel fin- look closely and you can spot the tube that housed the rod used to push the knife blade down the leading edge- you can see the groove in the leading edge as well
Third is the deck of A3
Fourth is Il Moro on somebody’s lawn….
Fifth is the head on view
Sixth is looking in from the stern, traveler track and steering wheels

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