Legendary Annapolis-based sailor Gary Jobson played a key role as the tactician on Ted Turner's Courageous, which won the America's Cup in 1977.
The Baltimore Sun recently interviewed Jobson, now the president of U.S. Sailing and a member of its Hall of Fame, about this year's America's Cup finals, which begin Saturday in San Francisco. Jobson is serving as a television commentator on NBC.
Having been a part of so many past America's Cup races as a competitor, can you ever see yourself trying to compete in the America's Cup again — or has sailing, like other sports, become a younger man's game as the boats get much faster?
At the age of 63, my time racing in the Cup is probably over. But I did get to sail on five different teams between 1977 and 1992. This is the ninth Cup I have commentated on for television -- one for ABC, seven for ESPN and now for NBC. However, when I was sailing on Oracle recently, the thought did cross my mind.
From the death of a crew member and the firing of Annapolis sailor Terry Hutchinson to the controversy surrounding Oracle, this year's America's Cup has seemingly placed sailing in more of a negative light than ever before. If Oracle is ultimately disqualified, would it taint the result of the America's Cup?
The history of the [America's Cup] is filled with controversy. This year, it seems to be at an all-time high. But in our age of social media, everyone has an opinion, and this may be driving some of the noise. I think Artemis Racing made a big mistake letting Terry Hutchinson go. He was the most experienced hand on the sailing team, particularly at match racing. The team never recovered after he left. Terry might have been better not steering and being the skipper/tactician on the boat.
Can you ever see the day when Annapolis and Baltimore could host an America's Cup?
The most successful stopover for the Whitbread Round the World Race [later renamed the Volvo Ocean Race] was in Baltimore and Annapolis. If the America's Cup took place in the Chesapeake, we would do a good job. The Deed of Gift for the America's Cup calls for an "ocean course, free of headlands." Clearly, Larry Ellison changed that with the races in San Francisco Bay.
How can sailing get American sports fans to care about the America's Cup as it did years ago, or will it forever be viewed as a niche event for a rather small community?
If the America's Cup wants to return to a highly followed event, it needs to do several things. Every team must be made up of 100 percent nationals of the country they represent. The America's Cup should use exactly the same criteria used for the Olympic Games. The boats used need to be affordable. The current cost of a campaign is well over $100 million. That cannot continue. The racing needs to feature close races, with lead changes. The past [America's Cup races] always had compelling figures. Larry Ellison needs to be more public, so we get to know him. He is a mystery to most sailors. Dennis Conner, Ted Turner, Olin Stephens, John Bertrand, Harold Vanderbilt, and even J.P. Morgan understood this. Ellison should follow the example set by the giants of sailing.
Can you pick a winner?
Like everyone else here in San Francisco, I am wondering who will win the match. The truth is, no one has any real clue, and that will make this regatta so much fun to watch. I am sure both boats will get their share of wins. It's easy — just get a better start, sail faster, cover when ahead, and don't make any mistakes. Nothing to it, right? This will be a hard event to win. There is no doubt both teams are hungry for victory.