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Saturday, November 17, 2018

INTERTANKO Chairman Stephen Van Dyck elected to the America’s Cup Hall of Fame

INTERTANKO Chairman Stephen Van Dyck has been elected to the America’s Cup Hall of Fame*, an award that is one of the most distinguished in the sporting world, honouring legendary individuals from among the challengers and defenders of the America’s Cup ocean-going yacht race.  

Commencing with its first induction ceremony in 1993, many ‘legends’ of the hugely testing international yacht racing competition for the fabled America’s Cup have been invested with membership of the Hall of Fame. Skippers, crew, designers/builders, organisers, syndicate leaders and other individuals of merit are judged on the basis of outstanding ability, international recognition, character, performance, and contributions to the sport.  

The America’s Cup (the Cup) itself is often described as the oldest trophy in sport (see ** below). It has obsessed rich and famous yachtsmen for 150 years. This classic international race has been described as a story of ambitious adventure, guts and muscle, creative innovation, gambling and nerve, and intense competition. 

One New Zealand sailor, Tom Schnackenberg, principal participant in three landmark America's Cup victories, describes the America’s Cup as, “a microcosm of the world. It's real and it's gripping and you can enjoy it on all sorts of levels - at a managerial level, because it's quite complex; from a sporting point of view; from trying to understand mother nature, whether the weather or the waves; or trying to understand the physics of the boats. It's a war game, and the boats are beautiful.”  

Van Dyck is a skilled and successful yachtsman as well as a new breed of tactician. He grew up living, breathing, dreaming sailing in Southport, Connecticut. He taught himself naval architecture and spent days and nights creating racing yachts. “I was totally hooked,” he admits. He gained extensively as a young man from involvement with local yachtsman (and America’s Cup Hall of Fame member) Briggs Cunningham, who skippered the 1958 Cup defender, Columbia. 

His dream? To sail in the America’s Cup. Van Dyck sailed in two Cup defenders. His first was in 1964 on the Constellation as a sail trimmer. Van Dyck was then a 21 year-old college student, but also a young man who had been employed at yacht builder/designer Sparkman & Stephens as a trainee draftsman and who had also played an important role in designing the yacht’s deck and sail handling equipment.  

His second was in 1970 on the Intrepid as tactician for skipper Bill Ficker. This race was probably the closest and most intensely fought Cup race since the start of the twelve metre era with just two feet between the loser and the winner who secured the Cup. While the skipper concentrated on steering and never looked at the competition, Van Dyck called the tactics and directed the sail trimmers, key to squeezing every last ounce of speed out of the yacht. 

The modified Intrepid was not as fast as she had been in 1967 and in the relatively light weather conditions which prevailed, she was fundamentally a slower boat than Australia’s Cup challenger Gretel II. The reason that Intrepid was successful in grabbing a narrow victory was because of the superior tactics employed by the cockpit team, masterminded by Van Dyck.  

In the late 70s, Van Dyck, though running a shipping company, was involved with the successful defence of the Cup by the Freedom, whose low freeboard was one of his design contributions. Van Dyck was to have served as tactician, but he did not have the time although he was part of the coaching team and assisted with syndicate management. 

After 22 years as a deck hand, tactician or advisor in as many as seven campaigns, Van Dyck retired from the America’s Cup after 1983. He has continued to race big 48 foot yachts, though, and is once again competing in metre boats, the one-man 2.4-metre miniature Twelve.  

Thirty-five years after beating Gretel II in Intrepid, people still point him out as a Cup winner. “When I am introduced giving speeches these days, I am still a little amazed at how people still refer to me as an America’s Cup tactician,” he says modestly. 

My Cup experience proved to be a wonderful training ground for running my shipping company. Over 30 years my team and I built a very successful tanker and barge company (Maritrans, NYSE, of which I remain Chairman) that is recognised around the world for its commitment to the environment and its people. We won the much-coveted USCG Benkert Award for environmental excellence.  

As Chairman of INTERTANKO, I have continued to push our industry, the tanker industry, hard to operate more responsibly. I believe that a large part of my absolute commitment to clean seas comes from having seen thousands of miles of spectacular and unspoiled ocean up very close from the deck of competition yachts.”  

* The America's Cup Hall of Fame is located at the HerreshoffMarineMuseum in Bristol, Rhode Island, where yachts were constructed for eight consecutive America's Cup defences between 1893 and 1934. It was created in 1992, to honour the challengers, defenders, and legendary personages of one of the world's most distinguished sporting competitions. It contains models of most challengers and defenders; artifacts including spars and innovative steering wheels, photos and videos chronicling the fabulous record of America's Cup competitions. 

The Hall of Fame Selection Committee consists of seventeen people appointed by the Trustees of the HerreshoffMarineMuseum, and intimate with the America's Cup tradition of yacht racing and committed to the integrity of the Hall of Fame, with between them all a wealth of knowledge to select candidates.  

** The America's Cup represents 150 years of competition for the oldest and one of the most distinguished of all international sporting trophies. In 1851, a yacht named America won a race around the Isle of Wight in the U.K. and won the 100 Guinea Cup. The winners, members of the New York Yacht Club, donated a trophy to be held as a challenge trophy. Thus was born the America’s Cup, named after the boat, not the country.


The Defender of the Cup is the yacht club currently holding the America’s Cup - today the Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), and its team, Alinghi who won the Cup in 2003 (see picture below). Challengers are the teams representing yacht clubs who have challenged the SNG in an attempt to win the Cup.  

The latest challenge consists of a number of Acts, which are 13 regattas sailed in four different European venues from 2004 through early April 2007. From 2005, all Challengers and the Defender for the 32nd America’s Cup are required to compete. Six of the 13 Acts are entirely fleet racing regattas where all boats will take the start together; six Acts consist entirely of match racing where a one on one format is used; and one, the first one, is a combination of both. Each Act has one winner followed in place by 11 other teams, with the winning team earning 12 points, and the last team collecting one point. All teams (Challengers and Defender) participate in the Acts, training and getting stronger through competition against each other until the final Act, which in the current series will take place in April 2007.