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In early 1986, a series of races were held off of Fremantle as a precursor to the 1987 America’s Cup. Dubbed the 12 Metre World Championship, a dozen syndicates competed in what they considered a “shakedown series” to test their boats against the competition. Some of the teams had new builds, their first development boats. Others hit the line with retrofit, or modified yachts. Many programs built three to four boats in the lead up to the 1987 Cup.
Strong winds led to an extreme regatta, leading to four masts, a dozen booms and numerous sails being destroyed, and a few crew members overboard! Australia III, the heavy-weather Ben Lexcen designed successor to Australia II won the series. The New Zealand challenge boat KZ 5, a fiberglass Bruce Farr design, came in second, with the New York Yacht Club entrant America II third.
Of the visible genoas on the starting line pictured below, woven polyester and aramid cloth is predominant, some cross cut and some tri-radial. In this photo we see three sails made by North including the genoa at center (I-6) and three others (see caption). At this time, North Sails lofts around the word were individually owned and operated, and each loft used their own version of sail design techniques and production processes. This is apparent in the variety of layouts and materials used.
What has not changed is the independent development on each team. The difference between each of the sail plans in this photo is clearly visible in the variety of shapes and patterns. While less obvious today, variety in performance-related decisions, detail, and the resulting product, is still a hallmark of the America’s Cup.