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Ex- Cup winner Enersen to helm Defender in 12 meter worlds

By BERNIE WILSONJuly 7, 2019

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The lure of sailing a 12 meter yacht again in Newport, Rhode Island, was too much for Dick Enersen to pass up.

Enersen, 76, will be at the helm of Defender in the 12 meter world championship on Rhode Island Sound this week, 55 years after he helped win the America’s Cup aboard Constellation.

Enersen picked up the charter for Defender, which was skippered in the 1983 defender trials by the late Tom Blackaller, from its owner, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation. He is raising money for Warrior Sailing, which gives wounded, injured and ill military members and veterans the chance to go sailing.

Enersen said he’s looking forward to having “stupid good fun” sailing in a class that remains venerable more than 30 years after it was last used in the America’s Cup.

He was 21 in 1964 when he crewed aboard Constellation, which successfully defended the America’s Cup with a 4-0 victory against the British challenger Sovereign. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he had one of the toughest jobs on the boat.

“I’m up for steering because that’s less demanding physically than my previous role on the boat, which was grinding,” said Enersen, who lives in San Rafael, north of San Francisco.

“I’ve sailed in various campaigns as a coach, trimmer, temporary guy, but was never able to get away long enough to do another full-on campaign, which meant I had to get a job,” he added. “Now of course they’re paying people beginning lawyer wages to go sailing. Notably, we are not paying anybody on the vessel. This is a purely Corinthian effort, which is the proper term for amateur sailing.”

Newport’s run as host for the America’s Cup ended in 1983, when the wing-keeled Australia II stunned Dennis Conner’s Liberty to end the New York Yacht Club’s 132-year winning streak. The 1987 America’s Cup, when Conner went Down Under and won back the Auld Mug, was the last sailed in 12 meters.

The classic boat remains popular. In 2015, a 12 meter was built to the specs of a 1930s design.

“The boats are so pretty,” Enersen said. “They all go the same speed, more or less, and for that reason they’re very, very rewarding to sail. You will win the race if you did something more cleverly than the other guy. Very importantly, you’re a whole bunch of human beings who’ve moved the heavy stuff and got the heavy sails up and down. To me the fascination with these boats is the teamwork that is involved. No one person, not the helmsman, not the tactician, can win the race for you. If you win it, it’s because all the people on the deck did the right thing at the right time. Any one of us can lose it at any time. Loads are big, people have to be strong.

“It just has an authenticity to it I have a hard time forgetting and I’m delighted to have a chance to get back at it.”

When Enersen sailed in the America’s Cup, the crew size was 11. Now it’s 14. “Since the average age of the crew is 59 years, we’re going to need every one of those bodies 100 percent of the time.”

Defender is one of eight boats entered in the Modern Division. Overall, 22 boats are entered in five divisions.

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/berniewilson

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