Wire Sheets by Steve Lirakis


1980 America’s Cup – Gerry Driscoll on-board Intrepid, Baron Bich’s trial horse to France III, for a practice session on RI Sound off Newport.

In 1978, 2-time defender Intrepid (US-22) was owned by Baron Bich. Gerry Driscoll was keen to charter her, provided that he could raise the funds for a campaign; his sights set on a 3-peat. Meanwhile, he sailed Intrepid as a trial horse to France III. (In 100 starts, France III reached the first mark ahead of Intrepid only once.)

As crew boss, I had more than 30 sailors try out for crew spots over two summers. I was also responsible for the maintenance and tuning of the rig. At this time rigging was made with galvanized wire, which was hard on everything including the winch drums and crew. And in order to economize, I tried to make the runner tails last as long as possible, they typically lasted just 4 (sailing) days. On one occasion, during day 5 or 6 of use on a set, and just after a tack, a wire tail wrapped on a winch drum exploded shooting out tiny shards of wire, it was like a porcupine had let loose!  I had “quills” stuck in my arms,  and they burned with the sweat. It was only after we made a quick tack on the other board that I was able to turn around to see that Gerry had wire quills in one side of his face and arm. He had never flinched or uttered a word, he just kept driving.– Steve Lirakis

Intrepid, designed by Olin Stephens was built of double-planked mahogany on white oak frames. She featured important innovations both above and below the waterline. The rudder was separated from the keel and a trim tab was added. This new general under-body type, with relatively minor refinements, was used on every subsequent Cup boat until the 12-metre Australia II’s winged keel of 1983.  Above decks, Intrepid featured a very low boom, made possible by locating the winches below decks. The low boom caused an “end-plate effect,”making the mainsail more efficient.
Photo Credit: ©Paul Mello/OUTSIDEIMAGES.COM Outside Images Photo Agency