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It Takes 11 Good Crewmen to Make a 12-Meter Yacht a Racing Winner

July 14, 1986|RICH ROBERTS | Times Staff Writer

When the sailing gets rough in Australia, Eagle skipper Rod Davis can rely on Daddler, Hummingbird, Topes, Blood, Grace and the Neanderthals to bail him out.

Seafarers have always traded in colorful nicknames, and the crew Davis has selected to man his 12-meter in the America's Cup reflects the tradition.

It includes a pair of husky winch grinders: Hal Sears and Al Palewicz, who came over from the struggling Courageous campaign. They are large enough to play linebacker--in fact, Sears did have a fling with the Kansas City Chiefs.

"We call 'em the Neanderthals . . . but not to their faces," Davis said.

Generally, bestowing a nom-de-nautique does not involve a lot of thought.

Daddler? That's bowman Jerry Kirby.

"He diddle-daddles around a lot," Davis explained. "It's hard to get him going sometimes."

Hummingbird? That's Hart Jordan.

"He has a heart rate at about 200 r.p.m.," Davis said. "He's never in one place very long. A little hyper."

Alternate mastman Charles Dwyer responds to Grace because "he's not the most graceful thing you ever saw on the foredeck, but he's real strong," Davis said.

Starboard tailer Mark Wilson is Blood because "he does a lot of bleeding," Davis said--and obviously receives very little sympathy for it.

Topes is Mike Toppa, the port tailer, while mainsheet handler Kimo Worthington, tactician Doug Rastello, mastman Mike Pentecost and Davis himself are just themselves.

It takes 11 of them to sail a 12-meter and here's how the crew looks now, including alternates:

Mainsheet trimmer--Kimo Worthington, 26, Santa Monica, 6-feet, 185 pounds. Occupation--full-time Eagle staff.

Tailer--Mike Toppa, 30, Newport, R.I., 6-3, 190. Occupation--president of North Sails Florida.

Bowman--Jerry Kirby, 30, Newport, R.I., 6-0, 177. Occupation--developer, builder.

Tailer--Mark Wilson, 30, Inglewood, 6-3, 168. Occupation--sailmaker, North Sails, Huntington Beach.

Mastman--Mike Pentecost, 30, San Pedro, 5-10, 190. Occupation--longshoreman.

Mastman, tailer--Hart Jordan, 25, Oakland, 5-11, 170. Occupation--student at UC Irvine.

Navigator--James Alsop, 43, Huntington, N.Y., 6-1, 208. Occupation--president of North Sails, Chesapeake.

Skipper--Rod Davis, 31, Key West, Fla., 6-0, 207. Occupation--sailmaker at North Sails, Huntington Beach.

Pitman--Charles Dwyer, 31, Newport, R.I., 6-2, 205. Occupation--full-time Eagle staff.

Grinder--Al Palewicz, 36, Fort Worth, Tex., 6-1, 225. Occupation--high school English teacher.

Grinder--Hal Sears, 40, Miami, 5-11, 220. Occupation--fireman.

Back-up navigator--Lowell North, 52, 6-1, 185. Occupation--former president, owner North Sails Company.

Tactician--Doug Rastello, 34, Long Beach, 5-7, 150. Occupation--senior vice president of investment banking, R.H. Moulton and Co.

The least glorious job is in the pit, the forward hatch where the sails are stored. The pitman, sometimes called the sewerman, spends most of his time pushing sails up for quick changes, pulling the doused sails down and keeping all of the unused ones packed and organized. He may also pump the bilges and work a winch once in a while. He doesn't get to see much of the race. The job requires a special personality.

The pit also requires agility to function below decks on a heeling, wave-battered craft, but the bowman must be an acrobat to keep his balance on a pitching bow, without lifelines, and occasionally climb out on the spinnaker pole hand over hand.

A few bowmen had to be fished out of the Indian Ocean during the 12-meter world championships off Perth last winter.

Davis said Kirby is "a very physical type guy. Basically, these guys are real, real strong. Kirby has the lowest fat count on the boat: 6%. Hartwell (Jordan) was 10%. He was disappointed. Me, I'm way up there."

Rastello called the shots for Davis in both of his Congressional Cup victories.

"He's stayed out of the limelight so not a lot of people know about him," Davis said. "But his racing record is pretty good. I steer the boat and he positions the boat on the race course."

Toppa and Worthington are solid crew members, both with 12-meter backgrounds. Worthington, also a prominent Finn sailor, is one of 10 international "Wavemaker" America's Cup crewmen saluted in Yacht Racing & Cruising magazine's current issue.

A look at the crew responsibilities:

Bowman--Headsail changes and spinnaker handling. Also, he's the eyes of the boat for calling distance from the line at the start and for anti-collision corrections when crossing the opponent's stern. He needs agility to keep his feet and keen judgment for time and distance.

Mastman--Raises and lowers sails by halyards. He also assists with the set and control of the spinnaker pole, and may take a turn on the winch grinders. Whatever he does, he has to do it right the first time.

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