PACT95: Young America – Defending the America’s Cup
Written by Rich Wilson, President of Ocean Challenge Inc.
When we had successfully finished our record-breaking voyage aboard the trimaran Great American II, we met with a newly found syndicate from Maine that wanted to defender the America’s Cup in its next challenge.
Within our concept of education the America’s Cup offered a fantastic and unique opportunity to teach math, science and technology. Here was a real event, with real people doing real math, science and technology development, with the end result being a science experiment played out in front of the whole world on ESPN and world TV!!
Which country would have the best science and technology? That would be decided on the race course. And we could use the development of the boat to show these subjects in action.
Also, the boat would not be developed just by naval architects or yacht designers. For this syndicate from Maine, the boat would have major design and engineering input from Boeing, Ford Motor and Science Applications International.
The engineer from Boeing, who would design Young America’s keel and rudder, was also designing the flaps for the hypersonic transport. An engineer from Ford, who was designing the internal structure of the boat that would hold it together under enormous strain, was also working on the engineering of their new automobiles. An engineer from SAI, who was directing the Design Team, was also working on Defense Department projects for the government.
I became Education Director for PACT 95 (Partnership for America’s Cup Technology 1995 – the syndicate name and acronym), the first time such a position had been created for an America’s Cup syndicate. And Ocean Challenge became the developer and manager of the education program.
We needed a Newspaper in Education program similar to what we had done for The Voyage of Great American II and Class Afloat ’94-’95. We needed a truly interactive online component similar to the ground-breaking feature [jump:Ocean Challenge] on Prodigy for GAII. And we needed a stellar Teacher’s Guide.
During 1994, these were developed. Our concept for the teacher’s guide was to think through the steps involved in the syndicate process, and build a unique Teacher’s Guide which took participating students through the same logical sequence.
The sequence was: How to organize the Team? How does a boat Float? How does a boat Stay Upright? How do you Steer a boat? How does a boat Move? How do you Design the fastest boat? How do you Build it? How do you Fuel the human team? How do you Navigate around the race course? How do you define Success?
Our concept was less to have interaction between classrooms and the sailors, and more to have interaction between classrooms and the designers and engineers. They were the ones who would be the true teachers here!
We brought in Delphi Internet Services, and with them created the first truly interactive educational Web site in the world, on the just barely beginning World Wide Web (in January ’95!)
We brought in ScottForesman, the leading science textbook publisher in the U.S. to create the Teacher’s Guide for K-12 on the topics above.
We brought in 27 major newspapers with whom we contracted for an 11 part series to be written by members of the Young America design team. The newspapers would market and distribute the Teacher’s Guide, and would publish each week, an article written by one of Young America’s designers. The newspapers, in turn, would be delivered to the participating schools and the article would serve as the link to the PACT 95 team.
3500 teachers subscribed to this unique program conceived and developed by Ocean Challenge! Who would have thought that such an esoteric idea as using a sailing regatta as the focus for a teaching program would be such a success! It again confirmed the power of this concept.
The beautiful Young America boat, painted with a Mermaid by Roy Lichtenstein, was clearly the fastest of the American boats. Yet the veteran experience of Dennis Conner’s team aboard his Stars & Stripes won the defender trials. Conner, who would be the defending skipper, realized Young America was the best boat that our side had, and asked to use it. PACT 95 agreed, and Young America defended, although without her own crew.
Team New Zealand, who had two exceptionally fast boats, and who had managed their own campaign with singular focus, defeated Young America in the finals in four straight wins. It showed the power of having two good boats that could test and tune against each other during the trials, and it showed the exceptional sailing ability of the country of New Zealand.
So there it was! An international design and science competition and experiment played out on an international stage! And although Young America didn’t win, all those students who participated, who saw science and technology in action, being applied by the best and the brightest, they did win.