PT marine trades rides with America’s Cup victory

By Patrick J. Sullivan of the Leader
Posted 10/1/13

Port Townsend played a role in last week’s stunningly successful defense of the 34th America’s Cup sailboat race for the oldest trophy in the history of sports.

Chris Sitzenstock, Port …

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PT marine trades rides with America’s Cup victory

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Port Townsend played a role in last week’s stunningly successful defense of the 34th America’s Cup sailboat race for the oldest trophy in the history of sports.

Chris Sitzenstock, Port Townsend High School Class of 1996, is now a two-time America’s Cup winner with Oracle Team USA. A number of Port Townsend marine trade businesses and individuals also have been connected in some way or another.

“Don’t underestimate the influence of Port Townsend,” said Sitzenstock, who lives in California with his wife, Annie Saran, PTHS Class of 1996; they are expecting a second child later this year.

“Our team works with local businesses and individuals” in Port Townsend, said Sitzenstock.

He named Brandon Davis at Turn Point Design, Bill Juran at Marketech International, David King and Paul Zeusche at Townsend Bay Marine, with moral support from Russell Brown at PT Watercraft, lumber from Ted Pike and Edensaw Woods, and Dan Newland and Pegasus Aeromarine, located at the PT Business Park.

STARTED SMALL

Sitzenstock started out in the marine trades like many people in Port Townsend: building a small boat in a garage. Chris and his father, David, built several.

“From there, it came to learning to sail with local boating legend and former PTHS teacher Ed Barcott on Port Townsend Bay,” Sitzenstock told the Leader of the man with a speedy sailboat called Pacemaker.

“Between the culture of marine trades and local sailing scene, Port Townsend provided an ideal location to instill a passion in sailing and boatbuilding.”

He went onto a boatbuilding career that included work in Anacortes. He has been working full-time with Oracle Team USA for almost 10 years. The American racing syndicate is led by Larry Ellison, CEO of Silicon Valley software giant Oracle.

Sitzenstock in 2010 was part of BMW Oracle Racing’s successful challenge, racing off Valencia, Spain, in 90-foot (27-meter) multihulls in a best-of-three series. Oracle defeated the defenders from Switzerland 2-0, and the cup moved to the Golden Gate Yacht Club in San Francisco.

The cup defender chooses racing boats, and this 2013 race used AC72 wing-sail catamarans. The flying, foiling AC72 was mastered to the point that it could hydrofoil upwind at 30-32 knots, speeds never seen before in cup racing, according to the Oracle Team USA website.

Sitzenstock is with the shore and build team, and his job encompasses many different projects and tasks.

“For example, I take care of all the shipping for the team, so one day I can be on the deck of a Hamburg Süd container ship unloading an AC72 wing, and the next, sitting down with a designer and figuring out how to build a component. We built the AC72 hulls in San Francisco as well as assembling all the wings and platforms of the AC72s. When the boats and wings are assembled, San Francisco Bay served as home for testing and racing.”

CUP HISTORY

The New York Yacht Club was represented in August 1851 at a race around the Isle of Wight by the schooner America. The prize: a 100-pound cup. America won decisively over the best Great Britain could offer. “Your Majesty, there is no second” are the words supposedly uttered to Queen Victoria after the America sailed by the royal yacht.

The trophy was renamed the America’s Cup, and it became available for perpetual international contest. It is considered the world’s oldest sporting trophy. (The first modern Olympics took place in 1896.)

The cup is sometimes known as the Auld Mug for match racing of club sailboats: defender versus challenger.

What does a young sailor feel when holding the actual America’s Cup, which dates to 1851 – as old as Port Townsend itself?

“I think the feeling of holding the America’s Cup is one of validation and quiet contentment,” Sitzenstock said. “Our team spent three years of long hours to get ready for the America’s Cup, and it came down to a race that lasted 25 minutes. Every day has its own reward, but to know you accomplished the ultimate goal of three years with a team of 130 people is humbling.

“Also, who is kidding who? Drinking Champagne out of the America’s Cup is not bad either, and leads to quite a fine feeling.”

Any words of wisdom for young people thinking about getting into the marine trades or specifically, boat design?

“When I first started in the America’s Cup, my goal was to be the first one at work in the morning and the last one to leave,” he said. “Let me tell you, this is not easy, but if you want something, working harder than everyone else is a good place to start.”

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