Back to Newport, Rhode Island USA in 1994
We travelled to Newport in 1994 for the New York Yacht Club’s sesquicentenary celebration (ie 150 years). We charted a yacht a J46 for the 8 days we were in Newport. The boat was the current North American champion, ‘Saline Solutions’ and the new owner was a Mr McNamara ( I have forgotten his first name). He was new to sailing and was to sail with us for the 8 days. Work wise he was of Irishman heritage and he held a contract to put salt on the streets of New York. He kept on asking us if there was any chance of a similar contract in Australia. We advised him Australia was hot and well endowed with salt.
Our accomodation in Newport was a house of ill repute. I say this because all the mattresses were covered in a thick plastic. We rented the whole house but took all meals at nearby coffee shops.
The evening of the ball for all participants at the Marble House, we ate Newport Lobsters. We purchased these, about 14, at the supermarket where the shopkeepers cooked them prior to us leaving with them.
There were a number of people waiting in a line for their lobsters. My friend Malcolm Levy who was with me, proceeded to hypnotise the lobsters. This was done by stroking them slowly along their back, where upon they froze in a still position some placed standing, some sitting, some in an about to run position. This had the crowd absolutely enthralled, many of them attempted to hypnotise there lobsters. They are taken out of their trance by rocking them slowly.
Next we got cabs for 14 of us (men and women) to go to the Marble House. We got into the cab and asked to be taken to the Marble House. Well, it turned out to be an out of town driver imported for the evening and we had to direct him to our destination. We were told by the cabby that the town big wigs had also imported a supplementary police force to protect all the guests at the ball which started at 2100 hrs. Newport is a mafia town and there were a lot of bejewelled ladies attending.
Somehow I got to know the lady who was the President of the US Ice Skating Association. (In January 1994, Harding became embroiled in controversy when her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, orchestrated an attack on her fellow U.S. skating rival Nancy Kerrigan. ... As a result of her involvement in the assault on Kerrigan, the United States Figure Skating Association banned her for life on June 30, 1994.) She was a very nice lady and looked after me all night. She introduced me to a very aged JP Morgan (of Bank Manager fame) and many ‘mothers of America’.
We looked through the Mansion however the actual ball was in three giant interconnected tents at the back of the mansion with three bands who played non stop in rotation all night.
Back to sailing. On first day we went out for a practice day and it blew 40 knots all afternoon. In subsequent days the breeze never got above 16 knots which made for a very pleasant regatta. We raced in our own division with about 12 boats all J 46’s.
On race 2 Mr McNamara came onto the boat with a query. He explained that this wife phoned him at the Viking Hotel and she was put through to what she though be his room and it was answered by a Mrs McNamara. His question to us was what were the chances that there were two McNamara’s staying at the Hotel. All the crew were silent but all shook their heads.
All races were held on the Americas Cup course, and by race 3 we were getting the hang of the boat. The crew were Bruce Dickson helmsman, Bill Wood tactician, me as navigator, Mark Ross mainsheet, Paul Kerrigan, Leon Cremer and Malcolm Levy on the foredeck and the owner Mr McNamara. Racing in Newport demands a lot of navigating because of the big tides and very large wind shifts. On this day there was a lot of hurry up to get the spinnaker packed and ready for the race. Through excellent sailing on the first leg to the windward mark we rounded the mark first in this hot fleet. The moment was all the more notable because there were three helicopters hovering taking pictures. This was just too much for McNamara who rushed downstairs to get a comb for his hair and on arrival on deck waved with his hat in the air.
All this did not distract from the spinnaker hoist. Up went the spinnaker as soon as we rounded, unfortunately the spinnaker pole was pointing up in the air. Bruce was screaming from the helm to ‘get the kicker down, get the kicker down’. For my part I could see that the spinnaker was set upside down but I could not be heard for Bruce yelling to ‘get the kicker down’. The three helicopters all got excellent shots of Saline Solutions rounding the mark and going from first to fifth in a very short time. Now the controversy still goes on as to who packed the spinnaker Manning and Ross or Kerrigan and Levy.
As background this next story, it really started with an Australian census result in the 1980’s. I was with Coopers and Lybrand Australia at the time and in that capacity I was phoned by a young journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Mr Manning’ she said ‘The census reports that there are more females than males in Mosman (a Sydney suburb), do you have a comment on this?’ May I ask you a question I enquired? Is this your first assignment; to which the journalist answered in the affirmative. ‘Ah then you have come to the right spot.’
Have you ever heard of Club Mosman, no , well Club Mosman meets every Friday evening at the Mosman Rowers club. If you were to go there you will see plenty of single females in the age group 35 to 55 but fewer males. The reason is the males have suffered heart attacks from work and worry and have died often before their time. There are big mortgages in Mosman and men work long hours etc etc.
‘Do you live in Mosman Mr Manning?’ she said to me. ‘No’ said I. “Could you give me the name of a suitable male who does live in Mosman?’. The only person who fitted that description was Jimmy Dunstan. The Saturday Sydney Morning Herald had two columns on the story with a photo of Jimmy Dunstan’s photo saying ‘I do not get paid for my overtime’. Which I thought confirmed my story.
A downside to the story was that I took a lot of flack from the Club Mosman members over the next 12 months.
The New York Yacht Club invited four other Yacht Clubs to participate in their anniversary and gave their club entertainment tent on their lawn to the four Yacht clubs for one night each. This was a very generous move appreciated very much by all. The final night was for the New York Yacht Club to sponsor the evening. I thought we could play a trick on Jimmy Dunstan. He was, at the time’ he Vice Commodore of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. I went around to the NewYork Yacht Club’s premises and got some letterhead. Deirdre and I then composed a letter supposedly from the Vice Commodore NYYC to the Vice Commodore RSYS saying that this communication was very confidential as he did not want the other clubs to get wind of this arrangement otherwise there would be a mess. The letter then requested Jim to be upstanding and to thank the New York Yacht Club for the weeks yacht racing and the hospitality.
On the day before the final evening I flagged down a backpacker and said to him does he want to earn $5. Good, then take this envelope (that contains our letter) to Jim Dunstan on that yacht over there, which he did. The next morning I spied Jimmy and Judy his wife looking tired. They were up all night working out what to say. Jimmy was getting into a cab. I then went over to Jimmy getting into the cab. ‘Where are you off to’ I said. ‘It is confidential’ was his reply. I then asked Jimmy if he got a letter from the New York Yacht Club, ‘Did you get a letter too?’ It took a while but he soon got the hoax. Fortunately Jimmy has not attempted to reverse the tricks onto me. Thank you Jimmy.