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Koch to defend America's Cup with Milgram, all-female crew

Three of the yachting teams seeking the America's Cup next year have MIT professors and alumni shaping their boats and their strategies.

For the defending America3 team of Bill Koch, MIT `62, the strategy announced last week includes the historic first of an all-women's crew, and the research and development expertise once again of MIT Ocean Engineering Professor Jerome H. Milgram, MIT `61.

Professor Milgram's colleague, Ocean Engineering Professor Paul D. Sclavounos, MIT `81, is helping design a yacht for the US challenging syndicate, Partnership for America's Cup Technology or PACT (MIT Tech Talk, March 2). And Australian, John Bertrand MIT `72, who won the America's Cup in 1983, is heading an Australian team. Professor Milgram said Mr. Bertrand, one of his former students, would pose a "formidable challenge" in the Australian boat.

Vincent Moeyersoms, president, chief operating officer and general manager of America3, said that some of the research done under Dr. Milgram's direction in 1992 was completed too late to be applied effectively that year. This information, he said, is a great starting point for the extensive development being done for 1995. America3 plans to build one more boat after more testing and development efforts, he said.

Professor Milgram will again supervise research and development for this newest effort, although the budget, set at $20 million, is about a third of what Koch spent on the 1992 effort. Koch, who received three degrees from MIT including a ScD in chemical engineering, attributes America3 success in 1992 to teamwork, talent and technology, including the Milgram `dynamometer,' the first instrument ever developed to measure sail force directly on the sail. Mr. Moeyersoms, the general manager, said that the women's team starts out with the two fastest boats in the world, the infrastructure and organization of the team, equipment, seed money, and some of the same design team as in 1992.

Why did Dr. Koch choose to have an all-women crew? "In the 142 years since the first race, the America's Cup has been almost entirely male-dominated," he said. "This is more than a sailboat race. This is about breaking barriers and creating more opportunities. Sailing is a wonderful sport and should become more accessible. America3 proved in 1992 that with the right attitude, teamwork and talent, ordinary people can do extraordinary things. Our goal is to empower women with this same formula for success and take the America3 women's team all the way to victory in 1995."

Dr. Koch was asked if he believes women have the strength to compete at the top level of sailing with men. He answered, "Strength is only two percent of the race. They can not only compete, but also win."

The crew will ultimately include a total of 22 women, of whom nine are presently awaiting tryouts beginning in April. They include Olympic medalists in various classes of sailing and rowing. Full-time sailing will begin June 1.

"Las Vegas was giving 100-1 odds against our winning last time," Bill Koch said with a grin, "The odds makers will probably give us 100-1 again."

A version of this article appeared in the March 16, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 26).

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