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Q&A: Replica of first America’s Cup winner coming to Tacoma

Troy Sears on the deck of America with the actual America’s Cup during the 34th Amerca’s Cup race in San Francisco in 2013.
Troy Sears on the deck of America with the actual America’s Cup during the 34th Amerca’s Cup race in San Francisco in 2013. America’s Cup Event Authority

Troy Sears says he’s living his dream by sailing his historic schooner, America, on a North American tour.

This weekend, he’s bringing his dream – and America – to Tacoma.

The 52-year-old San Diego resident took off with a six-person crew just after the Fourth of July on a tour to talk about the America’s Cup, the world sailing race that has undergone changes in recent years.

His boat is a replica of the vessel that won the first race in 1851 and for which the competition is named.

It will be at the Foss Waterway Seaport from Thursday through Sunday, at which point it will head for home.

The schooner will have visited about 30 yacht clubs in roughly two months.

Then it will tour the East Coast in the spring, followed by the Caribbean and eventually Bermuda, where the next America’s Cup competition will be in 2017.

Question: How did you get interested in sailing, and in the America’s Cup?

Answer: I started sailing when I was 12 and bought my first boat then, and just kept working my way up. At the same time, my mother bought me a book about the America’s Cup.

Q: What’s the response when to take America around?

A: There’s either a group of communities that don’t even know about the America’s Cup at all, or you have people who know a lot about the cup, but are questioning a lot of the changes that have been made.

It’s always humbling to see the number of people who come up to the boat and start immediately asking questions, and I take that responsibility very seriously.

In Port Townsend, that town is so well connected with classic sailing, and they know so much about classic boats, you really have to have your A game. We’ve had more interest in the boat in Washington than in any other location.

Q: What have been the changes in recent years to the America’s Cup?

A: The boats now are high-speed catamarans.

In sailing there’s this sense of romance, this sense of elegance and beauty. I’ve always felt that the America’s Cup was about technology ... to see what the human imagination and engineering can do to see how fast you can make a boat go propelled by wind.

I spend a lot of time showing people the historical view of the America’s Cup. There is essentially classic sailing racing, but there still needs to be a state-of-the-art (race) out there, and I think that’s what the America’s Cup should be.

Q: How do people respond to that explanation?

A: Growth in youth sailing is on the rise after the switch to catamarans. Even older sailors are very concerned about making sure sailing continues for the next generations.

If the switch to catamarans means a new generation will be exposed to the important values that kids learn by sailing, then that’s OK.

Q: What do younger sailors like about the new boats?

A: Simple: They’re fast. They’re five times as fast. Every teenager that I meet, speed is cool. These boats are using the very latest in carbon fiber technology. They’re cool to look at.

Q: What do you tell people about the boat’s history?

A: In 1851, Queen Victoria is convinced by her husband, Prince Albert, to build the Crystal Palace to host the first world fair, and to invite the world to bring technology.

That’s where I start, to remind people how American naval architecture was then and is now the most superior in the world.

The boat (America) was built to showcase our technology (at that first world fair), and it was commissioned by six Americans who were convinced she would prove to be the fastest. And they were right.

Q: What’s daily life like on the boat during the tour?

A: We’re living together. It’s always very important that our personalities are compatible.

Part of serving my responsibility as the captain and owner is to have good crew moral. I also serve as the cook.

My younger crew members are still teenagers. They may get away at home without making their beds, but they don’t get away with it here on the boat.

Q: How often are you on the boat the rest of the year?

A: The boat is not a piece of furniture. We’re on the move a lot. I’m on the water about 330 days a year.

Q: Do you consider this boat a full-time endeavor?

A: Not really, because I can’t seem to get it down to that. It’s more, for me, about 60 to 80 hours (a week).

Q: What’s next after Tacoma?

A: We’re going to make a stop and run a program in Coos Bay, and then we’ll stop in San Francisco. We always stop in Catalina before we head home. That’s because we always have a highly competitive miniature golf competition. We actually have a trophy.

IF YOU GO

Dockside tours of America will be free from 10 a.m. to noon, Friday through Sunday, with paid admission to the Foss Waterway Seaport, at 705 Dock St., Tacoma.

Also free with admission to the museum are America’s Cup multimedia presentations, set for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Sailings of America are set for at 1 p.m. Friday through Sunday, and at 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $75. They can be bought at www.zerve.com/nxtLevelSail, and include admission to the museum.

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