Homegrown Talent

An America’s Cup campaign finds the help they need in their own backyard
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James Allsopp  is one of nine IYRS graduates to work on the American Magic build team.

James Allsopp is one of nine IYRS graduates to work on the American Magic build team.

Rhode Island has a long history of building America’s Cup yachts, starting with Vigilant, built in 1893 at the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co. in Bristol. The New York Yacht Club’s American Magic campaign, which is challenging for the 2021 America’s Cup, is continuing the legacy.

“We decided not to use a commercial boatbuilding operation,” says Rob Ouellette, chief operations officer at American Magic. “We wanted to have complete control, so in April 2018 we leased a building in Bristol, Rhode Island, but it was hard to find composite boatbuilders who were not employed by other builders.”

At the time, American Magic had seven or eight people on its build team and needed more workers to get a prototype built for testing. Ouellette toured the IYRS School of Technology & Trades in Newport and spotted what he wanted.

“I saw they had the 3-D printers and the CNC lathes,” he says. “And that the students had been exposed to composite building.”

American Magic started with one IYRS intern, quickly brought in more and then started hiring the interns onto the build team, which today includes 40 people. Their first boat, The Mule, a 38-foot foiling prototype launched in October.

“We now have nine IYRS graduates who worked on The Mule and who are now working on the AC75,” Ouellette says.

Trevor Davidson is one of those nine IYRS graduates. A native of Newport, his parents were yachties who got him into sailing. He graduated from IYRS in 2018 and now purchases materials for the American Magic team.

“I knew I wanted to work in boats, and I knew I wanted to go to IYRS,” he says. “The organization set me up really well. To get on a Cup team is a just a dream come true.” In March, while giving the keynote address at the New York Yacht Club for the IYRS Winter Ball, Ouellette showed side-by-side photos of The Mule and one of Nathanael Herreshoff’s America’s Cup defenders under construction in Bristol. “Both of them were built right near each other in Rhode Island,” Ouellette told the crowd. “The Mule might be four to five times faster, but they were built on the same piece of dirt.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue.