Clipper Cup founder Dick Gooch passes away aged 84

Dick Gooch passes

Dick Gooch, founder of the Hawaii international offshore series initially known as the Pan Am Clipper Cup and later the Kenwood Cup with a change of sponsor, has died on the Gold Coast where he has lived in recent years.

The regatta, which began in 1978 and was held every second year, at its peak attracted competitors from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong and Europe, with the biggest fleet 76 in 1982.

Conducted on similar lines to England’s Admiral’s Cup international teams championship, it had a series of short races leading up to a major long race. The Around the State of Hawaii race, covering a course of 775n miles, was its equivalent to the Admiral’s Cup Fastnet race.

It was a wonderful event at a wonderful venue. Besides shirts-off sailing in warm, strong trade winds there were excellent facilities for the yachts in the large Ala Moana yacht basin, fun ashore at the very hospitable Waikiki and Hawaii Yacht Clubs and in the nearby bars and night spots of the Waikiki tourist strip.

Above all, the welcoming “aloha spirit” of the friendly locals in the most relaxed state of the USA made the regatta memorable.

The regatta grew from the Around the State race founded by Waikiki Yacht Club members in 1972. Gooch, a keen sailor and an Australian member of the Waikiki YC who had a travel business in Honolulu, organised groups of Middle Harbour Yacht Club members to journey from Sydney and crew on local boats in the race and encouraged Jack Rooklyn to compete with his Sydney-based Ballyhoo in 1975 and 1976.

When the race looked like lapsing in 1977, the entrepreneurial Gooch persuaded Pan American World Airways to sponsor a five-race series ending with the Around the State race, preceded by three Olympic triangle races and a medium distance race.

The Around the State race was always challenging. Typically, it began with a tough windward beat into a 20-25 knot northeast trade wind up the west coast of Oahu, then edge of control reaching and running around the island’s north coast.

The most demanding part of the course to negotiate, however, was the 60n mile deep wind shadow behind the volcanic mountains of the “Big Island” of Hawaii. Then followed another demanding 60n-mile beat up Hawaii’s spectacular eastern shore and finally a strong run home in the big waves of the Molokai Channel to finish off Diamond Head.

As entries began to decline after 1986, the Around the State race was dropped in favour of a shorter long-distance race.

Fiddling the long race course format was not enough. The distances from West Coast USA, Japan, New Zealand and Australia were daunting to sail and expensive for shipping boats. The change in dates of Hamilton Island Race Week from autumn to late August put it in conflict on the calendar with the Kenwood Cup.

And finally, a dip in Japanese economy not only reduced entries from Japan but contributed towards the loss of the Japanese-based sponsor, the Kenwood Corporation.

The last Kenwood Cup was sailed in 2000.

Dick Gooch will be remembered as a congenial, willing crewman by those who sailed with him. One of them, former Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Commodore John Brooks, said:

“Those of you who were in on the beginnings of the Clipper/Kenwood Cups in Honolulu will remember Dick Gooch who started it all from nothing and later went to work for PanAm in Honolulu promoting the series; a bloke with an entrepreneurial spirit and a heart of gold — a rare combination.”

Richard John Gooch is survived by his wife Barbara, children David, Debbie and Mandy and grand children.

A eulogy and celebration of his life will be held at Southport Yacht Club next Thursday from 3pm. — Bob Ross

Dick Gooch (right) sailing on Ballyhoo in 1977


Jeanneau JY55