William P. "Bill" Ficker was the skipper
of INTREPID in the 1970 Cup defense against GRETEL
II, considered by many sailing experts to be a watershed
in the post-war history of the Cup. Although INTREPID
beat GRETEL II four races to one, the score could
have very well been reversed if not for the expertise
of Bill Ficker.
An architect from Southern California, Bill Ficker
had won a Star Class world championship. His skillful
co-skippering of COLUMBIA in 1967 earned him control
of INTREPID in 1970. Even though bumper stickers and
lapel buttons announced that "Ficker is Quicker,"
GRETEL II was smaller, lighter and the faster boat
in the prevailing light conditions during the 1970
races. The first race ended with both yachts crossing
the line with protest flags flying, the first time
that had happened since 1934. The protests were subsequently
dismissed and INTREPID was declared the winner.
The second race had to be abandoned because of fog,
which set the stage for the third race one of the
most controversial in America's Cup history. GRETEL
II won the race but was disqualified for smashing
into INTREPID's port side shortly after the starting
gun was fired. There was a great howl of anguish both
here and abroad, but most experienced sailors agreed
that GRETEL II was at fault. She hit INTREPID by sailing
above a close-hauled course after the starting gun,
thus infringing on the racing rules. GRETEL II came
back to win the next race by 1 minute, 2 seconds.
The final race was a thriller, sailed in light wind,
with both skippers using every trick they knew to
get ahead and stay ahead. In the end, "Ficker
was Quicker" by 1 minute, 44 seconds.