2009-05-14 / News

John Biddle inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame

By Sue Maffei Plowden

John Biddle John Biddle The Herreshoff Marine Museum/ America's Cup Hall of Fame inducted the late John Biddle, of Jamestown, into the Hall of Fame on April 30.

Nearly 70 legends of the Cup have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, which is located in Bristol.

Candidates eligible for consideration include members of the crew, designers, builders, syndicate leaders, supporters, chroniclers, and other individuals of merit. This year the other inductees were UK sailmaker Thomas Ratsey of Ratsey & Lapthorn and Australian John Longley, a fivetime America's Cup competitor and contributor to the IACC design rule.

The black-tie dinner for 200 took place in the elegant Model Room of the New York Yacht Club with museum president Halsey Herrshoff as master of ceremonies.

Sailing's best-known ambassador, Gary Jobson, marine historian John Rousmaniere, and keynote speaker and principal of Team Origin, a future British America's Cup challenger, Keith Mills, joined Herreshoff. Jobson, an accomplished producer-writer, counts John Biddle as an early mentor, and he narrated a video tribute that featured footage of and by Biddle with highlights from his illustrious career.

Sophie Biddle Hakim, Amy Biddle, and Scott Biddle at the America's Cup Hall of Fame induction ceremony for John Biddle. Photo by Daniel Forster Sophie Biddle Hakim, Amy Biddle, and Scott Biddle at the America's Cup Hall of Fame induction ceremony for John Biddle. Photo by Daniel Forster Biddle's son Scott, of Northampton, Mass, and daughter Sophie Biddle Hakim, of Los Angeles, accepted his award - a model of the 12-meter Intrepid - on his behalf. John Biddle had been nominated in late August 2008, and died in October. At the dinner, his wife Amy acknowledged how pleased he was with his nomination. Also present in New York was John's brother Wharton and his wife Ann Biddle, of Jamestown, and a nephew, Christopher Biddle.

Biddle was a renowned cinematographer lecturer who wowed audiences over his 41-year career. He gave over 3,000 presentations that spanned 10 America's Cup race events between 1958 and 1987, with some of the most definitive footage of that period. He had the practiced knack of knowing where to be to get the shots and among the images he captured was Alan Bond unveiling the secret winged keel of Australia II in 1983. He was invited to shoot onboard the 12 meters by the pre-eminent, and often mercurial, skippers of the day, including Ted Turner, Dennis Conner, Bus Mosbacher and Bill Ficker.

He ably combined his love for the sea and knowledge of sailing with a talent for filmmaking, resulting in 40 shows in 40 years. Lean and fast moving, he was proficient at all things nautical including one-design racing and offshore cruising and racing. His film archives are capped by comprehensive film coverage of each America's Cup event - during the 12 Meter years - in 10 seasonlong episodes from the early trials to the final races for the America's Cup.

But it was not only his footage of the Cup that captivated; Biddle raced to Bermuda 11 times, was aboard the winning yacht to Halifax in 1957, cruised among the icebergs off the coasts of Labrador and Greenland, competed in the Southern Ocean Racing Circuit several times, and crewed aboard square-riggers in the North Sea. Audiences worldwide were entertained by the appealing footage from these trips and his dry, witty commentary.

In these days of digital photography and videography, John Biddle's work is even more impressive shot, as it was, on 8mm and 16mm film and utilizing an early version gyro stabilizer. His wife, Amy, was often enlisted to drive the photo boat and assist with the audio equipment.

His films may soon enjoy a new life. The Biddle family is having his complete film library digitized, so the films may be archived at a museum for future generations to enjoy.

John Biddle photo courtesy of the Herreshoff Marine Museum.

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