Island sailor, naval architect applies his trade in San Francisco
Sailing has been a big part of Scott Ferguson’s life since he was a youngster. The Jamestown resident got his start on a sunfish when his sister couldn’t make it to her sailing class at the Wickford Yacht Club. So he took her place.
“I totally got hooked on it, pretty much from that first class,” Ferguson said. “I just love sailing, and I love being out on the water. I love the whole idea of trying to get a boat to go upwind, and to make it all work. It’s intriguing.”
Since that time he has become one of the most respected competitive sailors and naval architects in the world.
The main focus for Ferguson these days is his work for Oracle Racing, the defenders of the America’s Cup. Ferguson has been with Oracle since 2007. He was deeply involved in designing the wing that powered Oracle Racing’s USA 117 trimaran to victory in the 33rd America’s Cup competition in 2010.
“It was a fantastic feeling,” Ferguson said of the America’s Cup victory. “It was so different than anything I’ve been involved with before. Multihulls, which I’d never been involved with. Wing sails, which I’d never be involved with. It was just a whole new challenge. We did so much in so little time and managed to make it all work. The whole experience was incredible.”
Being on the winning side in the cup was a new experience for Ferguson. He said that he has been involved with the cup since 1992 with different syndicates. His last time was with Luna Rossa in 2007.
“They weren’t sure if they were going to keep going as a syndicate,” he said. “Around that time, Russell Coutts was hired by Larry Ellison to win the cup for Oracle. They contacted me because they knew I might be in the market, and they were looking for a mast designer. That’s how it started.”
Shortly after the last America’s Cup competition ended, Ferguson began work managing the design and engineering for the wing that powers the new AC45 catamarans that are competing in the America’s Cup World Series races that will serve as preliminaries to the 2013 America’s Cup, and their successors, the AC72 catamarans that will compete in the actual cup races.
“It was a fairly rushed project. For the 45s we had to design a boat and a wing in a short period of time last summer and into the fall,” Ferguson said. “It’s not just for our benefit, but to get the whole cup competition kick-started. I’m pretty proud of the fact that the boats look exciting, they’re responsive, and they’re fast. It’s good to see them out actually competing now.”
Ferguson is hopeful that an America’s Cup World Series event will come to Newport in 2012.
Right now Ferguson is in San Francisco where he is competing in the Laser Masters Worlds in San Francisco, an event that he has won for the last two years. Ferguson sails in the 45 to 55 age group where the competition is tough this year. He is currently in fifth place with several days of racing still to take place.
“When I was 12 years old, the Laser became quite a popular boat,” Ferguson said. “I did a lot of local races. I got pretty good at it. Then I went off to college and got on with my professional life. I got back into it around 2003. Then this Masters circuit popped up. I started training for it more and more seriously. It’s a good reason to get out on the water and get into shape. It’s a bit like a triathlon where you have to work pretty hard to get your skill set and be strong to have the endurance to get through these events.”
Ferguson said with regard to defending his championship this year, it’s going to be tough. “There are some good guys here. The Masters group that I sail in is always the biggest draw of any of the age groups. The guy who was second the last two years, Arnoud Hummel of Norway, is sailing really well. Every day so far has been really windy.”
Last week Ferguson competed in a Laser slalom event on windy San Francisco Bay. He finished third. He said that they set up two rows of buoys and the boats had to go up one side and down the other side, and then back around again.
“You compete head to head with somebody else,” he said. “They put the buoys really close together, so it’s hard to get around without crashing. It’s pretty entertaining for the people who are watching, and pretty challenging for the guys who are sailing.”
In July, Ferguson relocated to San Francisco, the home base for Oracle Racing, and will remain there for two years until the America’s Cup is over. He is currently working on the design for the AC72, and going back and forth to New Zealand, which is where most of parts for the boat are being made. He hopes to compete in the Laser Masters World Championship in Australia next March. He is also consulting with the Puma Volvo Ocean Racing team.