America’s Cup, once more: How we helped win back sailing’s greatest prize
As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations at Leidos, Insights took a closer look over the last year at some of the key moments in the company's history. For a deeper dive into our past, we invite you to download and read our new eBook.
First contested in 1851, sailing’s America’s Cup is the oldest trophy in international sports. For 132 years, the United States dominated the competition. The Americans won the inaugural event and went on to defend the trophy 24 consecutive times from 1870 through 1980.
Three years later, an upstart Australian crew ended the longest winning streak in the history of modern sports. Legendary skipper Dennis Conner, aka Mr. America’s Cup, guided the Americans to an early lead in the best-of-seven series but the Aussies rallied and became the first challengers to seize the Cup.
"The country was shocked in 1983 when we lost the America's Cup to the Australians,” said Leidos founder Dr. J. Robert Beyster, an avid sailor.
Beyster grew up navigating the waters around Grosse Isle, Mich., just south of Detroit. He served in the Navy before settling down with his wife Betty and their three children in San Diego, were he began sailing again.
“Our family spent many Sundays in the San Diego Bay and coastal area,” said daughter Mary Ann Beyster. “Employees and family members were his crew. Mom, my siblings, and I all had to take classes to be his crew. Mom also learned how to navigate with a sextant, which came in handy for longer trips.”
Beyster’s passion for technology and his affinity for the water led to Leidos’ (then SAIC) involvement in helping regain the America’s Cup. He knew the company’s work with the Navy on hull designs meant it could make a significant contribution.
“Our people were naval architects, many of them, in Washington, and decided to take a look at it, with the encouragement of the Navy,” said Beyster.
Company scientists and engineers spent three years designing and optimizing Stars & Stripes to be the most hydrodynamic yacht they could. They made major design breakthroughs on the yacht’s hull and keel. They also created a computerized model that predicted the boat’s potential wave drag – introducing this kind of technology to the America’s Cup for the first time.
With Conner back at the helm, the Americans earned the right to challenge the Australians in 1987. Held in Fremantle, Australia, the contest took place amidst strong winds and white-capped seas. Conner’s crew overcame the challenging conditions en route to an emphatic 4-0 victory to win back the Cup.
“Our deep involvement with the America’s Cup put us in the public eye in a way that we had never before experienced,” Beyster later wrote. “It showed others that we were … a progressive technology company that was on the leading edge of innovation.”
As his company continued to grow in stature, so did Beyster’s reputation in San Diego, where Leidos remained headquartered until 2009. Last year, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego added a research vessel named Bob and Betty Beyster to its fleet. The workboat enables scientists to conduct research, technology development, and ocean-based education.
This week, Scripps Oceanography welcomed the sparkling new R/V Bob and Betty Beyster to our research fleet! With a top speed around 35 knots, this speedy workboat will allow Scripps and @UCSanDiego researchers unparalleled access to the coastal environment. pic.twitter.com/yNDltYXY9A— Scripps Institution of Oceanography (@Scripps_Ocean) April 19, 2019
“This vessel marked the perfect way to honor Bob and Betty’s legacy,” said Cindy Glancy, a member of the Scripps Director’s Council. “It appealed to many people as an important project to recognize the Beysters’ impact on their lives, particularly Bob’s vision in starting an employee-owned company and Betty’s continued friendship and mentorship.”
For Mary Ann, who’s the president of her father’s Foundation for Enterprise Development, the gesture is a fitting tribute.
“Dad owned a 55-foot motorboat named Solutions that he regularly let local scientists use as a research platform,” said Mary Ann. “This opportunity [Scripps] really aligned my dad’s love for being on the water along with his and my mom’s philanthropic interests.”