Photo Credit: FRIED ELLIOTT /

William P. Ficker, Profiles of Star Champions

William P. Ficker (Starlights, November, 1970)

Bill Ficker, America's Cup summer of 1970

A prominent architect of Newport Harbor, California, is at the present moment one of the most famous sailors in the world. William P. Ficker has recently skippered the 12 Meter Intrepid through its successful defense of the America's Cup against the Australian Gretel II.

Bill Ficker has been racing sailboats all his life. and owned his first Star in 1950. With it he won the Southern California Yachting Association's midwinter championship, but he did not attract much attention in the Class until he captured the Blue Star of the always high-powered Fifth District in 1954 with No. 1560, which was then sixteen years old.

The district secretary reported in Starlights at the time that Bill had spent many long hours refurbishing and modernizing the boat. His thoroughness, as well as his sailing abilities and ambitions, were already becoming evident.

Carl Eichenlaub then built him a new hull, which was completed and fitted out by Ficker himself. With this boat he began to win with great frequency. His sights have always been set high. "If we go away somewhere and win a series," he once said, "we want to be fitting representatives of our club. Hence the name NHYCUSA, standing for Newport Harbor Yacht Club, U.S.A."

The boat was one of the most beautifully built and finished Stars of its day. In it, with Mark Yorston crewing, Ficker finished second to Lowell North in the 1957 North American Championship at San Diego, and the following year the same combination in the same place won the World's Championship.

Although he has sailed in many other classes, both on and offshore, Bill always maintains close contacts with the Stars. He was a member of the Technical Committee from its inception in 1965 through 1968.

After one previous summer on a Twelve, he undertook the campaigning of the re-designed and re-built Intrepid in the spring of 1970. His wife Barbara came east with him to be the Den Mother at Newport for the crew for most of the summer. From the outset things went well. Bill did not whiplash his crew; he only told them that he knew how good they were, and hoped that they would live up to his expectations. The result of this mutual trust was a happy ship and a superbly functioning crew.

Those who saw the hour-long show of the Twelves on a U.S. national television network last summer could not fail to be impressed with the calm but efficient way things were done on the Intrepid as contrasted with the more hectic atmosphere on some of the other American Twelves. And the skipper seemed to maintain the same excellent rapport with his management syndicate.

Intrepid's opponent Gretel II also shipped Star sailors: two of the three co-helmsmen, Martin Visser and David Forbes, are well known Star names. The congratulations of the Class go not only to a deserving winner, but also to the challengers who made it the closest cup defense in many years.

bill ficker