Monday, 30 July 2007
This time, unfortunately, we’re looking at good deal longer than a month to unravel the mess created by the Protocol for the 33rd Cup. For a legal journalist this is probably about as exciting as it gets. For a sailing simpleton like me, this is all insufferably tedious. But it’s the America’s Cup, and it goes with the territory.
Ernesto Bertarelli and his gang came out shooting last week, taking pot shots at Larry Ellison’s plans to take the Defenders to the New York Supreme Court. As far as the Swiss billionaire is concerned, the matter should be dealt with in-house. “We have submitted this dispute, which is damaging to the entire sport, damaging to the America’s Cup, to our independent arbitration panel and we hope to have their resolution soon.”
Note the interesting choice of words there. “Our independent arbitration panel”. Oxymoron? Surely he meant to say “the independent arbitration panel”? There’s a big difference between the possessive “our” and the neutrality of “the”. Which perhaps says a lot about Alinghi’s sense of ownership of the Cup.
You can see why Larry has a problem with the Protocol, not least the Defender’s ability to appoint its own race officials. “No sports run officials like that,” said Larry. “Can you imagine Chelsea hiring the officials for the Manchester United game, but then also wanting the ability to change the rules at any time? It is the most bizarre Protocol we have ever seen.”
However, we have seen few – actually have we seen any? – public displays of support for Larry and the Golden Gate Yacht Club’s stance. The Americans claim they’ve had support from eight different challengers – and I could just about believe it. But public displays of support? None that I’m aware of. The Kiwis have been the latest to line up behind Alinghi, after Shosholoza and Team Origin. Apparently the Kiwis have been offered a sweetener of getting involved in helping Alinghi formulate the new design rule, giving them a vital few extra months of understanding of the new 90-footer rule before anyone else gets to see it. Richard Gladwell from Sail-World NZ has bagged a good interview with Dean Barker, which you’ll find here.
What of Alinghi’s announcement last week that each team will be permitted to build two race boats before the next Cup, but that teams will only be allowed to sail one at a time? Ernesto cited this as a cost saving exercise, which indeed it is, knocking a huge chunk off the wage bill if you can’t have two full sailing teams out race testing and training every day for two years.
Then again, it begs the question why Ernesto got in such a huff over Grant Dalton’s proposed nationality rule for the Cup had the Kiwis won it. Ernesto said way back in June: “If he was to win, that basically would put three-quarters of the people around this harbour out of work.” However, the new rules for the 33rd mean there is no need to have 34 sailors ready to man two boats. Now you’ll need just 20 or 21 to fill one of the new 90-foot beasts. So not everyone who was competing in 2007 is going to find room on board a boat in 2009.
Nevertheless, I like the one-sailing-team rule. The wage bill will be more affordable for the smaller teams. On the other hand - two boats to be built in less than 18 months? That’s definitely one for the big teams to enjoy.
Fellow blogger (and former America’s Cup navigator and electronics wizard) Mark Chisnell has an interesting analysis of this ‘two-boats-one-crew’ situation. He foresees a big step-up in instrumentation and telemetry programs to compensate for the lack of two-boat testing. In which case people like, well, er Mark Chisnell, will be in hot demand. Chizzy was too modest to put his own impressive CV forward on his blog, but no doubt his phone has already been ringing off the hook since Alinghi made their announcement last week.
Crikey! More than 500 words in, and I’ve neglected to mention a few other key facts, eg,
Date: July 2009
Hooray to that. Great city, lovely people, and a two-year timescale. Full marks to Alinghi for time and location, and well done to the Spanish for securing the deal with a bargain basement price of just a sneeze over 100m Euro. Cheap at twice the price.
Oh yes, and the shock (not!) appointment of Russell Coutts to BMW Oracle Racing as, you guessed it, CEO of the whole shooting match. Now, Russell Coutts is not Chris Dickson, but you might have thought that for Larry it would be a case of once bitten, twice shy. Still, if you’re going to put that much power in one man’s hands, it might as well be Coutts. With Butterworth staying put as Alinghi skipper, this sets up an intriguing rivalry between these two great mates.
No one knows Coutts’s strengths better than his former tactician, so it will be interesting to see who gets the helmsman’s job this time at Alinghi. Who is best equipped to counter Coutts’s moves on the race course? My guess is that it will be an Australian. Either an old one – Peter Gilmour – whose latest victory in the Portugal leg of the World Match Race Tour suggests he’s still as good as any of the young guns. Or a young one – James Spithill – who negotiated with Alinghi last time but couldn’t reach an agreement over bringing his core of Aussie mates with him.
The day after winning the 32nd, when I asked Butterworth who else he rated from the last Cup, another name he singled out was Jes Gram Hansen from Mascalzone Latino. Perhaps the underrated Dane will get a call from Brad.
Wow, I’ve veered back on to sailing again! Hopefully that’s what the America’s Cup world will start talking about again soon. But I doubt it. There’s so much billionaire ego at stake now, it’s hard to see this going anywhere but the New York Supreme Court.
What a long-distant memory that one-second delta of the 32nd America’s Cup seems now. After Barker and Baird, now it’s the lawyers’ turn to enter the start box. It could be over quickly with an early penalty, but I fear a long and protracted dial-up.
It's a bugger's muddle. A field day for the lawyers, a disaster for the short-term health of the event. Longer term, this will become yet an other colourful chapter in the chequered history of the America’s Cup, but I can’t wait for it to be over so we can get back to the sailing.
Monday, 16 July 2007
He’s had other things to do, what with being Dean Barker’s sparring partner and tune-up helm at Emirates Team NZ in
This news will be disappointing but not altogether surprising for Ed Wright, who won last year’s European Championships, but has struggled to reproduce that form this season. He had a solid World Championship in Cascais last week, going into the Medal Race with a good chance of a medal and a shot at gold. However, he had a poor final race, finishing 8th out of 10 and dropping to 6th overall.
I didn’t get a chance to speak to Ed after that final race, but I did see Skandia Team GBR’s Olympic manager Stephen Park giving him a consoling pat on the back. Last week was Ed’s best chance to prove himself selectable ahead of Ben, but it didn’t work out for him. Ed is a mighty talented sailor but like Andrew 'Bart' Simpson four years ago, when Bart won a World bronze, Ed looks like another great athlete who was simply unfortunate to be born in the same era as one of the world's greatest Olympic sailors.
If Ben succeeds in repeating last year’s runaway victory in
Skandia Team GBR was on awesome form again, doing sufficient to qualify the nation in all 11 disciplines for next year’s limited entry Olympic Games, and finishing top nation in Cascais with a tally of two golds and four bronzes.
You get some idea of the team’s strength in depth when you consider that last year’s World Champions in the 49er and 470 Men’s classes will be going as tune-up for the British teams selected to race in
Sarah Ayton’s Yngling team, which won the Worlds last week, is going to
Here is the full list of Skandia Team GBR representatives for the Test Regatta:
(tune-up/reserve boat – Ed Wright)
Stevie Morrison & Ben
(tune-up/reserve boat – Chris Draper & Simon Hiscocks)
Iain Percy & Andrew Simpson
(tune-up/reserve boat – Penny Clark)
(tune-up/reserve boat – Nick Thompson)
(tune-up/reserve boat – Leo McCallin)
(tune-up/reserve boat – Lucy Horwood)
Nick Rogers & Joe Glanfield
(tune-up/reserve boat – Nic Asher & Elliot Willis)
Christina Bassadone & Saskia Clark
Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb & Pippa Wilson
Leigh McMillan & Will Howden
(tune-up/reserve boat – Andrew Walsh & Ed Barney)
Thanks to ACM photo editor Carmen Hidalgo/ACM 2007 for her photos (captioned). All others non-captioned are from Carlo Borlenghi/ACM 2007, thanks too to him.
Mike Sanderson was there to oversee the test sail for the two days before the boat gets packed up and sent to the UK. There was a mix of sailors/support people onboard to assist with the test sail.
Now that Alinghi has announced a new 90-footer for the 33rd Cup, Hull 75 isn't perhaps quite such a sweet purchase for Sir Keith Mills' team as we originally thought. But every team has to start somewhere, and '75' will at least give the Brits some insight into the exquisite structural engineering that Dirk Kramers and his team at Alinghi put into Rolf Vrolijk's design.
It must be somewhat demotivating, however, to know that the yacht you've just bought will bear no resemblance to the new yachts that we have yet to learn more details of. It was hard to find a sailor in Valencia who would be openly critical of the state of limbo that the Cup currently finds itself in, but privately a number of sailors and designers have voiced their frustration at the lack of detail about the 33rd Cup.
Apparently, if the venue is to be Valencia again, then we'll know this to be the case by the end of July. Otherwise we could be in for a long wait while ACM weighs up bids from other competing cities in Europe. Hopefully the decision will come sooner than later, otherwise all the momentum built up from the great show of the 32nd Cup will be lost.
With the Golden Gate Yacht Club's counter-challenge last week to mock yot club, Club Nautico Espanol de Vela, followed closely by the sad confirmation of Louis Vuitton's long-rumoured withdrawal as the event's chief sponsor, these are uncertain times for the future of the Cup.
Thursday, 12 July 2007
I don’t know if the Spanish challenge is illegal or not – I’ll leave that argument to the laywers - but it was certainly spineless. By accepting the one-sided Protocol laid down by Alinghi last week, Desafio Espanol has effectively admitted that it has no real desire to win the 33rd America’s Cup. It is merely happy to be a participant, whilst handing Alinghi the tools for a 5-0 whitewash.
The Spanish team is to be applauded for having reached the Semi Finals of the recent Louis Vuitton Cup, but it appears that is the limit of its competitive instincts. In its desire to keep the Cup in Valencia it seems Desafio Espanol was prepared to sign almost anything that Alinghi demanded. The Spanish have sold the challengers down the river.
Today, BMW Oracle’s home club in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Yacht Club, sent its counter-challenge to the Societe Nautique de Geneve. The GGYC commodore Marcus Young wrote: “We respectfully submit that the challenge is invalid. Among other deficiencies, it is not from a bone fide yacht club, but from an entity organized in the form of a yacht club only a few days before the challenge was accepted by SNG and which has never had an annual regatta on an open water course on the sea or an arm of the sea as required by the Deed of Gift.
“It is also apparent that this ‘Challenger of Record’ has not performed any of the duties of the Challenger as contemplated by the Deed of Gift, but has simply delegated to the Defender the authority to determine all of the ‘conditions’ governing the match. This undermines the fundamental purpose of the Deed of Gift to preserve this competition as a Challenge Cup.”
And here’s the fun part.
The dates: “We name 4 July 2008 as the date of the first race, 6 July 2008 and 8 July 2008 as the dates for the second and, if necessary, third races.”
And here are the vital statistics for the boat:
Rig: single-masted, sloop-rigged
Length on Load Waterline – 90 feet
Beam at Load Waterline – 90 feet
Extreme Beam – 90 feet
Draught of water (hull draft) – 3 feet
Draught of water (boards down) – 20 feet
So, a 90-foot catamaran perhaps, or a 90-foot trimaran, or what about a 90-foot skiff with trapeze wings spanning 90-feet from side to side? To be held somewhere in the northern hemisphere in just less than a year.
Plainly the proposal is ludicrous, but in so doing the GGYC has highlighted just how ludicrous some elements of the original Protocol document are. Take, for example, the fact that the Defender has granted itself the right to compete in every stage of the Challenger series, with the exception of the finals. Oh right, OK, so with the one-boat rule that is being mooted, that would mean the challengers’ boats are committed to three months of hard racing, with no opportunity for testing or development. Meanwhile the Defender is free to compete for a few races, assess relative speed against the challengers, then withdraw for a spot of chainsaw surgery and then enter a later stage of the Challenger series a couple of weeks further down the line. Rinse and repeat until boat is faster. How very convenient.
The Club Nautico Espanol de Vela was quick to issue a rebuttal to the GGYC’s shot across their bow, protesting the validity of the original challenge, and assuring everyone that the Protocol guarantees a fair fight for one and all. With thanks to James Boyd’s translation of the original Spanish text on The Daily Sail: “We want to emphasise that the spirit which has presided over the negotiations with the Defender on the part of the CNEV has been one to create a transparent competition that is right and equitable for all the participants and for which joint instruments of management have been created which we hope contribute to a greater agility and effectiveness in the development of the next event.”
Phew, that’s a relief. Back to your beds and rest easy. The Spanish have got it under control. “Thanks for your concern, GGYC, but we’ll take it from here.”
Thursday, 5 July 2007
So, the rumour was true! New boats after all: 90 feet long, lifting keels to get in and out of harbour, 20-ish crew, designed to a box rule and possibly limited to one boat per team.
Plenty more was said, but few facts came out of today’s announcement. It will be in Europe, possibly but not necessarily in
At the Challenger of Record press conference at the Desafio Espanol base, one journalist asked the Challenger’s representative lawyer if he had signed a blank piece of paper. His response: “I’m a prestigious lawyer. I’m nobody’s puppet!” Methinks he doth protest too much!
Anyway, more of the Protocol another time. On to the boats, although even here the details are sketchy. Brad Butterworth gave his reasons for a new class in the Cup. “Everybody seems to want a new boat that is bigger, more exciting, difficult to sail, and faster, which is the emphasis behind it. So now we have to come up with a rule for it, and that will need a bit of hard work.
“I think that the timing of the event has got to meet those requirements, so the rule can come out with enough time and everybody can start designing and getting their tools, and designing and building the boat. It will probably take about 20,000 man hours to build a ninety-footer - it all takes it’s time. That is why the window of when the event is has to be a bit flexible, from the sailing point of view.”
Brad said he had enjoyed the ACC boats, but that it was time to move on to “something more exciting. These boats have been fantastic but I think they have got to the end of their life and people are looking for something that is a little bit bigger, a bit more difficult and more exciting. The guys and designers feel they have had their run with these boats and the class rule and they are looking for something else to stimulate them and part of that is to go with a new boat.”
However, he ruled out the possibility of a canting keel, opting instead for a lifting keel. “The canting keel is a difficult option. We can do it a little bit better with this sliding concept; it is not better, just different. In the end the boats will be bigger, faster, and harder to sail – 90 footers that won’t have hydraulic, electric run winches. The guys will have to be athletic [he said with a grin that betrayed just a hint of self-mockery]. They will be tough boats to sail. We haven’t written the class rule yet; it will be put together and published over the next couple of months.”
The perception is that a new class plays into the hands of the richer teams. Just as Brad is fond of saying: “The
“I think the rule will be reasonably tight, like a box rule, but obviously this rule is pretty complicated. It would be nice to open it up a little bit more. It will be encouraged to come up with new innovative ideas. This is a design contest - a technology race. I think that’s the way the Cup has always been, and we are going to keep it that way.”
Wednesday, 4 July 2007
Most people are betting on Valencia 2009, but there’s another rumour in circulation that Alinghi have gone for a change of boats, that the next one might be contested in 100-footers. Speaking to Brad Butterworth today, he was certainly in favour of a change. He reckons that the predominantly light Mediterranean conditions call for something more powerful and dynamic.
Having said that, there has been no better advertisement for the ACC class than what we’ve seen over the past week. Would faster boats have produced such compelling match racing? It’s hard to imagine, so much as I’ve been an advocate of faster boats in the past, I have to admit I’ve been swayed by the appeal of slower boats.
Nothing in the Louis Vuitton Cup convinced me of the merit of these Version 5 boats in producing close racing on a consistent basis, but once we saw two evenly matched teams in The Match, these boats finally lived up to their promise of producing close contests.
However, if Brad thinks faster would be better (and by the way so does his best mate Russell), then that’s good enough for me. I will be amazed if we get a change of boats for the 33rd, though. I think the stronger imperative right now is to have a fast follow-up to the Cup just gone, and that Valencia 2009 is the bigger priority.
A two-year timeline with the added expense and complication of a new class seems highly unlikely. And would be rather irksome for the Germans who are already well into construction of GER 101!
Tuesday, 3 July 2007
“For us it was coming out alive or dead, and we came out of it alive with our leather shorts and our edelweiss, cuckoo clocks and chocolate factories. I think what Alinghi is a lot of what Switzerland is: a country in the middle of Europe which has had to survive; has had to deal with with its bigger neighbours; has had to be open to different cultures; three different cultures; welcomes foreigners who have contributed to the country and to its culture; a country that looks forward, to its technology, doesn’t have great natural resources, has to be inventive.
“I think the culture of Alinghi is a little like that. An open culture, friendly culture, very welcoming, bigger through diversity, and we certainly enjoy being able to meet and compete against people from different backgrounds and we would never lock anyone out of this competition. I never thought when we started, that we would be locked out of it. When I said that we were fighting for our survival, I didn’t know how right I was, and here we are. Alive and kicking. And I’m looking forward to continue.”
So, no love lost for the Kiwis there, then. In a half hour’s press conference, there was no praise for the losing team forthcoming from Alinghi’s representatives on stage - until TV journo Digby Fox prompted Ed Baird to give his appraisal of the Kiwi team. When Ed picked up his microphone, he looked like he’d been handed the poisoned chalice. “Well… I was going to pass that on to Brad because he has a lot more history there. I was part of the team in ‘95 when Brad was there as well. It’s been amazing to watch the team grow and develop.
“Certainly the team that’s now is substantially changed from that original group, but they’re showing great strength and prowess on the race course. They developed good skills in every area to a very high level, and we’re really proud to finish in front of them at this regatta. I’d like to congratulate them for really doing a great job. It’s not an easy event, there’s a lot of stress involved. At any moment disaster can strike. I think we’ve had two great competitors out there all week.”
So, some credit - after all - to the Kiwis. Because we didn’t get a chance to speak to ETNZ today, the media had to fall back on press releases and TV interviews for the Kiwi viewpoint. Here’s Grant Dalton. “All credit to Alinghi. They kept it close when we got past them on the first run they just kept on sailing the way they do and beat us fair and square in the end. I don’t think the margin today really matters. They still won it.” Magnanimous to the end, although whether he’s saying the same about Alinghi behind closed doors is another matter.
Here’s Terry Hutchinson’s review of his own team and the winners. “An unbelievable team effort. Dalts did a spectacular job. It was nice to be involved with a team that has the amount of character and heart that our team has. Deano did good work. It was good to be a part of a team that was defeated in the manner that they were to come and fight like we did. And it’s nice to be included in that and have some of the influence in that, and partake in the whole thing.
“Every now and then you need a couple of breaks to go our way, and in the last couple of races not one really ever went our way, which is a sign of the fact that Alinghi were doing a good job and going well. You can’t say enough about the calibre of that team. Hats off to them.”
Although there were many key moments in the most epic race in
“The one that will haunt me until at least the next
Brad Butterworth saw an opportunity and grabbed it, just as he had done in Race 6. “TNZ did a great job of pushing down [on the run]. Then they chose again to take the right-hand mark looking down. We did a nice job of delaying our choice until the end. It’s a big deal going round the right-hand mark, having to come round and tack without starboard rights.”
When ETNZ engaged Alinghi in a tacking duel, they were more than a boatlength ahead. At every engagement, however, the Swiss were tacking better and gaining a few metres. Eventually
Or would they? With gear failure on Alinghi’s spinnaker pole combined with a sudden windshift and drop in pressure, ETNZ nearly achieved the impossible, sweeping past Alinghi and completing their penalty oh so close to the finish line. Alinghi limped past to leeward, no one knew who’d won until the blue flag went aloft on the committee boat. It was Alinghi. By 1 second.
The 5-2 score does no justice to how tight this contest was throughout. As Grant Simmer said after Race 6, this
Sunday, 1 July 2007
Of course, winning three races on the trot is not insurmountable for ETNZ. Alinghi’s design coordinator Grant Simmer was part of the Australia II team which bounced back from 3-1 down to win the 1983 Cup, as Matt Mason reminded his team mates after yesterday’s morale-sapping loss. Ironically Simmer is one of those trying to prevent history repeating itself.
When asked whether he was surprised about how close NZL 92 and SUI 100 (pictured above in Race 5) were in performance, Simmer answered: “Obviously you always hope for a strong speed advantage. We’re quite happy with the performance of 100, but we weren’t so brash as to believe that boatspeed would win this event.
“The whole way since the last Cup while we’ve been racing the Acts, the teams have been learning together, learning and feeding off each other. That was always going to a lead to a contest that would be very close.”
Whatever Alinghi might say, I think the Defender has found it a bit of shock to find SUI 100 so evenly matched, but Simmer made the point that even a tiny edge could be the difference in this Cup. “This now is a contest of metres, metres to get you in a position where you can get a strong lee bow, or metres where you can get just across the other boat. It’s so close now, where every couple of metres you can gain up the race course is going to be significant.”
That’s what we saw in Race 6 when, even though the lead change took place on the second windward leg, it was SUI 100’s slight downwind speed edge that put Alinghi in position to secure the win.