Wages of Success
Wages of Stress
The radically-ambitious attempt to reinvent the world of America’s Cup sailing in a single event cycle is all-on.
With adjustments announced rather early PDT on June 1.
(A considerably less-dramatic announcement than many “Amendment 8” conjecturalists had conjectured.)
In these adjustments I find nothing explosive, nothing that says we’re not going to get to that reinvented America’s Cup. I find instead a number of mods that address the obvious fact that sponsorship money is not howling down, begging to be burned. Louis Vuitton (welcome back, LVC) remains the only major partner of the event, and that in its traditional-since-1983 role as sponsor of the challenger eliminations series. It was already known that we’ve lost the original Challenger of Record, the Yacht Club of Rome. Its replacement, the Royal Yacht Club of Sweden, is presently being challenged for the post by Emirates Team New Zealand, aka a representative of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. These are the Big Three and may remain so even when results are posted.
So money is coming hard. The amounts needed are large. They are amounts that 2010 winner Larry Ellison could fund personally, but that would defeat a key component of the goalto make America’s Cup racing not only the signature event of yacht racing, as it so long has been, but a self-sustaining professional sports event that is marketable and comprehensible and compelling.
A big bite to chew, especially in these times.
And it is a new paradigm. In the original, 19th century days of America’s Cup competition, a “yachtsman” probably did not go aboard his yacht in a race, and if he did (’twas always a “he”) the gentleman was aboard as a passenger. Jumping to the 1930s, we find the likes of Mike Vanderbilt steering his own J-Class yachts, with his wife along as navigator and timekeeper (truly an era of grand sport, while most of the world ate beans, if they were “lucky”) and heaving on the lines was a huge crew of paid hands who would never be invited home to dinner on Bellevue Avenue. With the eventual post-war revival, we entered the Cup’s all-amateur period, when a 12-Meter’s backers would enlist the best sailors in their social circle, and somebody’s son just out of Yale or Stanford would run the bow. In 1980, when Dennis Conner came along with his first signature DC campaign and a two-boat, two-crew, year-long program and no bias against sponsorship, that was a glimmer of what is now full-on professional sailing.
Full-on professional sailing now looking for a home and a meal.
Full-on professional sailing that was looking ready to soar as the 2007 America’s Cup came to an end in Valencia, before the Defender’s unfortunate attempt to crown himself Emperor of America’s Cup Yachting led us into the wilderness of litigation and that bizarre encounter between the big tri and the big cat.
So the key change makes sense. Instead of switching to the full-boat AC72s for World Series racing in San Francisco Bay in the second half of 2012, the tour that begins in August in Cascais, Portugal will stick with the “trainer boats,” the AC 45s, until the Cup year of 2013.
All World Series races will use the one-design AC45s, and the real-deal, make-or-break AC72s will debut in the Louis Vuitton Cup: Race One, July 13, 2013, on the San Francisco cityfront. The winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup, per tradition, becomes the Challenger that gets to race the Defender for the America’s Cup.
This change gives some breathing room to teams that don’t have a billionaire in the pocket. They get more time to work up the design of a custom, wing-powered, 72-foot catamaran and more time to beat the bushes for sponsorship dollars. It also adds drama, as in the old days of the Cup, when you didn’t see the new boats on-pace until they entered the Trials.
It’s one thing to sit down with a clean sheet of paper and sketch out how you want to change the world.
And then . . .
It’s a 2011 economy. At least the one-design, simpler-than-the-AC72’s, 45-footers are a thumbs-up success. Iain Murray, seven-time champion in the 18-foot skiff class, unsuccessful defender of the Cup for Australia in 1987, successful yacht builder, designer, and waterfront developer in Sydney, Australia, now CEO of America’s Cup Race Management, had this to say: “The AC45s are ticking off all the boxes for a great event package. The sailors have found these cats to be fast and fun to race. They are challenging, they are exciting, and when the best sailors in the world get their hands on them, they produce close, tight racing. After we put the AC45 through its paces in New Zealand, we knew we had the right boat for the next era of America’s Cup sailing. By making the AC45 the boat of the AC World Series, logistics and overhead can be dramatically reduced at the outset of the 34th America’s Cup cycle. This is a great benefit for all of our teams, providing them with more time in the commercial marketplace and less of a cash investment up front.”
The other points, via the wonders of cut-and-paste:
The race format and scoring for the 2011 AC World Series have also been released. The format will include a combination of Fleet and Match Racing with winners for each as well as an overall winner that will be determined on the final Sunday of the regatta. The AC World Series starts August 6, 2011 in Cascais, Portugal.
Other updates agreed by the Competitors today include:
+ Teams to launch AC72s starting July 1, 2012 (there is a limited exception to launch and sail earlier for any proven pre-existing contractual obligations)
+ Teams have the same limited number of testing days in the AC72s in advance of racing
+ The first Performance Bond for the AC World Series is eliminated and replaced with an Entry Fee ($100,000 USD)
+ Updated late entry procedure – Teams can enter late at discretion of the Defender
+ Competitors must sign an AC45 purchase contract with a 50 percent non-refundable deposit paid by June 10
+ Teams will consolidate their websites into www.americascup.com by July 1, 2011.
A press conference will be held in San Francisco on June 15 to introduce the teams and discuss the updated program for the 34th America’s Cup.
There Is Also This
I cannot recall an America’s Cup absent the relentless scribe from the UK, Stuart Alexander. Any chronicle of my moment is not complete without including this missive from Stuart’s home paper dated Monday, Memorial Day in the USA. I resist adding any editorial of my own. I place this here because