Your Cup, My Rorschach
Fascinating to watch the latest Rorschach test play out . . .
That is, the America’s Cup 34 decision-making process . . .
And the May 18 meeting of seventeen designers at the BMW Oracle base in Valencia, with a multihull concept presented in two sizes by Pete Melvin of Morrelli & Melvin—trimarans, not catamarans, and with soft sails—and a monohull concept presented by Bruce Nelson along with the announcement that the design rule will be written by an entity other than the Defender, BMW Oracle/Golden Gate Yacht Club, or the Challenger of Record, Mascalzone Latino/Yacht Club of Rome.
My takeaway was a commitment to the tradition of a challenger-driven event. Not everybody saw it that way.
French blogger Matthieu Trebormat interviewed one of the participants—there was, get this, no nondisclosure requirement—and couldn’t resist twisting the knife.
Following the meeting (which was scheduled to run 9-5 but broke up a few minutes early to allow the designers to tour USA 17, the big tri that won the Cup in February), Trebormat talked to Bernard Nivelt, who designed the catamaran that defended in San Diego in 1988. Nivelt said that when it comes to choosing between monohulls and multihulls, “There is no strong consensus. There are people strongly pro multihull and others strongly pro monohull.”
When Trebormat suggested, “We can imagine they [BMW Oracle] have already made their decision and they take this opportunity to get ahead on the design,” Nivelt responded, “What they say is the opposite, but you can think that.”
And the man does. Trebormat closes with the suggestion that what is happening is “a beautiful smoke screen.”
(Thanks, Sylvain Barrielle, for tipping me to Trebormat’s post.)
Also on hand in Valencia to gather first-hand comments was Valencia Sailing’s Pierre Orphanidis, who had a lengthy conversation with BOR in-house designer Manolo Ruiz Elvira, a man who once worked for Alinghi. It’s worth dropping into Valencia Sailing for the read, but for me, the standout exchanges were:
Valencia Sailing: I can’t believe that your team hasn’t been developing, or at least outlining, a new rule in 2009, or earlier, for the 34th America’s Cup. Isn’t it tempting to skew this design meetings towards something that better suits your plans?
Manolo Ruiz Elvira: That hasn’t really happened. Even going back to 2007 when I was with Alinghi, we didn’t have the time to seriously plan, other than talks over coffee, what the next class would be because we were really focused on winning that America’s Cup. This time it has been exactly the same, I would even say more intense. So, really, before winning the 33rd America’s Cup there was no chance to even think about that. After that, of course we thought and talked about that but looking at a completely open space from monohulls to multihulls and lighter and heavier ones, we didn’t have more than anecdotal or philosophical talks about what we thought would make for good races. We didn’t go any further than that. Actually if something was discussed it was about how we could make the process in a way that it isn’t even perceived we would try to gain an unfair advantage. In fact, one of the main reasons this process is taking place is to make all the other teams understand that this is the case.
Valencia Sailing: Thanks a lot Manolo for the interesting talk, but you still haven’t replied to my question on who will take the final decision in the discussion process. You diplomatically avoided answering.
Manolo Ruiz Elvira: It’s difficult to answer, in theory it would be Larry Ellison if he wanted to take it. In theory it would be a decision to be taken by Larry Ellison and Vincenzo Onorato, if they wanted to take it. Nevertheless, I don’t think this will be the case . . . The entire process will stop depending on us very shortly and in fact the idea is that nobody involved with a team is also involved in actually writing the rule. For that reason, you can consider that today’s meeting was to gather information in order to write, let’s say, a “manual” for the people that will finally write the new rule.