The future of the America's Cup according to the new Defender
Less than 24 hours after winning the 33rd America's Cup in Valencia, BMW Oracle held a press conference to talk about the sailing and technical aspects of the winning campaign but, more importantly, shed more light on the future of the world's oldest sports trophy. Still, the bottom line from the press conference is that there is nothing decided yet, according to Russell Coutts, just sketchy outlines of BMW Oracle's intentions. The message Coutts wanted to convey was that they will try to take the lessons from past editions, avoid repeating the same errors and have an "open dialog with all participants". It is important to move forward quite quickly but without rushing into a decision.
Independent management of all the on-the-water aspects of the regatta is the cornerstone of BMW Oracle's philosophy as the new Defender, according to Russell Coutts. All race officials, umpires, measurers and jury members will be completely independent from the defender, although it is not clear yet what form this independent body will have. Coutts stated various times throughout the conference that his team's aim is to make the edition that starts today a better event than the previous ones, where all competitors will have fair and equal rules.
Challenger of Record
There was no surprise on the issue of the Challenger of Record for the 34th America's Cup. As we reported yesterday, it is the Club Nautico Roma, represented by Vicenzo Onorato's Mascalzone Latino. In fact, both Onorato and his legal counsel, Alessandra Pandarese, didn't try to hide at all on Sunday, both being onboard Larry Ellison's Rising Sun, wearing full BMW Oracle gear. In addition, Onorato unofficially confirmed the news to the Italian media and when asked, Ellison commented that Onorato was not "untruthful". According to Coutts, Mascalzone Latino hasn't sigend any Protocol with BMW Oracle but simply presented its notice of challenge together with a document containing a few outlines of basic points, such as the independent management of all the on-the-water issues.
Venue - Dates of the 34th America's Cup
Coutts couldn't be any vaguer on the issue of the 34th America's Cup venue. As he pointed out, there has been "no work, zero work" on that matter. All is open and all possible venues could be taken into consideration. It could very well be Valencia, just as it could be any other location, such as Cascais, Newport, San Diego or San Francisco.
Nevertheless, the kiwi CEO of BMW Oracle didn't sound very warm when discussing the American locations, citing the possible lack of available space in order to build the necessary infrastructure to could hold a number of team bases, similar to what existed in Auckland in 2003 or currently in Valencia. Another important factor to be taken into consideration, according to Coutts, is the breeze that prevails in the venue. Freemantle was spectacular and a city with light winds could be "devastating" for spectators, the teams and, of course, television.
As far as the dates of the 34th America's Cup are concerned we didn't leave the press conference any wiser. According to Coutts, this hasn't been discussed yet and, again, the Defender will try to reach a consensus with the challengers.
The sailing team that brought the America's Cup back to the US. Valencia, 15 February 2010. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Challenger Selection Series - Defender Elimination Process
Regarding the Challenger Selection Series (CSS), Coutts couldn't have been clearer. Firstly, he confirmed that the CSS will be completely independent from the America's Cup match. Secondly, he "fundamentally" disagrees with the notion of the defender taking part in it, let alone score points. He thinks that the concept was wrong in the initial protocol Alinghi had presented for the 33rd America's Cup. The Defender can't influence the outcome of the challenger matches without taking any risk according to Coutts. He personally prefers the old concept, where the Challenger and the Defender met for the very first time during the America's Cup match. This is what took place last week in Valencia, when nobody had no idea how USA and Alinghi 5 would compare. Only after the first 10-15 minutes of the first race did it become clear what boat was faster.
Similar to all key points of this edition of the event, there is no clear format yet. BMW Oracle will talk with all interested parties, including the World Sailing Teams Association, in order to find a format that best suits the majority of teams.
Coutts also surprised us when he entertained the idea of more than one defender. He stated that he wouldn't have any problem about having a US Defender elimination process. This wouldn't, obviously, be a novelty and if a couple of US yacht clubs are interested, they could compete with BMW Oracle in order to select the yacht club that will defend the Cup.
Yacht for the 34th America's Cup
Again here, nothing has been agreed yet and according to Coutts, an open process with the feedback of all top sailors will begin in order to decide what the new yachts will look like. It also seems that all options are on the table after Coutts stated that although 2-3 months ago he was adamantly contrary to the idea of having multihulls, the spectacular showdown between USA and Alinghi 5 means he doesn't rule out the possibility.
An important issue under discussion will also be the number of boats each team will be allowed to build. Coutts is not an advocate of the one-boat-per-team rule. In his view, the alleged cost reduction stemming from limiting the number of boats to one is not as important as Alinghi claimed. In his view, it's not the fact of having two boats that bloats costs but the endless hours of two-boat testing and an easy way to reduce it would be by imposing training blackouts. According to Coutts, in any major America's Cup campaign, personnel expenses are the biggest cost, representing 65% of the total budget.
For the Defender having two boats would allow them to train, given the fact they wouldn't have access to the races among the challengers. One way to circumvent this would be by having other defenders, if finally the one-boat option is chosen. Nevertheless, all teams, whether defenders or challengers will have the same number of boats, whether it's one or two.
According to Coutts, the buck stops with Larry Ellison and the final decision on the legal proceedings are taken by him. For Coutts, the recent legal actions were taken in order to guarantee a fair set of rules for the match. This having being achieved and the match won, Coutts thinks the lawsuits should be dropped and he would advise Ellison to do so if asked.