Monday, February 15, 2010

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

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.

Legal issues

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.

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At 11:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many positive indications when compared to how the 33rd CNEV ACP was rolled out.

At 12:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Estos tienen mas peligro que un mono con dos pistolas.
De entrada ya han engañado a Mascalzone. Vease la cara de VO en la foto de la firma.

At 12:23 AM, Blogger Manu244 said...

Congrats to the entire BMW Oracle team on their victory. I hope that possessing the CUP will not corrupt BMW Oracle as it has to some extent with every Yacht Club and syndicate that has possessed it in years past. It seems that everyone has eventually tried to "un-level" the playing field and slant the rules in their favor. Please keep your word and put together a fair and equal competition for ALL!!!!!!Sail On!!!!!

At 1:32 AM, Anonymous Carmen San Carlos said...

No rush.... lets take our time and go back to sailing...Congratulations to BMW!

At 6:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How vague this concept. Disappointing. Anything goes. Who believes that the sponsoring money badly needed by most interested syndicates would pour without knowing when and where? And which syndicate cas seriously start to think about a participation without having the faintest idea how much it costs? Discuss everything is nice, but find an agreement is another thing. And don't forget, there are the Olympic 2012 in London.

At 6:06 AM, Blogger Mark said...

If you have never competed in a regatta with the principles of BOR you do not have insight enough to voice an opinion thats worth the weight of the water that floats a boat. (As we have just learned) Not wort the density of water that that lifts sailing craft like USA 17.

I challenge all of you anonymous-es to provide specific instances that disputes this statement:

"The sailors of BOR are the best example fair and honorable sailors racing today".

Be quiet and learn, schools in session.

Thanks Mr.E

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous JamieF said...

Hi Mark,

well said. I am 100% with you on this one.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger sailboatracer said...

Ref possible defender selection series. The next defender for the 34th cup will always be GGYC. If there is a defender selection series then GGYC could be represented by a team from a different yacht club if BOR get beaten in the defender series. If this happens it would be easy to give the syndicate head membership of GGYC if this is a requirement from GGYC.

At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, extremly high budgets, a lot of lawyers and much o human disgrace have made it possible to BOR to get the title.
Don't trust you at all that things will be fair in future, even more when you ar the defenders.
Americans just achieve things with huge pressure, let's see if they really can be sportsmen.

At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In reply to Mark, I think all the sailors on both teams might qualify as the best example fair and honorable sailors racing today.

Notwithstanding, half of them were hired to sail a boat with a sail and the other half were hired to fly a boat with a wing.

At 4:21 PM, Blogger WetHog said...

@11:30 AM

Well EB and his friends on the RC boat for Race #2 set the bar pretty low when it comes to being a "sportsman". The guys on BMWO shouldn't have that much trouble rising above the low point EB now finds himself.

Win on the water? Only if the waves are a meter or below, and if not, my buddies on the Race Committee boat will strike in protest.

At 6:23 PM, Anonymous Salenas Dad said...

The custodian of the Americas Cup is now the GGYC. As I understand it they are the ones responisble for organising the defence of the cup.

If there is to be a challenger series only members/snydicates from GGYC can compete for the honor of defending the cup on behalf of the GGYC, other USA clubs are excluded, as they are from participating in the challenger series.

What do you make of that! Haho haho its off to the NYSC we go.

At 7:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How NZ official stared down Alinghi team -

"It is understood the race committee, comprising members of Alinghi's representative yacht club, the Societe Nautique de Geneve, staged a mutiny before the start of the second race to prevent it from going ahead."

At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The people who read this are really ignorant of the history of the cup. In San Diego, Freemantle and Newport there were defender series. The winner sails by default for the Defender of Record. When America 3 won the first cup in the ACC boats, it did so on behalf of Dennis Connor's San Diego Yacht Club.

EB's vision of the cup was a nightmare. Hopefully GGYC can prove a worthy steward.

At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to Salenas Dad -

The team competing in the Defender series does not have to be from GGYC. The NYYC could sponsor a defense effort, but if that effort were to win the right to defend, they would defend on behalf of GGYC. Other US-based are not excluded from the regatta just because GGYC holds the Cup. It was RNZYS that started this practice (in the modern era) of defacto defender.

At 3:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More coming out about the SNG Mutiny on the RC in this interview of HB at

Pierre can you find out more as this oould really effect SNG & Alinghi in the future?

At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@11:30 AM anon,

Both billionnaire funded teams had huge budgets and a big legal department. I don't see why it is unsportsmanlike to make use of your resources.

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear Salenas Dad said...

you seem to be unable to dircriminate between a DoG match and ACs run by MUTUAL CONSENT...

At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Salenas Dad said...

I seem to have been shot down in flames on my comments on the Defender Series.
How about my other comment, can other USA teams compete in the Challenger Series by mutual consent? If so this could lead to a Challenger and Defender from the USA for the AC.

At 4:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salenas Dad,

There were three American teams in the the 31st AC. Oracle, One World and Stars and Stipes there were also three Italian teams in the 32nd AC, Prada, Mascalzoni Latino and +39.

Both these events were by mutual consent and I would imagine that whilst there will probably need to be a limit on the absolute number of teams for the 34th countries will not be limited to one.


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