It is exactly one week ago that Russell Coutts, during a presentation in his team's base in Valencia, argued that a change in the America's Cup was necessary since his target audience would now be the "Facebook generation" and not the "Flintstones generation" as it has been the rule in the previous editions. Since the Facebook generation, according to Coutts' argumentation, wants cool and fast boats, the only way to achieve this is with multihulls.
Although I personally disagree with the choice of boat, arguing about that is meaningless. This is the America's Cup and the Defender will always take the decisions that minimize the risks of defeat. Given the liberty to set the rules of the game, nobody would be naive enough to give up any advantage they might have. Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts have decided that the best option is for the next edition of the Cup to be sailed on 72-foot wingsail catamarans, so we have to live with that and move on.
Facebook generation or "old guys in blue blazers" for the Frank Sinatra generation? Valencia, 13 September 2010. Photo copyright Gilles Martin-Raget / America's Cup
Yet, in the presentation there was a discrepancy, in my opinion, between the message and the way it was conveyed. If the target audience was indeed the Facebook generation why have a show where the old-age stereotypes about sailing are perpetuated once again? With all respect to the commodores of the two yacht clubs, does anyone think that a dull presentation with white-haired old people wearing blue blazers was the right approach? It seemed as if the target wasn't the Facebook generation but rather the Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin generations. One wouldn't expect to have Justin Bieber sing before Coutts made his speech but why not bring a young sailor to make the pitch, especially concerning the Youth America's Cup?
Adam Minoprio is still the world's number one match racer but having now crossed over to the "dark side" by joining Emirates Team NZ, I understand he wouldn't be very welcome in the BMW Oracle base. Still, there are several young, aggressive and successful sailors. Take Torvar Mirsky, Keith Swinton or Phil Roberston. Why not give the stage to them to talk about how "cool" the new boats are and how exciting the Youth America's Cup will be. In fact, I think it's one of the best concepts we heard in the presentation last week and I was surprised how nobody had thought about it in the past. It appears it was an original idea of Tom Ehman, surprisingly another member of the blue-blazer-wearing crowd.
I hope it was just teething problems of the new America's Cup organization and it will be fixed in the near future. They might want to have a look at this video to check what kind of sports the Facebook and YouTube generation is practicing. That's definitely "cool stuff"!