A Cup Half Empty

24 Jun

The 34th America’s Cup went down in history as possibly the most exciting match race series ever at this level; it was the best possible advertisement for multihull sailing, showcasing its speed, grace and technical sophistication as never before.
Perhaps, like me, you thought a whole new chapter of Cup racing would follow on, a reprise of that stirring epic with big foiling cats as the stars and the iconic expanse of San Francisco Bay as the stage upon which another great sailing drama would be played out. But of course, this is the Cup, so nothing plays out according to logic or even expectation.
Instead of the perfect amphitheatre of San Francisco Bay we will have Bermuda, a delightful enough place, but a pocket handkerchief of a venue compared to its predecessor, and instead of the AC62s that were the designated successors to the mighty 72-footers, we will have a virtual one-design class of 48ft foiling cats in the interests of keeping costs down.
That’s all very well, but since when has the Cup been about cost control? And a one-design Cup boat? Ho-hum, boring. The Cup is all about the razor-sharp, bleeding edge of sailing tech, never mind who can afford to play. Teams will be able to fiddle with the foil shapes and tinker with some of the wing controls on the AC48, but there’s just no way we’ll see the kind of innovation that had the big boats flying last time around.
For those you who were wondering how Russell Coutts & Co could mess up the Cup even more than they have already, look no further. And if you want a peek at the shape of the next Cup, check out some of the online videos of the good old AC45s (shown above), which have now been converted to foiling. The new boats won’t be substantially bigger.
Dismay with the way Oracle Team USA is treating the Cup has become widespread: none has expressed the prevailing sentiment more eloquently than Bruno Troublé, who ran the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger’s series for over two decades. OTUSA, says Troublé, “managed to kill the style and elegance which prevailed for decades… they have betrayed the long saga of incredible personalities who made the Cup so special…”
“What we have now,” says Troublé, “is a vulgar beach event smelling of sunscreen and french fries. This is definitely not the Cup.”
In their haste to ditch the Flintstones in favor of the Facebookers, Coutts and his paymaster Larry Ellison did a fine thing in bringing Cup racing within reach of the public, but at the same time they managed to systematically dismantle the event’s mystique. If one-design racing is the future, that mystique will be gone for good.  Q


  1. Jim Wass

    When NZ was thoroughly trounced, embarrassed, and outsailed, by Dennis Conner & crew on “Stars and Stripes” they dug deep into the “America’s Cup” rules. They found that they had the right to a rematch in any kind of they wanted. So they abandoned the 12 meter formula. They came to San Diego with a very fast monohull. DC countered with a catamaran. Personally I didn’t like it at all. That change was hard to take. BUT now the rule is bring the fastest damn boat you can and let’s see has the best team. From designers and sailors to the very lowliest person picon the team. And the result is we are now watching the fastest sailing vessels ever built. And the norm has become what will they come up with next! And I love it! “FAST IS FUN”, said a west coast ULDB designer a few years back. Little did he or any of us know what FAST really meant. And I can’t wait to see what’s next! Let these people show us what the can do and sailing vessels will only get better. AND just like motor racing has lead to new innovation that have benefited us all, so will this.
    OK…I’m done…stepping off soapbox now.
    Sail fast, sail a lot, sail far, sail fun. Be safe!
    Whatever floats yer boat (dumb pun intended)!

  2. Chris Peterson

    The only reason this Cup seems disappointing is because the last one was so incredible. Say what you will about OTUSA – the sport has since been elevated far beyond previous Cups. We will never go back to watching grass grow (sorry, experiencing “mystique”). OTUSA put the Cup on a very brave path that will have some twists and turns. Having said that, I regret we may never see the AC72’s again. Being here in SF, it was incredible. Pulled my kids out of school so they could see the last two races. Teachers asked “is everything ok?”. Everything was unbelievable.

  3. Steven Mclaughlin

    Seeing the AC 45s race is exciting and is the best thing for sailing. Competition is what any sailor seeks and to keep the cost down on the Americas Cup venue will spur the competition for the best of the best without cost interfering for those that would like to compete.

  4. Donan Raven

    Mr. Troublé may indeed have dissed the new America’s Cup, and the result of OTUSA’ actions may be perceived as a true divide & conquer strategy regarding disclosed challengers, but there is a difference between some of the statements in this article and reality.
    The one-design requirement applies to only some of the components already available off the shelf, and they would need to be procured off the shelf as-is. While this is a departure from the previous possibility of innovation in any aspect of yacht design, this may, for the duration of a cup cycle, allow more teams to join. This may have led to the withdrawal of one team, but more teams were in agreement, and hopefully another team will confirm its challenge in Paris tomorrow.
    And while I doubt that Mr. Troublé’s words, if true, had any truth in them, they certainly did not prevent Louis Vuitton to sign a new partnership with the defender to sponsor the selection series and the regatta itself.

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