Well I was very excited for the America's cup. I love the idea behind the AC72's and they are really a beautiful and fast sailing ship. I was really looking forward to seeing them race on Sunday....then on Tuesday ....now I still am. Trouble is there is drama behind the scenes that has made for some pretty lonely one boat racing. It's kind of like watching a sword fighter battle the air or a dancer do the salsa with out a partner.
For those that don't know the story I'll try to sum it up best I can. Keep in mind I only started following the Americas Cup a month or ago so I am may not be totally current with history or terminology. The trouble started when the Regatta Director Iain Murray announced some new safety rules a week before the race. These included things like last minute adjustments to foils heavier boats and deeper rudders for better control. Sounds all well and good except that Luna Rasa and New Zealand protested the changes and now Luna Rasa is waiting for an international jury to decide whether it's fair or not before they race. This lead to more finger pointing and drama leaving New Zealand to race alone.
At first I wanted to sympathize with the protest since changing major aspects of the ship a week before the race is pretty screwed up. Looking further into it though I understand the need for the rule change. The AC72 is a 7 ton ship that regularly sails faster than 40 knots, or close to 50 mph for us land lubbers. With the increase of speed and size also comes a decrease in control. Since the ships use a hydro foil and raise up on their rudders the surface area of the rudder becomes even less which of coarse means less control. This had lead to the two of the ships flipping over and even the tragic loss of Artemis Teams crew member Andrew Simpson on May 9th. So between May 9th and the start of the races in July they have been investigating the causes and finding ways to prevent them. They came up with 37 new safety rules and implemented the a week before the race. Could this have been done sooner? Or could they have talked more with the teams before announcing new rules all of the sudden? Welll....who knows I'm just a couch potato captain waiting to see a good race.
I will point out though that this is nothing new to the Americas Cup. There have been times when they have spent more times in court rooms arguing than they spent on the water actually racing. It sounds ridiculous but you have to keep in mind what the Americas Cup races actually mean. It's not like the Olympics where they are trying to find the best sailing team. Or like drag races trying to find the fastest car. The Americas Cup is all about winning and holding onto the Americas Cup. This is why the New York Yacht Club held onto it for 132 years. He who holds the cup sets the rules. In this case Oracle Team USA.
Really the mess the Americas Cup is in falls on Oracle. I think they reached a bit far on deciding to use the AC72's. The cost of the ships has forced the majority of the teams to drop out leaving only four. Had we more teams in the race we may have actually seen a race by now. It's obvious that the AC72 is cutting edge sailing technology but I think it needs more testing and adjusting to gain the mix of control and speed it's really capable of. The races this year would have fared better if they would have added foiling technology to the AC45 and ran with that. At the very least I think we'd have more teams in the race.
Of coarse what does this couch potato captain know. Can you really blame Oracle for pushing for the fastest craziest ship they could? It took 132 years to loose the cup from New York it could very well do the same some where else. So when you get a chance to set the rules why not run with it? Except that the America's cup has become more than a bunch of rich guys racing overly expensive yachts. It's become a money maker. The reason they switched from the mono hull yachts to the multi hull catamarans was to bring the race closer to shore and which allows for spectators to watch the race. With spectators comes money. Team apparel sales, ticket sales, concert sales. As a business the Americas Cup can do very well. Unless you can't get the race started with more then one boat.
I read an article recently where Louis Vuitton is asking the Americas Cup for a refund of 3 million dollars. I guess the fiasco has left the sales of their 11,000 dollar America's Cup watches as low as the fans disappointment. On the bright side if this keeps up maybe I can afford one. I really wanted to like the Americas Cup. Last year was so incredible. The AC72s are really incredible. Putting the two together would be spectacular. I guess I'll just have to wait and see. We're only a few days in. There's time to turn this around and still have some incredible racing. Mean while enjoy a piece of last years racing. If you haven't seen it already it's a ton of fun to watch.