HISTORY LESSON: A near-identical reflection of the J Class era

Published on April 10th, 2013

By Andrew Hurst, Seahorse
So on the basis of the best current information the 34th America’s Cup this autumn is shaping up as being not dissimilar to the 2010 Deed of Gift Match. The result of one brief two-day trial between Oracle and Artemis was confirmation that we can expect dramatic speed differences on San Francisco Bay to decide the result this summer. Just as in 2010 in Valencia.

Poor Luna Rossa are in the grim position of already knowing that their single AC72 is definitely slower than Emirates Team New Zealand’s second boat (drastic changes planned to the Italian challenger will improve the situation but are unlikely to change the outcome).

Sweden’s Artemis also have a bit on. They are currently switching their entire design and build programme from foil-assisted displacement sailing to a foiling configuration ­ a giant undertaking which will be well executed but stacks the odds against the talented group of sailors assembled by team owner Torbjorn Tornqvist.

Fast-forward and Sir Russell Coutts may claim that he does not expect to be racing his former Cup team ETNZ in the America’s Cup this summer but he is struggling to raise much of a backing chorus from among those in the know.

This will still be a fascinating few months however. Although Emirates have been making the running thus far, it is clear that the Larry Ellison show is back on the road and still has time on its side. While the three wannabe Cup challengers knock six bells out of each other in the mid-summer heavy airs of the Louis Vuitton Cup, Oracle Racing will be carefully studying the long range forecast for September’s lighter winds and quietly refining their second boat to suit, a luxury not afforded their eventual challenger.

It is entirely possible we will see two quite different design interpretations line up for the first Cup race on 7 September. There also remains scope for Emirates to attempt a ‘Stars & Stripes’ assault, hoping that a boat designed for the Match proves (just) fast enough to survive the Louis Vuitton Cup. Just as Dennis Conner so brilliantly pulled off in Fremantle back in 1987, with his powerful, high prismatic 12 Metre coming achingly close to elimination before going on to wipe the floor with Iain Murray’s Kookaburra in the Cup.

The Oracle squad need take no such risks. In fact it is notable that since relaunching USA 17, Jimmy Spithill’s crew have been sailing in generally lighter conditions than have Grant Dalton’s determined boys down in Auckland. Coincidence or deliberate planning. I’d take the latter any day.

So three billionaires and some well-backed, hungry Kiwis will fight it out this summer. The 34th America’s Cup, talked up so much as promising a broader, more egalitarian contest than ever before, has ended up a near-identical reflection of the great and utterly elitist J Class America’s Cup matches of the 1930s.

And meanwhile, much-maligned two-time Cup winner Ernesto Bertarelli, who orchestrated the most successful America’s Cup of all time in Valencia in 2007, is hopefully at home in his Swiss lair thoroughly enjoying the irony.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to our good friend Andrew Hurst for sharing his editorial from the May 2013 edition of Seahorse. Details on how to subscribe here: http://www.seahorse.co.uk/shop/index.php

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