What we need right now is to take some deep breaths

Published on May 14th, 2013

By Kimball Livingston, yachting journalist
The America’s Cup match of 2010 was a rescue. The direction of the Cup under Alinghi post-2007 was so sour as to convince Louis Vuitton to bail out, remember? Only a risk taker with tenacity, resources and experience in hostile takeovers – Larry Ellison – could have undertaken the mission. So I guess we’ve reached that part of the movie where Princess Leah looks to Luke Skywalker and says, “Some rescue!”

It was all so pretty, wasn’t it? Finally, Stan Honey would get financing to move the sport onto a viable television platform. At last, America’s Cup boats would represent the Loud Now and not the cutting edge of some previous decade. It would happen live for tens of thousands of eyeballs and be broadcast for any number more. We would see the fruition of Tom Blackaller’s quip, 1987, “If we ever get the America’s Cup to San Francisco Bay, we’ll show the world how good sailing can be.” And in catamarans? Blackaller would have been in clover.

And now this. I woke up this morning, and Andrew Simpson was still dead.

All the platitudes apply, just as I’ve heard them from one person or another over the past few days. He died doing what he loved. All sports have accidents, and sometimes we lose people. All true, but of no help in this place, at this time, and too mindful of Ellison as quoted by Julian Guthrie in her upcoming book, The Billionaire and the Mechanic. With his maxi, Sayonara, delaminating in heavy seas between Sydney and Hobart, Ellison declared to himself, “What a stupid way to die.”

It would have been an easy call to stay with monohulls for business as usual, after Oracle Racing and the Golden Gate Yacht Club captured the Cup. But the upward arc of business as usual (11 challengers in 2007) was interrupted by two years of courtroom headlines, and I lay the blame for that at the door of Ernesto Bertarelli, with garlands and a special fallen fig leaf cluster.

The TV people told Russell Coutts that business as usual, even amped up, would never hold their attention. So we went for the unusual, and we’ve just crossed a threshold. I’ve done some camera time in my day, but for the first time ever, NBC Bay Area set up a camera in front of my house. I did my best to say something useful, and I think I did, but who knows if that part runs (click here for video). Useful as in parsing out: The conversation about what anomaly caused Artemis to implode is completely different from the conversation about relative safety while racing AC72s.

The AC72 conversation is not complete without a reminder that the good old single-hulled boats of the previous cycle included OneAustralia, which cracked open and sank in 1995 in one of the more vivid two-minute sequences in the annals of televised sailing, and Young America, which”cracked open in the Hauraki Gulf but not below the waterline, and so it didn’t “quite” sink.

I’m nowhere near the meetings where these things are being decided, but I figure that, when everybody has had a deep breath, or several, we pick up where we left off, and we go racing. I figure that Artemis will trial its new boat, and if this one isn’t a dog, they will race, hard. – Read on



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