AC34: The next 40 days are going to be turmoil

Published on May 19th, 2013

As C.W. Nevius of the San Francisco Chronicle reported over the weekend, “This was the week that Larry Ellison lost control of the America’s Cup.”

While the focus of this America’s Cup was to be fast boats on short courses, we may finally be getting back to the roots of the event: challenge cup, self-interest, crass comments. Big boys with big toys, and changing the rules of a game that has already started is not for the timid.

Following their May 9 accident, Challenger of Record Artemis Racing is waiting until this week to decide if they will proceed. Without the Swedish team, the challenger series would be a continuation of the training camp held in Auckland between the Kiwis and the Italians. That’s nothing the defender wants to see.

So buckle up folks, the next 40+ days are going be turmoil. Here are some of the notes and quotes from the weekend…

* The America’s Cup Review Committee issued a recommendation to the teams on May 16 that they do not sail in San Francisco before May 23rd to allow the Committee time to make further recommendations. However, since it was not a mandate, the Luna Rossa Challenge proceeded with their training schedule and went for their first training sail on the bay on May 18.

* An excerpt from the Wall Street Journal by G. Bruce Knecht: “When I interviewed him (Larry Ellison) for my book about the deadly 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race, in which he sailed, he told me he believed the purpose of life is to engage in difficult competitions to determine how good we are. But after the Hobart Race, during which six sailors died, Mr. Ellison said there had to be limits: ‘This is not what racing is supposed to be. Difficult, yes. Dangerous, no. Life-threatening, definitely not.’ Because of the Hobart Race, Mr. Ellison gave up ocean racing and turned to inshore sailing contests such as the America’s Cup. ‘I decided to focus on a more technical and less life-threatening form of sailing,’ he told me in 2008.”

* The Luna Rossa Challenge expressed their opinions and concerns at a press conference on May 17 (watch video). This included the approval of better helmets and body armor, and the reduction of wind speeds for the challenger series to 20 knots (from 25 knots during round robin and 28 knots for finals) and the reduction for the America’s Cup Match from 33 knots to 25 knots.

* Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton is concerned rivals are using the recent tragedy involving Artemis as an opportunity to push their own agendas for the America’s Cup. “… our only hope is teams don’t try and manipulate the environment to suit their own ends with rule changes. We’ve had 50-odd days sailing in the AC72s and we believe these boats are inherently quite safe. The deal they (Luna Rossa Challenge) originally put on the table (on May 17) of 20 and 25 is now off the table and Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand are now aligned with what we think those wind speeds should be,” he said. He declined to say what those wind limits were, citing the need to respect the review committee process.

* The wind limits are defined in the event protocol, which can only be changed by a majority vote by the four teams. If an attempt to lower the wind limits by a vote fails, the U.S. Coast Guard may still require the reduction as a condition to issuing the event permit. If that occurs, either the teams will cooperate with the reduction, or… who knows?

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