COUTTSISMS: Current Realities, Future Needs

Published on July 28th, 2013

Sir Russell Coutts, CEO of America’s Cup defender Oracle Team USA, opens up to Paul Lewis of The New Zealand Herald about the realities of the current event, and changes that are needed for the future. Here are some excerpts…

Next Cup
The basic premise for the holder will be to have more credible challengers, smaller boats, smaller budgets, smaller teams, a cup regatta more often than once every four years (maybe even annually) and a more sustainable financial model.

Financial issues
Coutts blames the economic downturn; critics say the cup budget was still too high – the accepted figure for a competitive team in this regatta is US$100 million ($124 million). The boats, he says, take only about 10 per cent of that budget; people costs, up to 60 per cent. Oracle’s team numbers about 130, including shore crew, design team, support people and administration. That would have to come down.

Kiwi power
“Team NZ and Luna Rossa are miles apart. I think it has more to do with the talents of each sailing team than anything else. I don’t want to be too critical of the Italians, but there isn’t lot positive you can say about their racing. But Team NZ would beat anyone right now. They have some really good systems on board and good sailors. They are looking pretty polished, the result of having more time on the water than anyone else. They have improved a lot in the last two months and that is what this game is all about.”

Current potential
“I always knew that, once Artemis was out, that the challenger series would be one-sided. Obviously having only three challengers is an issue. But I think people will soon see the potential of the event. It will likely come down to the handling of the boats; the starts will be very important. There’s still a lot of work to do and things to learn – things change by the week, I can tell you. Everyone is still on a big learning curve. No one has done a lot of racing in AC72s yet. The finals will be very close, much closer than everyone was predicting a year ago.”

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