Why America will lose the America’s Cup for the third time in 30 years

Published on September 15th, 2013

Halsey C. Herreshoff has competed in 20 America’s Cup races in four Cup matches between 1958 and 1983. His grandfather, Captain Nathanael Greene Herreshoff, designed and built yachts that defended the America’s Cup six times between 1893 and 1920. Here Halsey comments on the mistakes of the American team in their defense of the 34th America’s Cup…

A good dictionary definition of the word lose is “to be deprived of, or cease to have, especially by negligence or misadventure.” This perfectly fits the case of the troubles of America’s Cup defender Oracle Team USA this year.

Winning can breed hubris, which can cause complacency. That is a strong reason why Americans lost the America’s Cup – signifying international pre-eminence in yacht racing – for the first time in 1983.

Now the Americans sailing Oracle Team USA risk losing it again in an ongoing battle in San Francisco Bay against the New Zealanders sailing Emirates Team New Zealand, with the deciding race possibly today.

Before the 1983 loss, 80 years of victories made America so complacent that the New York Yacht Club did not even bother to send a representative to Australia in the 1982-83 winter to learn of the winged keel breakthrough in yacht design, a fateful change that led to America’s defeat.

In 2013, hubris has again reared its ugly head. The Americans were the favorites to win the Cup this year, given their success in a multihull in their America’s Cup victory of 2010, in Valencia, Spain. The Americans held all the cards in designing this year’s amazingly bold and expensive series. (A host designs races in its favor, a strong America’s Cup tradition.)

But the Americans made some serious errors. For starters, it was a dreadful competitive mistake to have the 45-foot catamaran prototypes built in Auckland, thus handing a fantastic learning experience to New Zealanders, the expected 2013 Cup challengers, giving them special insights into the nature of these revolutionary boats.

It was another mistake for Oracle to skip competitive races leading up to the Cup. While the Louis Vuitton elimination series for the challengers became a farce this year, with only a pair of weak competitors against strong New Zealanders, the New Zealand yacht used the series to enhance its training and perfect its efficiency.

Through such racing, New Zealand learned to place its tactician, Ray Davies, behind and at the ear of skipper Dean Barker, while Oracle tacticians John Kostecki and Ben Ainslie are required to have their heads down cranking a winch, a ridiculously stupid organizational plan for the second most important brain on the boat. Testing out Oracle in races would have made this error obvious, so that it could have been corrected before Cup competition. – The Providence Journal, read on

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