America’s Cup Scuttlebutt

Published on September 27th, 2013

Here’s some of the chatter following the completion of the 34th America’s Cup…

Challenger of Record: The plans for the next Cup remain unclear, although a person briefed on negotiations said Thursday that the next challenger of record for the Cup was set to be the Hamilton Island Yacht Club from Queensland, Australia. Sources indicate that Bob Oatley and oldest son Sandy signed the challenge on behalf of the club. No Australian team has challenged since 2000, though the challenger had two onboard and the defender had four in their 11-man team.

Numbers: The exact number of people who saw the America’s Cup in San Francisco can’t be known, but America’s Cup organizers estimated that 1 million people watched racing between Sept. 7 and Sept. 25 at the event’s two primary venues. That lags the 2 million turnout estimated in an economic impact study.

Viewership: Despite the lack of promotion on the NBC network for the America’s Cup broadcast, the final two days drew respectable numbers in that timeslot among sporting events. There were 148,000 households watching when the American defender drew even on September 24, and 196,000 households watching when the American team won the Cup on September 25.

Rumors: The chat rooms are churning about questionable technology tricks by the defender. One rumor was how the team was gathering information regarding wind shifts, tides, etc, and relaying the data to Jimmy Spithill’s watch during the races. Another rumor was the boat benefited from an automated Stability Augmentation System (SAS) that was equipped with sensors to detect and instigate corrections to maintain steady foiling. Concerning the team’s improvement, CEO Russell Coutts said that “60-to-70 percent of it was technique, and 30-to-40 percent was technology.”

Bluster: After every race when Oracle Team USA Skipper Jimmy Spithill faced reporters with New Zealand rival Dean Barker sitting beside him, he boasted on and on about the big changes the night crew was making on the boat to help it go faster. They even set up cots for catnaps. The truth? It was mostly bluster. “He was spooking him a bit, with all these changes,” Oracle’s General Manager Grant Simmer said Thursday, the day after Oracle Team USA pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in sports history against New Zealand to retain the America’s Cup. “They were much more subtle.”

Lawyering: Emirates Team New Zealand managing Grant Dalton has categorically ruled out making any legal challenge against Oracle Team USA. Dalton addressed rumours that Team NZ was planning to take Oracle to court over the automatic “Herbie” system it used to work their foils.

Irony: Kiwi taxpayers subsidised American billionaire Larry Ellison’s Oracle victory in the America’s Cup with more than $1 million in grants and tax breaks for the New Zealand-based Core Builders, the company that built most of the winning boat. The company also received generous tax breaks, paying zero income tax for three years between 2009 and 2011.

British Challenge: Ben Ainslie became the first British sailor in more than 100 years to find himself onboard the winning America’s Cup boat, and is now desperate for funding to help mount his own challenge for the 35th America’s Cup. Sir Keith Mills, the millionaire entrepreneur behind Team Origin, Britain’s last America’s Cup syndicate, and former Team Origin investor Charles Dunstone, are keen to help. “I have spoken with Charles Dunstone and we are both adamant that if the costs are viable then we will get behind Ben and deliver a British entry,” said Mills.

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