America’s Cup: Updates from the Silly Season

Published on January 24th, 2014

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
The Silly Season of the America’s Cup cycle is that of dreams and fantasy. The season essentially extends from the last race of one edition to the first race of the next. The rumors outweigh the news, and the substance of stories is constantly questioned.

Aspiring challengers are just that. Until they splash a boat, many are merely a brand in search of a bank. The Defender is busy too, particularly the current one. The 34th America’s Cup saw more bait-and-switch than Obamacare. Quite often the Silly Season is more entertaining than the racing. Here are some updates:

Norbert Bajurin, commodore of the San Francisco-based Golden Gate Yacht Club and holder of the America’s Cup, said that Hawaii is one of the places under consideration as a possible location to hold the 35th America’s Cup. “I think Hawaii would be great,” said Bajurin, “with the winds you have there, and especially with the existing tourism infrastructure and airports. Prices are a little higher, but it works out.”

Higher than San Francisco? That is saying something. It is notable that Defense owner Larry Ellison holds title to 98% of Lanai and a regional airline that services the island, and that the Defense is in negotiations with San Francisco to host the event. Also notable how the Defender dangled Rhode Island as a possible venue before confirming with San Francisco for AC34.

When the Defender selected a new Australian team led by Iain Murray for the role as Challenger of Record, memories of their last selection returned. For the 34th America’s Cup, the Defender selected Mascalzone Latino to help them form the rules, with the Italian team later bowing out after determining they could not afford the game they helped design. Hopefully the Aussie team is in for the distance, though they have not locked down any notable talent, with countrymen Jimmy Spithill, Nathan Outteridge, Iain ‘Goobs’ Jensen, Glenn Ashby, and Tom Slingsby all committing elsewhere.

Artemis Racing was the least able of challengers during AC34, but they are full steam ahead for the next edition. Having a team owner reportedly worth $8 billion can do that. The team recently signed designers Michel Kermarec and Thiha “Winnie” Win, who had worked during AC34 for Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand respectively, to join their returning designers Adam May and Nico Rousselon. Artemis Racing has made no mention of their lead designer from AC34, Juan Kouyoumdjian, whose boats were plagued by structural and design issues. Interesting, Juan’s professional website makes little reference to his involvement in AC34, with no images of the AC72s he masterminded.

It has otherwise been quiet from the Defender and its organizing arms – AC Event Authority and AC Race Management. It is understand that ACEA Chief Executive Officer Stephen Barclay will not be returning, and that ACRM Principal Race Officer John Craig is on standby. Firm details regarding AC35 are expected by April.

UPDATE: Russell Coutts, the CEO of America’s Cup champion Oracle Team USA, tells The Associated Press on Jan. 25 that San Francisco officials haven’t offered the same terms as they did for last summer’s regatta, and America’s Cup officials are looking at Hawaii, San Diego and other venues as possible alternatives to San Francisco for hosting sailing’s marquee regatta in August 2017. Coutts says he’s not prepared to rule out San Francisco, adding: “They might have a change of heart. I don’t think they will, but they might.”

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