America’s Cup: Is the New Plan a Better Plan?

Published on July 29th, 2015

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
Maybe it was better when the America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) didn’t mean anything.

The concept was launched in the lead up to the 2013 America’s Cup, providing teams an opportunity to train and provide sponsor fulfillment, while giving the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) a chance to develop its broadcast product and coddle television networks prior to the races in San Francisco.

But the events were merely exhibition displays, and included teams with no realistic chance at competing in the America’s Cup. Often times even the strongest teams were just going through the motions.

The debrief following the 34th America’s Cup was that the ACWS was a good idea, but it needed to mean something more than champagne showers for the winner. So changes were made for the 2015-16 circuit, and now I am wondering if ‘new and improved‘ has moved the America’s Cup further than what the public can fathom.

The new plan is for ACWS to be the first stage of the challenger series, with the final overall standings to give the top teams an advantage going into the next stage of the challenger qualifiers. So now the ACWS, which is in no way comparable to the America’s Cup, is contributing to who will race in the America’s Cup.

When the Protocol was first released, I thought it was a positive step for the ACWS to have meaning. But now, after watching the one hour highlight show from the ACWS Portsmouth event on July 25-26, I am not so sure.

Shown Tuesday on NBC Sports, sitting beside me was my 21-year old son, an unapologetic sports nut who was fascinated by the foiling boats and knowledgeable enough about the America’s Cup. But as his questions flowed, I found myself doubting the plan.

– ACWS had fleet racing instead of match racing
– ACWS had smaller boats than the America’s Cup
– ACWS allowed the defender to sail against Challengers
– ACWS is one design while the America’s Cup encourages innovation

With each question answered, I sensed his attention fade from being fascinated about the boats to being baffled about the rules. I have to admit, I was struggling to sell the concept too. After about 20 minutes, he’d had enough… a guy who’d watch anything with a scoreboard.

Lucky for me he left before I had to explain how only two days of racing were planned, and that the second day was cancelled due to high wind. How many other sports validate their games at half time?

As a gesture to those that paid the 7.99USD for AC+ app to watch the Portsmouth event, the ACEA is extending a credit to allow you to watch the next event in Gothenburg on August 29-30. Silver lining?

Maybe I am overthinking all this, but it would seem that if the America’s Cup is eager to grab the attention of sports-minded people, they need to have a plan that is not so different from other sports. And a strong nationality rule would help too…

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