How to Make the America’s Cup Great (Again)

Published on December 21st, 2016


Gary Jobson

America’s Cup winning tactician, lecturer, and television commentator Gary Jobson speaks with Andy Schell of 59° North regarding the previous America’s Cup and his vision for what needs to be done for the event in the future…

I have been present for every America’s Cup since 1962, so I look at the America’s Cup with wide eyes. The event never ceases to amaze me. I believe the intriguing thing about the 34th America’s Cup in September of 2013 was not the boats. It was the comeback. It was more of a people show than a boat show.

For the US, after bad behavior with measurement actions and coming off the blocks slow, to watch them turn it around and make that comeback, in a legal way, from 8 to 1 down, made for a very compelling story.

And lucky us, we had the television up and running, in an organized way and the pictures were clear on the onboard cameras, we had the sound off the boats and, along with the exciting graphics, really brought the whole thing to life. Very cool.

Having said that, for the 35th America’s Cup, I was disappointed that (defense owner) Larry Ellison is taking it to Bermuda. Bermuda is a wonderful place. I have sailed there a lot, I know it very well, but it is not in the United States. So I am disappointed in that.

The boats to be used (15 meter AC Class), with the wing sail, is okay, but the problem that I have learned about the America’s Cup, from all the lectures I have done, is that people don’t relate to these foiling catamarans. Whereas the 12 meter, or the IACC boats used between 1992 and 2007, were just a bigger versions of what they already sail. So they can relate to it.

If the America’s Cup would like to stand out as a premier sporting event, here’s what needs to happen.

1. The Deed of Gift was written as a perpetual challenge cup for friendly competition between foreign countries. That’s what the Deed of Gift says. Therefore, you need to put all American crews on the American boat, and all Swedish crew on the Swedish boat, all New Zealand crew on the New Zealand boat, and so on. If you do that one thing the interest level will go through the roof. The rating that Dennis Conner achieved with live television in 1987 on Stars & Stripes was multiple times greater than when Larry Ellison defended the Cup in San Francisco. A giant difference due to nationalistic interest.

2. The people that play the game are used to winning at everything they do but now they can’t guarantee success. But these people need to be available and open to the public. So for Larry Ellison to hide in a shell throughout the entire (San Francisco) Cup is a huge mistake. He needs to be part of it so people can relate. They can like him, they can dislike him, but you got to be out there. He needs to do some interviews, he needs to be around the event and be more of a public person. That’s what was so intriguing about Harold Vanderbilt, or Ted Turner, or Dennis Conner. They were available. Some people liked Ted, some people didn’t like Ted, but he was there and you got to know him. We didn’t get to know Larry Ellison.

3. The racing has to be real racing. In a 20 minute race, between catamarans going 45 knots, sounds interesting but is it really a sailboat race? I want to see sustained tacking duels, I want to see clever tactics, I want to see sail handling like we have in any other part of the sport. The speed contest, I think, needs to be throttled back. The game this next time around will involve the use of computers and how you store energy by grinding winches to pump up hydraulics to run all this stuff. So you’ll have six crew, with four of them grinding all the time to store energy and the tactician using computers to see where laylines are. If you wanted to have a real test, I’d get rid of the computers, I’d get rid of all stored energy, and I’d let the sailors make the difference. I think that would make a more exciting race, because then mistakes can happen, lead changes can happen more often. They’d be exciting races.

Full podcast here:

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