Grading on the Curve

Published on January 5th, 2017

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
I found the build-up to the 34th America’s Cup in 2013 to be quite maddening. Constant changes were announced, generally adjusting to failures in vision or execution. It was quite consuming to keep track of it all. By the time the racing started, I was ready for it to be over.

Then the event began poorly. The one boat challenger races were only slightly worse than the two boat challenger races. The speed of the AC72, while impressive, made little matter unless the racing was close. And it generally wasn’t, but thank goodness it turned at the end. If not for the immense comeback during the Finals, the memory of 2013 would be much different.

The 35th AC didn’t start much better. A move to Bermuda. Multiple boat type changes. Collusion amongst teams. It all became too much for 4-time challenger Patrizio Bertelli’s Luna Rossa team. He tapped out. A lot of sailing enthusiasts have followed.

But now, with the event to begin in May, it was time for the pendulum to swing back. It was time for momentum to build. The six teams, working to design the fastest boat, were finally permitted to launch their AC Class race yachts. The rules allowed this on December 27, 150 days before the first race. Except it’s not happening.

Worse, we now hear all six teams have agreed unanimously to Protocol change #13 which has the effect of imposing a 28 consecutive day blackout period during which they cannot sail their AC Class yachts. Teams can select when they observe this period, which must begin on or after January 9 and must end prior to the first scheduled race day in May.

Why did this happen? Nobody can say why due to confidentiality clauses.

WTF! Time is huge right now, and the Brits, Japanese, Swedes and Yanks had the advantage. They are already set up and training in Bermuda, so why would they agree to this unless someone held a gun to their head. Please tell me the America’s Cup is still about winning.

Rumor is that the Kiwis, who are in transit and likely won’t be set to sail in Bermuda until February, had bullets in the chamber and all five teams said ‘uncle’. The French likely folded first as they are in transit too. No word on how much suffering the others endured. Confidentiality clause, you know.

What this rule change also states is that if teams launch their boats prior to their blackout period, the boats cannot be worked on during this period. So, it would seem, nobody will launch, preferring instead to use that 28 day period to work on the boat in the shed rather than sit on their thumbs for a month.

For the channel surfing sports fan who will be fitting in the America’s Cup races amid the Triple Crown thoroughbred schedule, and biding time before the FIFA Confederations Cup begins, none of this matters. But for the sailing enthusiast, eager to witness the “best sailors and fastest boats”, just know this is still better than the saga that was 2013. Sometimes you have to grade on the curve.

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