Harken Derm

Removing the Magic of the America’s Cup

Published on March 22nd, 2017

The America’s Cup is as much about anticipation as it is competition. This irregularly held design contest launches the curious mind on which team will crack the speed code. The fastest boat always wins, and not knowing the answer until the final is the attraction.

However, the 35th America’s Cup will have none of that. As the NZ Herald’s Dana Johannsen reports, the Defender has selfishly eviscerated one of the event’s primary tenets.


Defender Oracle was caught off guard by Team NZ’s superior boat speed in the early stages of the 34th Cup match in San Francisco. While the defenders were able to engineer one of sport’s greatest comebacks of all time to reclaim the Cup, they do not want to find themselves in that situation again.

So, they overhauled the race format for this year’s edition in Bermuda, involving themselves in the challenger elimination series to ensure there’ll be no surprises come the America’s Cup match.

As defenders, it is Oracle’s absolute right to do so. The deed that governs the America’s Cup gives the defender the power to determine the rules for the next event.

But in their rush to stack the deck so heavily in their favour it is almost comical, Oracle have removed the magic of the America’s Cup.

I remember the old yachting romantics telling me before race one of the 2013 America’s Cup “there’s nothing like the first leg of the first race of the America’s Cup”.

Part of the beauty of the event was the anticipation that built around the first showdown between the successful challengers and the defenders. No one knew what was going to happen.

We could all speculate on which team looked sharp around the race track and had the slickest design, but the reality was, until the two teams hit the startline, it was all a guessing game.

That mystery has been removed for this edition of the Cup, for no other reason than to meet Oracle’s self-serving needs.

Even that wouldn’t be so bad were they upfront about their motives, but the likes of Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts continue to paint themselves as altruistic guardians of the America’s Cup.

They have even convinced the competitors (with the exception of Team NZ) to agree to the rules and format for the next two editions of the Cup beyond this year’s event in Bermuda, you know, to safeguard the future of the America’s Cup and everything.

Sure, the event has been running 166 years, but you know what they say – the 167th year is always the toughest.

“Transparency” has never been a term you would associate with the America’s Cup. It has long been a game of smoke and mirrors, scheming and secrecy.

While the Ellison and Coutts can be credited for the quantum leap in technological advancement in the past two Cup cycles, you can’t help but feel off the water the event has regressed under their ego-driven stewardship.

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