Point/Counterpoint with Grant Simmer
Published on October 25th, 2020
by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
Grant Simmer, CEO with INEOS Team UK, oversees the British challenge for the America’s Cup. This is his 11th campaign, winning the Auld Mug four times with three different countries, beginning as navigator in the legendary comeback victory of Australia II in 1983.
From 12 Meter to the IACC monohulls, to 2010 Deed of Gift Match and AC72/AC50 multihulls, and now back to a monohull with the AC75. Simmer has seen quite a progression of boat types, but more so, in speed.
After reading a recent interview with Simmer, I was reminded how this shift has divided opinion on the direction of the America’s Cup. There are those on the inside and those of us on the outside.
I can’t blame him or other Cup competitors who promote this trend toward flying above the water rather than plodding through it. Going fast is exhilarating, and this is what they do for a living, so to encourage a less enjoyable work place wouldn’t make sense.
But has the speed era made the America’s Cup better?
While the event has always pushed limits, we also know the speed era has reduced the number of teams. Since the point of this era was to heighten the event’s commercial appeal, and since the number of teams is a massive commercial driver, has the bleeding edge of technology gotten too sharp?
Simmer and I go point/counterpoint on some of the issues:
• Simmer: It’s just a professional game and you are so focused on trying to win and put together the best package.
• Me: National teams heighten interest in the event and inspire growth for the sport in that country but they restrict employment opportunities for people with credentials to contribute.
• Simmer: Personally, I think the America’s Cup needs to be the cutting edge of technology and that is why having a foiling boat is absolutely critical.
• Me: Advancing technology is fascinating for the competitors, but has it gone too far for the health of the event? Having a less extreme class of boat decreases cost and increases the pool of people with skills to participate.
Foiling is the future:
• Simmer: I think if you are a teenager today, you would only be thinking that if I’m going to sail, I’m going to sail a foiling moth or some foiling dinghy. The America’s Cup needs to be something that young people aspire to be involved in, so we have to have high technology boats.
• Me: Foiling boats tend to be more expensive, require greater skill, and have limitations. While the America’s Cup does need to be something that young people aspire to, promoting a healthy introductory level for young people has foiling as a lower percentage option.
• Simmer: The fact that guys – and this happened in the last Cup – are just grinding without real involvement in any of the tactical decision making or anything, that’s not new. When we raced 12 meter boats, we had rowers who were grinders and you wouldn’t want to put them in a Finn dinghy …they wouldn’t know what they were doing. But they were bloody good grinders.
• Me: The speed era still sees grinders grind, helms helm, and trimmers trim but what’s been lost is the crew work that was fun to watch: sails going up and down, spinnaker pole gybes, headsail changes, etc.
In fairness to Simmer, he is an active Etchells sailor, and nothing plods through the water like an Etchells. And while a bit edgy, this classic 1979 skit from Saturday Night Live rekindles the infamous Point/Counterpoint debates between Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin:
36th America’s Cup
In addition to Challenges from Italy, USA, and Great Britain that were accepted during the initial entry period (January 1 to June 30, 2018), eight additional Notices of Challenge were received by the late entry deadline on November 30, 2018. Of those eight submittals, entries from Malta, USA, and the Netherlands were also accepted. Here’s the list:
• Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)
• Luna Rossa (ITA) – Challenger of Record
• American Magic (USA)
• INEOS Team UK (GBR)
• Malta Altus Challenge (MLT) – WITHDRAWN
• Stars + Stripes Team USA (USA)
• DutchSail (NED) – WITHDRAWN
Of the three late entries, only Stars+Stripes USA remains committed, however, it is unclear what entry payments have been made, nor is there knowledge of a boat being actively built or sailing team assembled.
Key America’s Cup dates:
✔ September 28, 2017: 36th America’s Cup Protocol released
✔ November 30, 2017: AC75 Class concepts released to key stakeholders
✔ January 1, 2018: Entries for Challengers open
✔ March 31, 2018: AC75 Class Rule published
✔ June 30, 2018: Entries for Challengers close
✔ August 31, 2018: Location of the America’s Cup Match and The PRADA Cup confirmed
✔ August 31, 2018: Specific race course area confirmed
✔ November 30, 2018: Late entries deadline
✔ March 31, 2019: Boat 1 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ 2nd half of 2019: 2 x America’s Cup World Series events (CANCELLED)
✔ October 1, 2019: US$1million late entry fee deadline (NOT KNOWN)
✔ February 1, 2020: Boat 2 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ April 23-26, 2020: First (1/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Cagliari, Sardinia (CANCELLED)
✔ June 4-7, 2020: Second (2/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Portsmouth, England (CANCELLED)
• December 17-20, 2020: Third (3/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Auckland, New Zealand
• January 15-February 22, 2021: The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series
• March 6-15, 2021: The America’s Cup Match
Youth America’s Cup Competition
• February 18-23, 2021
• March 1-5, 2021
• March 8-12, 2021
AC75 launch dates:
September 6, 2019 – Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Boat 1
September 10, 2019 – American Magic (USA), Boat 1; actual launch date earlier but not released
October 2, 2019 – Luna Rossa (ITA), Boat 1
October 4, 2019 – INEOS Team UK (GBR), Boat 1
October 16, 2020 – American Magic (USA), Boat 2
October 17, 2020 – INEOS Team UK (GBR), Boat 2
October 20, 2020 – Luna Rossa (ITA), Boat 2