Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The French, the America's Cup, Extreme 40s and Match Racing

The America's Cup. Image copyright Anne Hinton - all rights reserved.

by Anne Hinton

Further to yesterday's piece on TEAMORIGIN and Emirates Team New Zealand's move in the direction of the international professional 40 foot catamaran circuit in the lead-up to America's Cup 34, Loïc Le Bras expanded on this, and a further Telegraph article, in Voiles et Voiliers today.

One of the questions asked, but not answered at the press conference in Valencia, to introduce the Protocol for the 34th America's Cup, was whether teams would be required to purchase the AC45 cats to be used in competition in 2012, or whether these would simply be leased out by a central body. It has now emerged that teams do need to purchase the AC45s, a direct outlay that Le Bras prices at 700,000-900,000 Euros, on top of the performance bond of US$3 million to be laid down as a condition of acceptance of challenge.

In addition, the unusual rules concerning design of the AC72, to be sailed in the 34th America's Cup, means that teams can combine together on design information, potentially allowing further progression of development, albeit in a very tight timeframe, than the simple two boats per team rule would appear to permit. TEAMORIGIN's Grant Simmmer is quoted, by Le Bras, as estimating that a budget of £80-£100 million would be needed for a viable 34th America's Cup challenge. However, members of TEAMORIGIN's afterguard also have their sights set on winning Olympic Gold on home waters in 2012. The 2013 timing of the next America's Cup competition would seem to be too close to the Olympics to make campaigning for both events a plausible option.

French Sailors and the 34th America's Cup

Extreme 40s Groupama 40, Gitana and ECOVER downwind. Image copyright Anne Hinton - all rights reserved.

While Bertrand Pacé's Aleph team is set to make its announcements on Thursday, 30th September, this week, to include support from France's national sailing organisation, the Fédération Française de la Voile (FFVoile), the movement of the America's Cup was thought in some circles to heighten the interest of the many French multihull sailors in this competition. However, some, such as Sidney Gavignet, in the Café de la Marine broadcast from Lorient two weeks' ago, indicated that the America's Cup principally involves billionaires, who are largely absent from much of the sponsorship world in French sailing. Moreover, as Gavignet also pointed out, sponsorship of sailing in France is very much focused on short-handed, long distance, often singlehanded races; a very different kettle of fish from the America's Cup! [Franck Cammas was also a guest on this edition of the programme, but responded that his focus is on the Volvo Ocean Race when asked if he would mount a challenge for the 34th America's Cup.]

Damien Iehl (FRA), skipper of the boat further from the camera, team racing in Nantes earlier this month. Image copyright Bruno Bovry/www.imagesdemer.com

Pierre-Antoine Morvan (PAM) and his team won the Internationaux de France de Match Racing 2010 (ahead of the Kiwis of Black Sheep Racing). Image copyright Bruno Bovry/www.imagesdemer.com

In regard to the future plans of the Franco-German syndicate, ALL4ONE Challenge, contacted yesterday, responded that they are "currently considering the option of campaigning on the Extreme 40 circuit in 2011". Top French match racers, Damien Iehl and Pierre-Antoine Morvan (PAM), have each indicated a desire to take up cat sailing and continue match racing, with a view to being able to gain experience towards helming a boat in the 34th America's Cup (see interview with Iehl by the APCC Voile Sportive reproduced below, on SailRaceWin.com).

While the change to multihulls has altered the emphasis on the match racing tactics involved, and the timeframe lends a sense of urgency toward finding the budget and R&D needed to mount a challenge, it is good to see that up-and-coming young match racer sailors are positive towards competing in the 34th edition of the America's Cup.

America's Cup