Wednesday, 6 October 2010

America's Cup: Latest Withdrawal and Reasons Why Teams Should Compete

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

by Anne Hinton

After Luna Rossa and Azzurra withdrawing from the America's Cup (the former prior to any 34th edition announcements), and TEAMORIGIN pulling out last week, Team Germany (which had a sponsor interested in funding a monohull competition) has now announced that it will not be challenging. In Die Zeit online, 5th October 2010, the Syndicate boss, Michael Scheeren said: "Das Team Germany sieht sich im Rahmen der von BMW-Oracle aufgestellten Regeln nicht in der Lage, für den 34. America's Cup zu melden." [Team Germany does not see itself as being in a position to challenge for the 34th America's Cup under the framework of rules drawn up by BMW ORACLE.]

Reasons for the withdrawal of the British TEAMORIGIN syndicate last week given by Sir Keith Mills, as mentioned in an article in The Times by Patrick Kidd, 4th October 2010, centred on unanswered questions concerning the viability of the new boat, and whether there would be a reasonable chance of winning, especially given the whole America's Cup cycle advantage with the technology that BMW ORACLE Racing already possesses. Mills also estimated that development of the new boat campaign would cost £100 million, per The Times.

TEAMORIGIN racing one of the boats used for the last monohull America's Cup campaigns. With a degree of irony the wording on the spinnaker 'race for change' is somewhat appropriate to the latest America's Cup developments. Image copyright Anne Hinton - all rights reserved.

Ainslie, however, pointed out that missing a further Cup cycle with this technology would make it even harder to make up the ground if "they stick with the catamarans". This is a crucial point. Regardless of whether or not teams agree with the Protocol for the 34th America's Cup, it will [fact] form the basis for the competition, as there are no known legal loopholes to be exploited this time around. There is no chance of winning if you do not compete, and non-engagement in the game at this stage will put Challengers further behind the Defender, in terms of R&D, increasing the disadvantage with an entry into only a subsequent America's Cup cycle to challenge.

The USA wingmast was large, rather than sophisticated. BMW ORACLE Racing undoubtedly already have many ideas as to how they wish to develop this. Materials science and reduction of drag are the key elements to AC34 in this regard. It is within the bounds of possibility that a challenger could win the 34th edition; it is just a far harder task in a shorter timeframe than is the norm from one multi-challenger America's Cup to the next.

USA showing off her large wingmast during racing for the 33rd America's Cup against the soft rigged Alinghi 5. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW ORACLE Racing.

Remaining Potential Challengers

In Paris last week, the French Aleph team held a press conference to say that they wished to challenge for the 34th America's Cup, but did not mention any personnel and have still to raise the necessary funds. The situation of the far more active Franco-German ALL4ONE Challenge is not known at time of writing. The recently mooted Venezia Challenge is branding itself as 'Italian' in the way that Aleph have taken the 'French' position, but there are currently no indications that Venezia is any further advanced, in terms of personnel or funding, than Aleph.

It does appear that BMW ORACLE Racing should expect at least four challengers for AC34. These would be Mascalzone Latino, the Italian Challenger of Record, the Swedish Artemis Racing, Synergy Russian Sailing Team and Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ), who are moving into catamarans, sailing at the Extreme 40 event in Almeria with the assistance of Australian Darren Bundock. Bundock (Bundy) has won two Olympic Silver medals in the Tornado and seven Tornado World Championships, the last three with his compatriot Glenn Ashby, with whom he also won the F18 Worlds on three occasions. Ashby worked with BMW ORACLE Racing (BOR) in the lead-up to their victory in the 33rd America's Cup. Ashby is continuing with BOR and is now sailing a variety of small two-man cats with BOR's Aussie skipper, Jimmy Spithill. Ironically, ETNZ have the demise of multihulls from the Olympics for 2012 to thank for Bundy's availability to assist them at present.

BT - Andalucia, Extreme 40. Image copyright Anne Hinton - all rights reserved.

Extreme 40 catamarans

Neither Dean Barker nor Jero Lomas, from ETNZ, have sailed the Extreme 40 catamarans before, and their chance to practice prior to the event in Almeria is currently being hindered by a lack of breeze. The third Emirates Team New Zealander sailing in Almeria, Winston Macfarlane, filled in as crew for Shirley Robertson part-way through the 2009 Extreme 40 season as replacement for BMW ORACLE Racing's Jono Macbeth, who had other duties to perform in the lead-up to the 33rd America's Cup in Valencia last February. Bundock has previously sailed Extreme 40s with compatriot Nick Moloney, doing the 2009 season on Moloney's BT sponsored boat.

ETNZer Winston Macfarlane, whilst crewing for Shirley Robertson. Image copyright Anne Hinton - all rights reserved.

Learning to sail catamarans is just one of the skills that teams will need for the 34th America's Cup. The R&D into the wing development, and the build of this, are likely to be the ultimate key to success in the 34th America's Cup.

Issue of the definitive rule for the new AC72 catamaran to be used in the 34th America's Cup has slipped back a couple of weeks to 15th October 2010 (necessitating an amendment to the Protocol). There are, however, indications that the venue for the 2013 edition of the America's Cup will be announced prior to the end of year deadline orginally set.

The AC72. Image copyright America's Cup.

One other unknown is whether any USA homegrown syndicates may wish to challenge Larry Ellison, the Oracle billionaire, for the right to Defend the 34th America's Cup. To date, there have been no public indications of any interest in contesting the Defence of the 34th America's Cup.

Addendum from SailRaceWin

The America's Cup has almost always been a competition between, and at the whim of, billionaires. It is our view that the attraction of the event to the general public is, sadly, not so much the sailing, but the battle between wealthy owners/organisations... or the concept of, for example, 'little old New Zealand' taking on such a challenge.

The sailing has to be of interest to sailors, else there will be no one to compete and no event; ergo, sailors are the most important people at any sailing event. The design and build of a boat for the America's Cup involves all parts of the sailing industry, but is sailor-led. It's not much use to design and build a boat that has no one to sail it!

America's Cup