It’s over. The 2017 America’s Cup? Well, yes. But more significantly, the Larry Ellison Era is over. There’s not a lot of love lost in most sailing circles for Larry Ellison, but he has had a huge impact on our sport and left an indelible mark. Jimmy Spithill credited the “vision” of Ellison and Coutts in creating the foiling Cup and choosing Bermuda. Whether or not what Ellison has done real good for the sport can be debated until the IPAs are all gone, but he certainly has sunk a lot of money into it.
But neither Ellison nor Coutts are going to be in charge the next time around. It must be noted that Coutts is, after all, a Kiwi, but after selling out to the Swiss Bertarelli and then the American Ellison I’m not sure he’d be welcomed with open arms by his countrymen.
Now that the Kiwis have the Cup, one thing is certain, they’ll throw everything they have at making it a great event. If you needed an excuse to go to NZ, you’ve got it. The new challenger of record is the Italian Luna Rosa team. In the days of the old IACC boats, the Luna Rosa team always ran a class act and were always competitive. Both the Kiwis and the Italians can be expected to respect the Cup traditions while embracing current technology.
Everybody’s aware that the Kiwis did not sign on to Oracle’s attempt to dictate the rules into the future. They can do what they damn well please now that they have the Cup. Wow, did that feel good to write.
But none of this answers some basic questions of what the next Cup will look like. And since this is a wonderful time to speculate on the new blank page of the America’s Cup, I say “have at it!” Any great ideas about what, where, when etc? I’ll go ahead and spitball some random thoughts. What would you like to see?
What I would like to see will never happen. No, it’s not a return to the 12 Meters, though I do think they’re drop dead gorgeous and really fine match racers. (Slow boats and short races might make for interesting viewing for many of us old timers) What I would like to see is a lightweight monohull with soft sails and trapezes. Basically, big Aussie 18s, maybe akin to the Lake Garda boats. Leave the foils and wing sails to the Little America’s Cup.
The boats I’m thinking of would certainly be slower than the foiling cats, and I’d call that a good thing. We’d see sails going up and down and a blown gybe could mean a capsize, not just a momentary splashdown.
They’d have to be able to sail in 3 to 30 knots, and in big waves. And just maybe if they capsize they could be righted, but not by support boats. Imagine match racing such beasts in 25 knots and waves! Imagine the design effort it would take to solve those particular problems. Imagine Paul Bieker from Seattle designing one. By the way, I’d like to point out that once again Bieker’s engineering held those boats together for the entire Cup.
Maybe for the next Cup they can adopt the current Volvo and Cup concepts and make them basically one-design.
Today’s foiling cats go fast, but the only human movement we see is the grinders pumping away creating hydraulic pressure, then sprinting from one hull to another 15 or 20 times a race. While the trimmers are no doubt working at a high level non-stop, it’s hard to see exactly what they’re doing. And cyclers working tucked away in an aerodynamic position just doesn’t show visually the effort. The other thing is that the boats get very far apart in hurry. Even on a 20 minute race. Finally, I believe at lower speeds the weapon of heaping bad air upon one’s opponent comes into play more.
If we get rid of this silly hydraulic pressure/constant grinding mode for controlling foils, there’d still be need for strength and speed, but as viewers we’d get to look at a lot more human action than someone turning the cranks or pumping away hunched over pedals. And the crew hanging out on traps and maybe getting tea-bagged occasionally could be must-see TV.
I know asking for slower boats seems like heresy, but hey, we’re just thinking out loud here. And the boats I’m thinking of would be no slouches speed-wise.
(I’m pretty sure it’s foiling or forget it, baby. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle.)
If there’s one thing I love about the 2017 Cup, it was the length of races. They were short, the way it should be. The old days of spending several minutes on a tack was not fun to watch and I’m sure not as fun for the sailors.
But please do away with the reaching start. If you’re worried about the viewers not getting the nuance of an upwind start, don’t be. It’s not that hard to explain tacking, and it opens things up for splits at the start.
The boundaries and slow-down penalties seem to be working, and they keep the boats close.
Starboard tack wind-downs? Really? If someone can explain why they’re a good idea, please do. Seems like you’re going backwards to hurt the other guy, not go forwards to win the race. This isn’t team racing. And then it’s beholden on the judge to determine if it’s too much.
I’d love to see fleet racing as part of the event. It should be a real part that counts toward results.
Put them in wavy conditions, which probably means offshore. I’m thinking the Hauraki Gulf, if for no other reason than to hear Peter Montgomery say that name over and over again. However much of the Cup now caters to the ultra rich, and the ultra rich don’t want to spend much time bouncing around under power on their 100+ footers, but sailing is much more interesting in challenging physical conditions. The ultra rich will just have to take some Dramamine. By the way, was it my imagination or were most of those megayachts virtually devoid of people as they surrounded the course the last couple of weekends?
If you put the Cup where the potential of waves and other challenging conditions exist, the engineers become MVPs as they have to sharpen their keyboards on dynamic loading. To me it seems a greater challenge.
Nationality, nationality, nationality. We’re not at a point where 100 percent nationality could be required onboard each boat, but how bout at least 50?
And, what about requiring mixed crews? Sailing is a mixed gender sport, and such a high-profile event should reflect that. It can be done with specific gender requirements or crew weight/numbers. The Volvo Ocean Race has seen the light, and Dee Caffaree is leading a young, mixed Volvo Ocean Race crew that will get lots of attention. They probably won’t win the race, but they may well win the media war.
As long as this hydraulic pressure thing continues, we’re going to see very fit men taking up more than half the positions just to drive a pump.
The days of megabuck sponsorship are here to stay. I’d like to see fewer logos and more hull/sails – I think of Luna Rosa/Prada. But that can’t be. America’s Cup boats (and Vendee Globe and Volvo Ocean Race and mini transats and everything else that requires sponsorships) have become floating billboards, and if that’s what it takes, so be it.
But what we can get is a scaling back of the “official” this and that of the America’s Cup. As a journalist, the barrage of those types of announcements I receive is ridiculous. It’s pretty hard to come up something that doesn’t have an Official America’s Cup status. I’ll take a chance and call out the imaginary Official Slug Food of the America’s Cup. (If you paid money to be the Official Slug Food of the America’s Cup, I apologize fully and completely). It was nearly that ridiculous.
Professional sports teams here in the US get a lot of revenue from “team gear” sales. It seems we (or our spouses) are willing to spend lots of money on the right team gear. The Cup teams do this currently, but I’ll bet there’s lots more of our money to be tapped in those areas. Especially if the teams reflected a nationality. Did any of us really feel that Oracle was a U.S. team? I certainly did not.
Would I buy a $40 hat if there was a Seattle team? You bet. Hey, I’d even buy one from the Vancouver, BC team when it forms. Just make them decent logo designs, OK?
So, there are some of my thoughts. Yours? Scroll down the comments section or if you have a lot to say, send them in an email to me and I’ll post them.