Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Best wishes to Ed Baird

This is a great picture of Ed Baird by Alinghi photographer Guido Trombetta.

It's a reminder that America’s Cup is about sailors.

That is, real people who actually commit their lives to sailing and racing, and give everything they have to compete and win, and adapt to any and all challenges they face.

No sailor embodies that tradition more than Ed Baird (USA), helmsman for the mega-catamaran that Team Alinghi has entered for America’s Cup 33, which (as you may know) is that yachting race to be held in just a few weeks in the waters off Valencia, Spain, we hope.

Do you remember America’s Cup? Well, the racing is soon to begin. Again, we hope.

Anyway, as he coolly steered Alinghi to victory over Emirates Team New Zealand in Valencia in 2007, we all thought Ed Baird was the epitome of the dispassionate, true-grit competitor.

Interestingly, he amazed us with his jet-pack navigation kit that provided him with data we assume race officials agreed were OK.

It looked like he was downloading data from – what? – Versus USA, the cable station streaming races? Or Virtual Spectator, the modeling programmer that translated race data into computer-animated images that all of us watched?


Ed Baird just sailed brilliantly – and when the occasion called for it – as in the last race with Team New Zealand – had the confidence and competitiveness to pull a face down maneuver on the last mark that echoed the behavior of every competitive small dinghy sailor who ever lived.

We also admire the fact that this not-so-young competitor – certainly not one who is in any way green about the ears – is eager to race and steer one of the world’s most amazing vessels in one of the most amazing race series any of us will ever see – in sailing conditions that may be, in themselves, extraordinarily challenging.

Whichever vessel ultimately prevails – the power, dimension, and energy of Alinghi’s catamaran – or the equivalent from BMWOracle’s amazing trimaran – Ed Baird, in his own way, along with his peers and competitors, has the potential to change the world for yacht racing, the lives of racing sailors, and the future of America’s Cup.

We admire, respect, and salute Ed Baird as he moves into his prep for AC33.

Good luck, Ed.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why are we here?

More debate, more noise, more memos, more letters, more slanging matches, more briefs, more complaints, more court filings, more wasted energy, more money, more waste.

Both Larry Ellison (USA), chief of BMWOracle, and Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI), chief of Alinghi, are billionaires who should know better – so should their yacht clubs – but as you know, and I know, there is pathology at work here.

Depending on who you are, Ernesto is totally obsessive – and worse, he is European, you know, born to decide and to rule. On the other hand, he just wants to sail his boat and win America’s Cup 33.

Depending on who you are, Larry and his cohorts have consistently said the same thing and made the same demands – notably, fair, objective rules for AC33, and a level playing field for all. On the other hand, all he wants to do is win this event in the New York courts.

You have your view.

The fact is, everything has gone far, far beyond that.

Curiously, however, as bad as this is – and it is indubitably bad -- there is nothing that mutual discussion, mutual agreement, and mutual consent can’t fix.

Which is exactly what both teams were trying to engineer in Singapore.

According to the little voices swimming in the shallows, the participants actually had reached a workable agreement – yes, they actually did. All it needed were a few signatures, and for those signatures to be confirmed – and for one signature, or one assent, in particular, to be attached.

As we all now know, Ernesto Bertarelli woke up in Geneva the next morning and deep-sixed everything.

TO THE TUNE OF: ‘Here we go again!’

The ugly facts of the matter are that Larry Ellison absolutely and definitively won’t budge on scrupulous fairness and fidelity to the Deed of Gift.

And Ernesto Bertarelli, absolutely and definitively, refuses to grant Ellison anything, not even mutual consent.

That’s the standoff.

It’s manic. It’s pathological. It’s what it is.

Of course, The Big Elephant in This Room of Mammoths is the removal of Société Nautique de Genève as a Cup Trustee.

Whatever happens this spring, this summer – or never – in the waters off Valencia, unless someone can persuade the Swiss to parley – and soon -- major activity in the New York courts, along very uncomfortable lines, is likely to be the next big casino on the world agenda.

Happy New Year.