Saturday, February 20, 2010

It starts here

James Spithill (AUS), Russell Coutts (NZL), Larry Ellison (USA)
and John Kostecki (USA) loft the Auld Mug for the first time
together, Sunday, February 14, 2010 in Valencia, Spain. Another
great picture by BMWOracle Racing's Gilles Martin-Raget.

The celebration by winners of the America’s Cup typically marks the end of a marathon event.

We all know America’s Cup 33 was a marathon.

We heartily congratulate Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco (GGYC) and their sailing team BMWOracle Racing (USA) on a spectacular victory on the water. That victory was testimony not just to an advanced boat design and a fabulous team, but also to an unwavering commitment to things that matter, probably unequalled in the whole of professional sports.

But now America’s Cup 34 begins.

Now the work begins again for BMWOracle Racing and its leadership.

Not just to build a boat that can win the 34th event, but significantly, to consider what this great event is, and can become.

We look forward to an exciting, extraordinary, captivating, and compelling competition among the sailing nations of the world.

The best America’s Cup ever.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Overcoming Swiss sportsmanship

America’s Cup Principal Race Officer Harold Bennett (NZL)
banishes Swiss official Nicolas Grange (SUI) from the
committee boat’s flybridge control center.
Apparently, for insubordination.

We really wanted to put Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI) and his yacht club Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) behind us.

We really wanted to move forward to America’s Cup 34 in a very positive way.

In fact, we even wanted to salute Ernesto for his commitment to his team, his passion for America’s Cup, and his sportsmanship.

On Sunday, we learned you can’t have everything.

In fact, when it comes to Ernesto –and his Swiss confreres – you had better be prepared to be disappointed.

First, Firmenich

If you were expecting Pierre-Yves Firmenich, Commodore of Société Nautique de Genève, to be courteous and salutary at the ceremony in Valencia when the America’s Cup trophy was passed to Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco (GGYC), well, you were mistaken.

Firmenich couldn’t find the words to congratulate his peer, Commodore Marcus Young of GGYC, on his victory on the water. He couldn’t even shake his hand. The only thing he had to say to the world was that he was pleased to win the trophy in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2003.

Now Commodore Firmenich is a gentleman of the old order, held in high esteem in Switzerland, and in business circles around the world.

But there was no courtesy from Firmenich on Sunday. We are forced to conclude, therefore, that no courtesy was intended, therefore no honor was shown.

That absence of honor sits on Firmenich’s doorstep.

If that wasn’t enough, as the excitement of BMWOracle Racing (USA)’s victory settled, we learned about the bizarre behavior of SNG representatives on the official Race Committee boat, just prior to the start of Sunday’s race.

Second, Meyer

You have to remember that the Principal Race Officer (PRO) of AC33 was Harold Bennett (NZL), a long-time race official, highly respected around the world for the thankless task of adjudicating major racing events. One of his major roles in America’s Cup is to decide when race conditions are suitable for racing and to manage the start and finish of the event.

Accompanying him on the committee boat on Sunday were a number of SNG officials, including that alpine partisan, SNG Vice Commodore Fred Meyer (SUI).

For the first race, Bennett shrewdly decided he needed a GGYC representative on the boat – for fairness and balance – and asked BMWOracle Racing’s Tom Ehman (USA), a longtime race official and sailing judge, to come aboard as a representative of Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC).

Knowing exactly what a GGYC voice might mean to SNG’s strategies, whatever those might have been, Meyer went ballistic.

But Bennett held his ground. Ultimately, an Alinghi lawyer, Lucien Masmejan (SUI) was drafted to accompany Ehman, and the boat finally departed the dock in Valencia for Race One.

Then, on Sunday, as Bennett labored mightily to ensure that the 39-mile triangular course was effectively set up, providing balanced conditions across the 13x13x13 mile course, he waited patiently until he felt conditions were acceptable. Then, as he was about to authorize the flag sequence that would signal the start of the race, SNG staged a mutiny.

In contact with the Alinghi sailing team on the water, SNG officials on the committee boat decided that conditions didn’t favor their contender and wanted the race postponed. Bennett ignored them. He ordered a race “go”.

Despite the fact that any PRO like Bennett has sole authority to control events on the race course, SNG officials on the boat refused to obey Bennett’s orders. Refusing to be a puppet for Swiss partisans, Bennett himself took action.

Peremptorily, he ordered the SNG flunkies out of the control center on the flybridge, co-opted Ehman and a Spanish chase boat driver – a former race official – and ordered them to man the flags while he personally managed the critical, time-sensitive signal sequence.

Finally, Race 2 got under way.

Three days later, the sailing world is still abuzz about Swiss manipulation.

Third, Ernesto

This is a man we strive to like, believe it or not. He is a passionate sailor. He has invested millions of his own money to participate in America’s Cup. He loves fast boats, competition, and winning.

What’s not to like?

Well, a great deal, unfortunately.

This man should be a class act. Actually, he is a class apart.

As a major player on a global stage, you’d expect this man to have a lot to offer. Do you know what he really has?

Try this:

(1) No sense of sportsmanship, as most people accept it. We don’t want to get into Ernesto’s status as a gentleman. But we do know that a gentleman, in defeat, congratulates his victor, salutes their achievement, and commends their enterprise, enthusiasm, and accomplishment. There was not one word from Ernesto about this in the post-race press conference on Sunday. Oh, yes, he did say the wing was “efficient”. Otherwise, he looked for reasons to diss the victors.

(2) Nothing nice to say. Any time Ernesto Bertarelli has anything positive to say, it’s about Ernesto Bertarelli. Like the classic narcissist he seems to be, Ernesto’s thoughts and feelings are the center of the universe. There is no other center. It is psychologically impossible for him to say anything complimentary about any other person, thing or event, unless it’s an (in)elegant construction designed to compliment himself.

(3) A gift for whining. In his defeat, Ernesto didn’t blame an inferior yacht design that cost him the America’s Cup. He blamed the New York Courts. He blamed America. He blamed both because the courts give Americans an advantage that Europeans cannot overcome. He blamed the wing because it meant the winning boat USA had to be moored at the commercial port, not the darsena. He blamed Sunday’s wave height (about a meter). He blamed the wing again because it was the third version of USA’s sail design, not declared in the boat’s paperwork. He even stiffed lawyer and novo journalist Cory Friedman of Sailing Scuttlebutt for asking questions at the post-race press conference that he, Ernesto, didn’t like.

(4) No balls. When he won America’s Cup in 2007, Ernesto didn’t invite Emirates Team New Zealand to participate in the ceremonies. They were banished. Just like Russell Coutts (NZL), chief executive of BMWOracle, was banished from the AC33 owner’s press conference this year, even though Ernesto’s skipper Brad Butterworth (NZL) was invited and did participate. In 2007, like a king, Ernesto crowned himself. On Sunday, he didn’t even show on the platform. He left that to his fellow directors of SNG. True sportsmen, everyone knows, have what it takes. They show up, win or loss. Ernesto … well, you get the picture.

After all our whining, where are we left?

Depressed, actually.

This America’s Cup should never have been like this.

After AC32, the future of America’s Cup looked fabulous. The world was watching. Everybody learned to love big boat racing. Every sponsor we met was excited about the sport and looking forward to the next event.

Then, after the new AC challenger and draconian protocol were announced in July 2007 – a cataclysmic nosedive. America’s Cup plummeted. The world watched that, too.

Two and a half years later, this Deed of Gift event has been an America’s Cup of Redemption. Perhaps that’s what DOG races are all about.

Having brought the Cup back to zero, from the ugly depths to which it had sunk, Larry Ellison (USA), head of BMWOracle Racing and a director of Golden Gate Yacht Club, now has the opportunity – and the challenge – to restore the luster to this glorious competition.

He can also move it forward, decisively, into the future.

Anyone who won the Cup from Ernesto Bertarelli and the Alpine Nation would have that challenge.

We think Ellison might actually achieve it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The fastest America's Cup ever

BMWOracle Racing’s USA (top) en route to victory in
America’s Cup 33,
trailed by Swiss defender Alinghi 5.

It was won on the water.

It was won by a high-tech flagship – one that was beautifully, but reluctantly designed, built and sailed to satisfy a Deed of Gift race that never should have happened.

It was won by a brilliant team – one that was brilliantly led, brilliantly managed, and brilliantly responsive to every challenge in what became the most complex, confusing, and frustrating America’s Cup in history.

Above all, it was won by the world’s most persistent – and patient – sailor.

Not only did Larry Ellison (USA), make one great leadership decision after another – including hiring Russell Coutts (NZL) as chief executive, supporting his team throughout the darkest days of the campaign, and above all, investing in the most advanced design and technology ever developed for an America’s Cup yacht.

But on behalf of the Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco (GGYC), the head of BMWOracle Racing also invested in initiatives to protect the honor and integrity of America’s Cup.

Responding to a ludicrous protocol for the management and conduct of AC33, Ellison went to the mat for fairness, competitiveness, and a level playing field.

Now he has won even that.

At the post-race press conference, Ellison announced that America’s Cup 34 will be a multi-challenger event, developed in partnership with teams who enter, with independent juries and race committees, and independent management.

Russell Coutts added that the boat design rule would also be developed in consultation with the teams.

At his own press conference, the Swiss defender Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI), head of Alinghi, mourned the loss of the America’s Cup he loved.

These were the fastest races in America’s Cup history, and he lost. But it could have been a different kind of event, which he could have won.

During the race on Friday, and particularly today, he had plenty of time to contemplate what might have been.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Brad is working on this

Alinghi will maximize Alinghi 5's performance.
No question about that.

Brad is not worrying about yesterday.

He gave that up yesterday, after tea.

He’s moved well beyond that.

Since there’s nothing Brad Butterworth (NZL) can do about BMWOracle Racing’s high-performance wing what he will be thinking about is how to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

And because Brad is thinking like Brad, everyone on USA (USA) should beware.

Brad will be thinking about competitive tactics, creating a dust up, and getting a great start.

He will be thinking about best side of the race course and pulling puff out of thin air, just like he always does.

He will be thinking about whatever gave his two-hulled boat the power to eat up two-hundred-plus meters on USA halfway up the outbound leg yesterday.

He will rethink sails.

He will, in the nicest possible way, be looking for a steady hand on the helm so sail trimmers can do their best.

He will, cannily, and typically, seek out every opportunity to get an edge.

If Brad can, Brad will force any issue on the water to cause frustration in the opponent’s camp.

He will not give up without a fight.

That is one thing we can be certain about.

Brad did not come here to lose.

Friday, February 12, 2010


What America’s Cup racing now looks like.
A BMWOracle Racing USA crewmember,
astride the right ama.

All of us were stunned.

Quite probably everyone on the planet was stunned.

At the sheer power of the America’s Cup challenger BMWOracle’s amazing USA.

At its performance over Swiss defender Alinghi 5, even in lighter winds.

Upwind, both faster, and pointing higher.

Downwind, surprisingly fast.

In Race One of America’s Cup 33, the boat’s extraordinary ‘wing’ – substituting a soft mainsail with a high-tech aerofoil – not only dazzled veteran sailors, but set what is likely to be a new benchmark for the evaluation of high-performance racing multihulls.

Astonishingly, the wing even improved USA’s performance when it drove the boat solo.

Nobody more was more nonplussed than Alinghi 5 skipper and tactician Brad Butterworth (NZL). “Were you there?” Brad asked a reporter with his trademark honesty and candor. He then put into words what everyone was thinking:

“When they sail right up to you, then go around you, that’s speed.”

Winning a protest in the pre-start dial-up – then stalling before it crossed the line – USA devoured the Swiss boat’s 600-meter lead in what seemed like just a few minutes.

On the downwind leg, USA17 opened up a long-distance lead that topped 4.5 kilometers.

Those who felt the downhill could be the wing’s weakness were, well, silenced.

It’s only one race.

But what a race.

What a boat.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

An ocean water course on the sea

It’s meant be an ocean race.

Nobody can possibly be in any doubt about the prescription of the Deed of Gift, the venerable document governing this one-on-one challenge for America’s Cup 33.

Nobody can possibly have any misunderstanding over the intentions of deed author George L. Schuyler of the New York Yacht Club or the clarity of court decisions that have validated the Deed of Gift, time after time after time.

Yesterday, the waters off Valencia behaved like an ocean course in February in the Northern Hemisphere. Waters were at first OK over the first few miles of the 20-mile leg, then got nasty, and nastier still, apparently.

Just like the ocean.

Unfortunately, the two vessels competing for AC33 – the Swiss defender’s Alinghi 5 and the U.S. challenger BMWOracle Racing’s USA – do not appear to be designed for ocean courses.

Unfazed by stiff breezes over the race course America’s Cup Race Officer Harold Bennett (NZL) clearly got the wind up over something.

The boats? Well, Mr. Bennett doesn’t seem to know much about them. “These are different boats from what we have been used to,” he told interviewers. “And the understanding of them is still a learning curve. Conditions like today? That is interesting. I am not sure they would have done too well with it.”

Not sure? Maybe it was the wind after all. “I would have not had a problem with the wind conditions. We were looking at 17-18 knots, I wouldn’t have had a problem with that.”

Wouldn’t have had? Wouldn’t have had what? A very curious use of tense by Mr. Bennett.

So, if it wasn’t the wind, maybe it was the swell, observed by one of the racing teams at around four feet? In Mr. Bennett’s view, it was “pretty rugged.”

We respect any decision made to protect sailors, absolutely. Everyone does.

But what else are we protecting here?

Boats that aren’t designed and built for the course they must sail over?

One boat in particular that can’t handle ocean conditions?

One team in particular that is afraid of any ocean state over three feet?

If design parameters for one – or both – these vessels are preventing them from competing on an ocean course that behaves like an ocean course, maybe this isn’t the America’s Cup.

Maybe it’s lake racing.

Like they have on Lake Geneva.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More sleep

News today from Valencia says that the start of the new first race in America's Cup 33 won't be decided before 12:00 noon Valencia time, Wednesday. That's 6:00 a.m., U.S. Eastern time, Wednesday, February 10, 2010.

We mention this because we made a reference to start times yesterday.

For accurate information, always consult the official website for AC33.

We also check ESPN360's programming schedule here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

America's Cup Online

There was no America’s Cup View today, as in

No race at all, thanks to no wind off Valencia this morning, and no desire on the part of the defender, Team Alinghi (SUI) to convert to an afternoon schedule, when winds typically are better this time of year.

Thousands of U.S. fans staggered out of bed at 3:30 a.m. this morning – after the biggest U.S. television night of the year for sports fans – the American football Superbowl XLIV (New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 17).

After the first race of AC33 was postponed, most of them went to work, or back to bed, grumpy or crabby, depending on where you went to school.

For the next first race of America’s Cup 33, the opportunity is – yet again – boot up your computer at 3:45 a.m. (EST) on Wednesday, February 10.

If you plan to get up early, watch online, and create an exciting multi-media AC33 experience that you control, here are your best choices:

This is ESPN’s streaming online sports feed, offering a diverse mix of live and recorded U.S. events, including America’s Cup live. AC33 coverage is hosted by veteran AC sailor and commentator, Gary Jobson (USA), one of a handful of classic America’s Cup commentators. Connect>

Sailing Anarchy’s Layline 33rd America’s Cup

This is for grown-ups. The reason is that critics believe members of this highly informed and highly opinionated discussion forum are, well, children. We disagree. They are adults who should know better.

Nevertheless, you won’t find better informed sailors, better able to express themselves, anywhere else online. Yet viewer discretion is advised. Commentary is spontaneous, unedited, and at times, profane. That’s not necessarily standard operating procedure for discussion forums, but it is for this one.

Sailing Anarchy – a free site – is working hard to make AC33 fun for their community. Alan Block, a lawyer and sailor known to the community as Mr. Clean (his language is anything but) is on the water in Valencia, interviewing participants, looking for opportunities, and struggling to connect online from his boat offshore, following the action.

This morning, he ‘borrowed’ an online connection from the crew of Larry Ellison’s amazing and extraordinarily beautiful yacht Rising Sun, designed by the late Australian naval architect, John Bannenberg, seen here in 2007 during the Louis Vuitton series, off Valencia:

Connect here > to be part of SA’s Layline 33rd America’s Cup forum and scroll down for the links to content. SA is picking up BMWOracle Racing’s video feed, which you can watch on the site. You can also log into SA’s discussion forum (use the
lo-res option offered at the bottom of the forum page) to follow comments by members.

If you have the nerve, become a Sailing Anarchist member, join the discussion, and enjoy the perspectives and perceptions of sailors who both know – and don’t know – what they are talking about. Don’t tell your mother.

BMWOracle Racing

The America’s Cup 33 Challenger racing team has its own video link (already co-opted by Sailing Anarchy) providing info-streams on the BMWOracle team, special interviews by respected America’s Cup commentators like Martin Tasker (UK) and Peter Lester (NZL), and once racing starts, the so-called World feed live from the water and from the air. Same video as Sailing Anarchy, but no forums, no discussion online, and no profanity. Connect >

This is an amazing website. It collects and presents AIS data (maritime collision avoidance data) from merchant vessels all over the world, as well as from private vessels who elect to participate in the system – essentially, data that identifies the vessel, its port of origin, heading, speed, and other factors, and then pictorially displays the data on a searchable website that refreshes every 90 seconds.

This morning, we watched vessels around the start line off Valencia, including Vava, Ernesto Bertarelli’s private yacht. We also noted Rising Sun, farther offshore, probably at the buoy mark, probably also ‘anchored’ by its GPS positioning system – no pick, no chain. Connect >

These four sites are more than enough to make your AC33 real.

Just sleep first.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

At last.

BMWOracle Racing’s USA (top) and Alinghi’s Alinghi 5
training off Valencia

Finally, we are here.

Finally, the competition is on the water.

In just a few hours, two of the most exciting vessels ever designed and built for an America’s Cup race will meet the gun, in the waters off Valencia, Spain, for Race One of America’s Cup 33.

As the 40-mile race evolves – with windward and leeward legs of 20 miles each – we will finally see how these boats perform against each other, and against the sailing conditions.

After all the words that have been piled against AC33 defender and Alinghi chief Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI), head of Team Alinghi, and his challenger Larry Ellison (USA) of BMWOracle Racing, now those words mean nothing. That’s history.

What is real is what happens Monday, February 8, 2010, around 10:00 a.m. Central European Time, off Valencia.

We wish Ernesto well, and in the same breath, wish the same for Larry. After all, they have paid the ticket price for AC33. Now they can enjoy the show. We get to watch.

And for every sailor, every crew member, every player on the support teams – and their families – we pray for an exciting, exhilarating, thrilling – and safe – event.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Arise, Sir Russell

Sir Russell Coutts (NZL) from
the BMWOracle Racing file

The extraordinary thing about Sir Russell Coutts (NZL) is how low key he has been throughout the entire debacle of America’s Cup 33.


Dismissed as Alinghi CEO by Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI) prior to AC32, Sir Russell was ultimately hired by Larry Ellison (USA), and helped rebuild BMWOracle after the team’s AC32 disappointments under Kiwi CEO and Skipper Chris Dickson (NZL).

Sir Russell skirted controversy, avoided controversy, and every time controversy emerged, moved on to other topics, other issues, other events, other races. Deftly. Very deftly.

Which is what you expect from chief executives who know how to use their power.

Sir Russell certainly has power, has influence, and is a major factor for BMWOracle. Now he is leading the offense.

Despite his corporate coolness, Sir Russell’s ambitions must be focused not just on winning, but on destroying – in the nicest possible way.

If he has a statement to make about AC33, it must be that. For a lot of reasons.

But that’s not the defining reality of this amazing sailor.

Given the opportunity to helm his way into the record books in America’s Cup 30, he made a decidedly different decision. On that last race in 2000, he handed the helm to his junior, Dean Barker (NZL), who brought the boat home a winner.

Russell Coutts has proved it isn’t about him. It’s about his mission, as he sees it.

Next week, he has an extraordinary mission.

We wish him every kindness for success in AC33, and our best wishes.

Go win, Russell.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Go Brad!

Alinghi’s Flickr picture shows true Kiwi Brad Butterworth in classic style: thoughtful, candid, and as always, sincere

Maybe you have to be a Kiwi to love Bradley William Butterworth (NZL), skipper of Alinghi (SUI).

He is not the picture-perfect-portrait of the America’s Cup skipper, make no mistake. Whatever that means.

He is from Te Awamutu in the Waikato, for goodness sake. He is himself. He is BB.

What he says is what he thinks, and what he says, he believes.

‘Media management’ means nothing to Brad. He shows up. He speaks his mind. Typically, he does it with candor and respect.

But he can sail, and he has an uncanny ability to read and process a lot of things, in nano-second increments, and make decisions that win big races. Like America’s Cup.

One of the big factors in his life is his friendship with Russell Coutts (NZL), skipper of BMWOracle (USA).

Soon that friendship will be tested in huge raptor-like vessels currently rehearsing in the waters off Valencia, Spain.

Will Brad be aboard Alinghi’s amazing catamaran?

We would love to see him there. But frankly, he’s an older, tender, more gentlemanly mass. Perhaps the strategy has other ideas.


Brad Butterworth influences his team, their ethos, their competitive spirit, and their will to win.

We wish him the best in America’s Cup 33.

E hoa, ka whawhai tonu ahau ki a koe, ake ake!