When Italy’s most famous sailor calls to talk about the America’s Cup, you answer the phone and write down his opinion. Vasco Vascotto wanted to express his “disappointment” with this edition of our sport’s pinnacle event, claiming he was expressing what “98% of sailors said in private but never voiced in public.” He strongly opposes the move to catamarans and sees it as a “move to penalize” strong teams such as Team New Zealand and Team Origin.
VSail.info: Vasco, what is it you want to tell us? Why do you want to criticize the current America’s Cup?
Vasco Vascotto: You know, I wouldn’t say I ‘m angry but rather disappointed. It seems to me that the team that legitimately won the 33rd America’s Cup then didn’t act in a way to help the sport of sailing.
VSail.info: Hasn’t the America’s Cup always been like that? At the end of the day the Defender does what is best for them.
Vasco Vascotto: Yes, I agree. If they want to do whatever they want, that’s fine with me but then they should expect criticism from the sailing world. I think my opinion is shared by 98% of the world’s sailors. Maybe the remaining 2% are happy with the changes but 98% of them strongly oppose them, as well as at least 80% of the journalists I talked to. Now, if those journalists don’t openly write their opinion because they might be afraid or feel under pressure, that’s another issue. I think I have never seen such level of discontent with the change to catamarans in the America’s Cup during my 40 years of sailing.
VSail.info: This is a strong claim you make. Is it because you are angry you are out of the loop without a job in any of the teams?
Vasco Vascotto: Let me tell you something. I, personally, have never had so much work. I have never been busier in my life and I’m very happy with what I’m doing. I’m just telling you what the rest is afraid to say. This is what everybody discusses on the dock when we are in a regatta. This America’s Cup, sailed on catamarans, will have very few teams and will not even be a cheap one, as they claimed so many times. It won’t even be a fair America’s Cup because we already know who is going to win and this is quite evident. Oracle fought hard in the 33rd edition to have a fair regatta. That’s very good but I don’t think they are now acting in the same way. I’m not convinced there has been any discussion between them and the Challenger of Record and this comes from good friends I have inside the team. Given all those factors, I don’t think this America’s Cup will be a success and so far it has failed to live up to its promise. I don’t think they have waken up the interest for a new and different America’s Cup.
Back in 2008-9 the world financial crisis had already started but there were more entered teams in the 33rd Cup with the AC90 than now. The crisis was already there and in fact, we are now getting out of it. What lacks today is the enthusiasm we had then. Let alone the fact sailors are unhappy. In 2007 in Valencia we had a total of 1,000 people working in the teams while in this one we won’t have more than 100. If this is the result of one’s action that are supposed to promote the common good of the sport of sailing then something is wrong. This is my personal opinion, I don’t wish this edition of the Cup to fail, on the contrary, I wish enormous success. However, I think we’re heading the wrong way. The discontent of the sailors was seen in Key West when during the prize-giving ceremony a person went on stage and was booed.
VSail.info: A few hours ago we had in Paris the official presentation of the sixth challenger, the second one from France. We still have another 50 days before the inscription period ends and there is talk of challengers from China, Korea or Australia. Don’t you think prospects aren’t as dark as you depict?
Vasco Vascotto: They might not be as dark but they certainly aren’t rosy, not even green or blue. Now if someone wants to contradict me, he will be doing like the ostriches that hide their head in the sand. The fact that a few days ago the Challenger of Record stated they couldn’t find the necessary funding means that what they are doing is not attractive to investors. If it were attractive, Mascalzone Latino, a team that has always found the money to take part in the previous editions, wouldn’t be in that situation now. They can’t find money even if they are the Challenger of Record and this gives the event a bad image.
VSail.info: You can’t compare what was happening 5-6 years ago when it was raining money in Spain or Italy to the current situation.
Vasco Vascotto: No, you can’t but as I told you before, even in 2008-9 during the crisis we had 20 teams that had paid their inscription for the AC90’s. Do you think this new format that was supposed to create enthusiasm, has really brought enthusiasm?
VSail.info: However, this time we have a team from Australia, two from France.
Vasco Vascotto: Are you sure they will go ahead? I repeat, I would be very happy if this turned out to be very successful. Forget my personal interest. I express the sentiment of 98% of the sailors and I’m not just sure about it, I’m absolutely sure. Everybody asks why we don’t have a Cup in monohulls, a conventional event that would have provided jobs to everybody. Everybody was ready to start. Team Origin were ready to start. Team New Zealand still has serious doubts about their future. It’s true, there are new teams and I hope they bring fresh air. I still haven’t seen them, I’m not sure they are there.
You mentioned the French. Today Team Energy stated they had a budget of 70 million euros. So much for cost reduction! So much for the fact that we are already in February and we don’t know where the next races will be. I personally don’t see any planning or seriousness so far. I see people working, I hope with enthusiasm but I’m convinced I can already tell you who will win, I can tell you that right now. Don’t forget that the previous Cup was blocked because it wasn’t fair. Tell me that: If Oracle were then Little Red Riding Hood and Alinghi were the bad wolf who is Little Red Riding Hood now because I only see bad wolves?
VSail.info: Even if you might not agree with Oracle’s decision you have no alternative right now. Couldn’t this move be a positive one, longer term? Couldn’t you see it as a move from the bicycle to the motorcycle?
Vasco Vascotto: Saying that we move from the bicycle to the motorcycle is stating that we move from something antiquated to something modern. First of all, let me tell you that catamarans exist since 50, 70 years or even more. It wasn’t necessary to win the America’s Cup to claim you made a world revolution with the catamarans. The catamarans already existed. If the Cup existed for many years in a certain format that means there was some reason. For me, the best Cup ever was the one in 2007. I don’t remember it going through any moment of crisis. None. If you want to change the best Cup in history with something different, you have to aim at something certain. I now have a question for everybody: Do you think that this proposed revolution has brought any benefits? To me the answer seems absolutely clear. In addition, I’m not entirely convinced that a motorbike race is always more exciting than a bicycle race. Then in this Cup the teams will only have 11 sailors onboard while in 2007 you had 17 or 34, depending on the number of yachts each team had…
VSail.info: … Sure but if you now have two boats can’t you have 22 sailors?
Vasco Vascotto: Maybe, but it will still be 22 versus the 34 you had last time. Now, if the budgets are established so that they reduce the human factor, I’m not sure they do the sport of sailing any good. In order to further promote the sport of sailing we should increase the number of sailors on the water, not always try to reduce it. Let’s add engines, let’s add remote controls so that we have virtual races on a computer with no need for sailors. In addition, they still have to prove that catamaran races are more exciting than monohull races. I really hope I’m not the only to talk that way. I’ll take my responsibility, I will tell it to you just as I will tell it to others, because it seems logical to me that some criticism must reach the ears of those in command.
I listened in silence to the criticisms advanced to Alinghi in the past and I listened in silence to all the statements from Oracle in the past. I was expecting from them something better, a little more seriousness, after all the fuss they made. Long live the MedCup circuit, this I can scream clearly, and the fact that we are in a crisis like this one and we have 6-7 new boats, is a clear sign that people want something serious on monohulls, how much people want monohulls and that the prepared teams want monohulls. This is obvious. The MedCup is not a circuit within the reach of everyone, especially in times of crisis like this. Yet clearly there is need for such a circuit.
What I can say is that until yesterday the favorite team to win the next America’s Cup was Team New Zealand and, in my opinion, these new rules were made almost entirely to penalize a team as strong as them. Prepared, serious, with very experienced sailors that have lost but also won the Cup. In doing so they have broken them up. Old sailors that had by now created a group, have been demobilized. Team New Zealand is now a team comprising of few people, assuming they go ahead. It has now lost all its strength. For Team Origin the same applies. It was a team ready to, probably, win the next Cup. By doing so they have broken them up as well, they took away their power. They made them weak just as they did with Team New Zealand. So, if this is the way to win the next America’s Cup, this is bullshit. If we do not like the catamaran, at least let us consider the aspect of sport. In the sport of sailing there were highly trained team, serious, that had made the right steps: they have been disassembled. They were told: “As of today we sail on catamarans. Since you are strong we do it with catamarans crewed by 11 sailors so that half the people you have hired stays at home.” These are strategies and things that harm the sport of sailing.
VSail.info: What about the longer term, not just this Cup? Can’t you see Artemis becoming a strong team in 2017 or 2020?
Vasco Vascotto: Artemis will be strong in 2017? I’m happy for them. I only know that in 2011 the America’s Cup, instead of taking a step forward, stops. Everyone was happy when Oracle won against Alinghi in 2010. We said: “A new world starts, a new era. Finally.” Now I ask you a question: are you still so happy or do you have more doubts? I’m not the one that holds the sense of truth, but I say that the Cup in 2007 was the most beautiful in the history of sailing. Can anyone say otherwise? No, nobody and I am convinced about that. What the next Cup will need, thanks to you journalists and bloggers, is visibility. If you’re interviewing me now is thanks to the 2007 Cup, to that kind of America’s Cup, we have become famous and I am not convinced that those who come out of the next America’s Cup will have the same visibility. This is to let you know that we are taking a step back. And it shouldn’t be like that.
VSail.info: Last but not least, let’s talk about you. What are your projects for this season?
Vasco Vascotto: I will be in the AUDI MedCup circuit with Matador, Alberto Roemmers’ TP52 yacht, that in April will present a new team, a new sponsor and above all a very serious yacht club.
VSail.info: I have heard of the new AUDI Azzurra Sailing Team. Are you referring to that one?
Vasco Vascotto: Well, let’s wait the official presentation before making nay comment. However, I’m very happy because it’s a great opportunity for me to be able to race in the best-organized and professional circuit that exists right now. I will not miss other events such as the Primo Cup in Montecarlo, the Farr 40 Worlds in Sydney, the Melges 32 in Sydney. As you see, I have enough racing…
VSail.info: So, again, it isn’t a personal feeling that drives you to make those statements because you joined the ranks of jobless sailors that can’t get a job in the Cup?
Vasco Vascotto: No, no and no. Look, I’ve got more than enough commitments. I’m fine and I am happy. Nevertheless, I would, probably, do the Cup with a catamaran, if the opportunity existed. But then again, for me it is a big step backwards. Even Team New Zealand will be forced to build catamarans, just like the other teams. But between being forced and being happy there is a big difference and it is something entirely different. I know many people will disagree with what I’m saying and what I said, but I will never become tired of repeating that 80% of journalists and 98% percent of sailors agree with me.