In this website we have been fairly critical of Russell Coutts, Larry Ellison and the organization they set up to run the 34th America’s Cup and our criticism stems, mainly, from the fact that very few of the promises that were made four years ago have been realized.
Our friend and acclaimed multihull sailor, Kostas Trigonis, disagrees with our wrong, in his view, opinion. Trigonis, twice World champion and six-time European champion in the Tornado class, praises in his editorial what has been achieved in the 34th America’s Cup, despite the initial shortcomings. For him the future is here and there is no turning back. The 34th America’s Cup has brought tremendous progress and it would be a pity if we went back. This is what he has to say about the current America’s Cup and what he hopes to see in the future:
“There has been ample discussion so far on the choice of AC72 catamarans as the boats to compete in the AC34 and I would say that for the majority of the sailing community, it wasn’t a good idea.
“Too many questions were raised such as the maneuverability of these boats, how they would act in Match Racing, safety and questions about rule changes. If there are big differences in speed between the boats won’t it be boring? Questions were also raised about the high cost of the boats which is not helping in engaging more teams as well as many more issues.
“I agree that in the Luis Vuitton Cup the spectacle was not the best. I would even say it was boring, with the exception of Team New Zealand that was clearly ahead of the other teams. The other two groups were either not ready (Artemis Racing) or “colorless” despite their fashionable clothes (Prada).
“I do not know what would have happened in the case of Artemis Racing if they had more time because the quality of the athletes that composed the team, I believe, was one step higher when compared to the Italians… Maybe the words ‘chemistry’ or ‘mix’ of the team are more efficient in that case. Artemis had also as an extra motivation, the loss of Andrew Simpson that damn afternoon.
“There was too much criticism regarding the damages to the wings or boats during the Louis Vuitton Cup. Until now these boats have shown unmatched durability taking into consideration the loads. This is because designers and builders didn’t spare any extra weight for durability using aerodynamic packages which actually eliminate the effect of extra weight…
“If we look back in history, in the past a boat broke into pieces and sunk in two minutes. That’s part of the game when everything is so close to the limit. Litigation, intrigue, rule violations and other various stuff have been and will always be an integral part of this game. A look at the history of the Cup will convince you. However, people tend to forget.
“Have the sailing rules that govern the race changed? To me they have been simplified and made more comprehensible to ordinary people. Technology helped a lot here because umpires have the means to ensure 99.9% correct decisions in real time, something that has not been achieved in any other sport!
“Safety was another matter. After the unfair loss of Andrew Simpson the conversation went to the fact that the boats were dangerous. Of course they are!!! In the Volvo Ocean Race if someone drowns in the ocean, we consider that as normal while in the America’s Cup if someone loses his life because he was sailing at 40 knots or because his boat was executing a bear away in 17 knots, we consider this to be dangerous!
“At this level it’s inconceivable not to take risks. We all know and understand this. Progress never came from playing it safe.
“Clearly safety is the first priority above all but on the 8th race of the finals which was abandoned for safety reasons as the wind speed exceeded the limits, everybody complained! At that point, Simpson’s death was already forgotten…
“We have to decide!! What do we want??
“So far in the finals, we saw something that we have never seen before and that, in my opinion, will never see again if the New Zealanders win the Cup.
“Something which many describe as other than sailing.
“My personal opinion is that it’s sailing brought to another, higher level but because it’s different we struggle to understand it or we even don’t want to understand it. This is normal. Whenever something new comes or a groundbreaking change occurs, our reflexes and habits will always keep us stuck to the past. In general, changes are not so easily absorbed by people. Changes move people out of their comfort zones… It’s a normal reaction by people.
“In these finals so far we have seen aggressive pre-starts, action that even we, catamaran specialists, didn’t think was possible, close racing at ‘unrealistic speeds’ but above all maneuvers! A lot of maneuvers! Who said that these boats do not turn??? They made them turn! Roll tacks in catamarans using foils, foiling jybes at 37 knots speed during the maneuver. Any comment about that?
“It is expensive, of course. But the America’s Cup has never been a sailing event for everybody and it will never be because it was never meant to be a race where everybody can take part. It has always attracted the elite of the financial world and I do not think this will change. If it does change, it will not be the America’s Cup any longer! In this race there is no second! In this race there is no room for many people.
“The New Zealanders want more teams with lower costs thinking about their country’s economy and a victory for them is a national goal and not the whim of a billionaire, but with money flowing after a possible win I hardly believe that they will go back to monohulls. However, certainly changes will be made.
“As far as television is concerned, the show is the best we have seen up to now. San Francisco proved an ideal race track with the breeze not missing for a single day, and as a result, there hasn’t been any delay in TV coverage. Graphics, telemetry, rules and details on how some things work are explained in a simple and understandable way and that is not all.
“Most impressive of all though, is the fact that teams have continuously improved. A clear example of that are the Americans that are now playing even, having covered very fast any gaps that existed in performance and boat handling. Here I want to emphasize that even in this area these boats help progress a lot since the improvement in speed is not measured in tenths of a knot, but in knots. If you do things right, these boats will ‘pay back’ generously or vice versa. You simply cannot get loose. You are never guaranteed unless you cross the finish line.
“For me, this America’s Cup is the best racing I have seen and I do not think we’ll see something better in the near future, as I said previously. Especially the 10th race was smashing. ‘If you didn’t enjoy Sunday’s racing then I think you should probably find another sport,’, commented Dean Barker at the press conference.
“These boats make you wonder.. After that what?
“It’s difficult to answer, unless the Americans make their miracle. It’s a bit difficult though but with these guys you never know. In that case there is a hint of what Mr Ellison has in mind.
“And one last thing. I know that there is a possibility my view can be misunderstood because I’m a ‘cat sailor’, emotionally and physically involved with what I do, not only with the catamarans but with sailing in general.
“I’ll tell you this. I enjoy sailing any boat in any form. But cats give you something that other boats demand special conditions to pay you back.
“It’s called pleasure!
Everybody that tried never went back.
“You cannot go back after you sailed a boat like this”, Jimmy Spithill Oracle Team USA Skipper.