Archive | 34th America’s Cup

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UK based Oakley Capital acquires majority stake in North Technology Group

Posted on 03 March 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: North Sails] North Technology Group (NTG) is pleased to announce Oakley Capital Private Equity (“Oakley”) has acquired a majority stake in their diverse family of companies. Oakley is an investment vehicle founded by UK businessman and sailing enthusiast Peter Dubens. Utilizing their collective experience, Dubens and his partners make investments in companies to support their brand development and growth.

“We are delighted to be backing North Technology Group and an iconic brand like North Sails,” said Dubens. “This investment further demonstrates Oakley’s appetite to work with successful entrepreneurially led businesses. We are hugely excited by the potential of North Sails and look forward to working with the management team in the next stage of its evolution.”

Originating with North Sails, founded by Lowell North in 1957, NTG comprises three market leading marine brands; North Sails; the world leader in sailmaking, Southern Spars; the world leader in composite spars, rigging and marine components and EdgeWater Boats; a line of high performance outboard sport boats, all focused on providing innovative, high performance products and solutions to the world’s sailors and yachtsmen. Included in the family are North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT) and North Cutting Systems. Born from North’s 3Di manufacturing of sails and used exclusively in Southern Spars’ composite masts, NTPT has developed and commercialized a very light but strong carbon pre-preg solution, used by the aerospace market, competitive Formula 1 racing and high-end luxury products. North Cutting Systems is two businesses, the ground-breaking AlphaBlade Cutting System that provides a unique cutting solution for various industries, and the other produces the unique Automated Tape Laying (ATL) system. The intellectual property within the group is substantial and protected by an expansive portfolio of patents.

The largest company by revenues within NTG is North Sails, holding the patent for 3Di, a unique composite construction process that produces high-performance sails approaching the shape holding of a rigid foil. North 3Di is the sail of choice on the majority of America’s Cup, Grand Prix, ocean race boats and Superyachts. The iconic brand also services cruising sailors with a wide range of performance 3D and paneled sails. North Sails is also the world’s leading sailmaker for One Design classes, with more National Championships, World Championships and Olympic Class victories than all other sailmakers combined.

“I purchased North Sails from its founder, Lowell North, over 30 years ago,” said Terry Kohler, owner of Windway Capital Corp, the previous majority shareholder in North Technology Group. “I am confident the new shareholder, Oakley, will continue Lowell’s legacy to help launch North Sails and the NTG companies into their next stage of development. We are all extremely proud to have been growing our ‘Engine Above the Deck’ concept with North Sails and Southern Spars to become the undisputed market leader in sails and composite spars. North Sails has been on every America’s Cup Challenger and Defender, was the sail supplier to every winning Volvo Ocean Race boat and our sails have been used by countless ocean, Grand Prix race winners and Olympic sailors. During my tenure, technology used from sailmaking led to the development of North Thin Ply Technology and North Cutting Systems. In addition, we’ve built EdgeWater Boats into one of the top brands in the outboard industry. I wish Oakley and the North Sails management team future success as well as my pledge of commitment for continued support.”

“North Sails has been the leader in sailmaking technology for over 20 years,” said North Technology Group CEO, Tom Whidden. “Our team of industry experts build sails that allow sailors to maximize their performance on the water, whether they are extreme ocean racers or casual cruisers. North Sails looks forward to working with Oakley to grow our business and carry on the tradition of providing sailors with the highest performing products by being at the forefront of development. Terry Kohler has been a tremendously supportive shareholder for over 30 years and we are confident Oakley will be equally supportive in the years to come. Oakley shares our obsession with technology and enthusiasm for the sport of sailing. We’re confident we are transitioning the business to a shareholder that will help North Sails reach the next level in sailmaking innovation.”

The acquisition will further align North Sails with other NTG companies, specifically Southern Spars. Completing the transaction results in the ability to better share resources and technology between the two brands. “North Sails and Southern Spars have been working together for years on various projects from the America’s Cup to the new J-70,” said North Sails President Ken Read. “A well kept secret is North Sails Design Services, a combination of North Sails designers and proprietary computer programs, working together to answer questions traditionally identified during sea trials. I’m hopeful stronger synergy between North Sails and Southern Spars will result as we continue to provide the best products to all sailors. It’s an exciting time for North Sails and for the sport of sailing.”

Oakley’s investment will assist the North Technology Group management team in growing and further developing all of its brands to ensure the Group remains at the forefront of technology for marine industry products and outside. The company will continue to be headquartered in Milford, Connecticut.

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Did the 34th America’s Cup actually bring additional visitors from outside San Francisco?

Posted on 02 March 2014 by Valencia Sailing

The San Francisco airport recently published its passenger traffic data for 2013. It was a record year, with a total of 45,011,764 passengers, compared to 44,477,209 passengers in 2012 (the previous record year), which translates into an increase of 1.2%

One would think that the America’s Cup significantly contributed to that all-time record and that an important part of these 534,555 additional passengers at the city’s airport had come from the four corners of the USA and from around the world to watch the truly spectacular AC72′s flying at nearly 50 knots on the San Francisco bay. However, the headline number masks a less than stellar summer. Not only that, traffic in the months of July, August and September of 2013 was actually LOWER than the corresponding period of 2012.

Total passenger traffic in the 2013 “Summer of sailing” was 12,317,695 compared to 12,483,813 in the same period of 2012, that is a decrease of 1.3%

Although the America’s Cup finals were a resounding sports success and provided a thrilling come-back story, they didn’t bring more visitors that would have in any case visited San Francisco! Passenger traffic in September of 2013 was 3,785,479 compared to 3,831,358 in the same month a year earlier, a decrease of 1.2%

San Francisco airport passenger traffic

2012 2013 Change
September 3,831,358 3,785,479 -1.2%
August 4,362,369 4,351,101 -0.3%
July 4,290,086 4,181,115 -2.5%
TOTAL 12,483,813 12,317,695 -1.2%

The reason behind the record in 2013 can be found a few months after the end of the 34th America’s Cup. The increase in passenger traffic was mainly due to a spike of nearly 11% in the month of December, a result of the extraordinary cold spell that hit most of the US and Canada and forced vacationers from the regions buried under a foot of snow to seek refuge in the sun and warmth of San Francisco during the Christmas holidays…

Unfortunately, this data seems to prove what everybody always thought. The 34th America’s Cup was largely a local sporting event in San Francisco that failed to attract interest in the rest of the US or abroad. There might have been big crowds in the final days but it now appears they were mostly locals or at most, visitors from around the city.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. When Larry Ellison organized the America’s Cup, his one and only preoccupation was to retain it. The rest was superfluous, despite the public rhetoric and PR. The less teams there were, the smaller crowds attended, the better it was because that meant less headaches and smaller costs for the organization. That’s the DNA of the America’s Cup and if someone thinks he can run a better and bigger event, all he has to do is to win it in 2017.

Should we now expect sailing fans to flock in droves in Hawaii in the summer of 2017?

The America’s Cup was truly a spectacular race but hardly anyone outside San Francisco was there to witness it…

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Photo gallery: Emirates Team New Zealand train in Singapore

Posted on 19 February 2014 by Valencia Sailing

Team photographer Chris Cameron captures Wednesday’s light-air action as the Kiwi team trains on the eve of the opening event of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series:

Emirates Team New Zealand train on the eve of the opening event of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series. Singapore, 19 February 2014. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand

Emirates Team New Zealand train on the eve of the opening event of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series. Singapore, 19 February 2014. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand

Emirates Team New Zealand train on the eve of the opening event of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series. Singapore, 19 February 2014. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand

Emirates Team New Zealand train on the eve of the opening event of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series. Singapore, 19 February 2014. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand

Emirates Team New Zealand train on the eve of the opening event of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series. Singapore, 19 February 2014. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand

Emirates Team New Zealand train on the eve of the opening event of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series. Singapore, 19 February 2014. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand

Emirates Team New Zealand train on the eve of the opening event of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series. Singapore, 19 February 2014. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand

Emirates Team New Zealand train on the eve of the opening event of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series. Singapore, 19 February 2014. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand

Emirates Team New Zealand train on the eve of the opening event of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series. Singapore, 19 February 2014. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand

Emirates Team New Zealand train on the eve of the opening event of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series. Singapore, 19 February 2014. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand

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Video: Pete Melvin talks about the A-Class Worlds and the America’s Cup rule he’s drafting

Posted on 17 February 2014 by Valencia Sailing

Sail World’s Richard Gladwell talks to the American sailor and designer about the A-Class Worlds that just ended and, more importantly, about what the next America’ Cup boat will look like. Melvin forms part of the team that is writing the new rule:

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Emirates Team New Zealand takes on strong fleet in A Class worlds

Posted on 05 February 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Emirates Team New Zealand] A strong Emirates Team New Zealand connection will be evident when the World A Class Catamaran championships is raced off Takapuna Beach, Auckland.

The worlds, which start next Monday, will be preceded by the New Zealand Nationals which start tomorrow.

Eight of the 79 international entries are:
- Ray Davies and Glenn Ashby from the 2013 America’s Cup sailing team.
- Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, fresh from victory in their 49er at the Sail Auckland regatta, and recent recruits to the sailing squad.
- 2013 America’s Cup design team members Pete Melvin, Luc Dubois and Nat Shaver.
- Chris Nicholson, skipper of the team’s CAMPER entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, is a late entry. He will race in Dean Barker’s cat which became available when Dean withdrew from the worlds to concentrate on the team’s preparation for the Extreme Sailing Series which starts later this month.

Ray Davies, Chris Nicholson, Peter Burling, Glenn Ashby and Blair Tuke, part of the eight Emirates Team New Zealand members to take part in the A-Class World. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand

There’s a mix of A Class experience here. Glenn Ashby has won the Australian A Class champs 10 times and has won the worlds seven times. He trimmed the wing on the AC72 in San Francisco and recently won the Australian A class title.

Ray Davies, tactician on the AC72, admits to have taken his A Class for a sail “just a few times”.

Chris Nicholson arrived in Auckland only yesterday and confesses to having never sailed an A Class. But as he says, “I know how to trapeze and I can steer so that should get me around the track.”

The designers are all experienced campaigners and highly rated.

At stake over the next week will be team bragging rights, with Burling and Tuke hoping to show their new team mates how it’s done.

Three races a day are scheduled for the New Zealand Nationals which finish on Saturday.

The worlds start with a practice race on Monday, February 11. Two races a day are scheduled through to Saturday and one on the final day, Sunday.

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Spithill looks for ‘3-peat’ with ORACLE TEAM USA

Posted on 03 February 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Oracle Team USA] Jimmy Spithill will return to ORACLE TEAM USA as the team re-builds with a focus on winning its third consecutive America’s Cup.

The youngest skipper to ever lead a team to victory in the competition for the oldest trophy in international sport, Spithill says the lure of working with team principal Larry Ellison and CEO Russell Coutts again was too strong to ignore.

“There were some very good offers out there, but at the end of the day, Russell and Larry, I wouldn’t be here without them…” Spithill said.

Spithill has made the America’s Cup his life’s work, beginning as a 20-year old skipper of the Young Australia team in the 1999/2000 Louis Vuitton Cup. He’s raced in every event since then, making steady progress towards the victory in 2010, when he became the youngest skipper to win the trophy.

Jimmy Spithill will try to make it three in a row for Oracle Team USA. Photo copyright Gilles Martin-Raget / ACEA

He followed that up with the successful defense last September and now he’s looking to make it three wins in a row as skipper of ORACLE TEAM USA.

“Being a part of the team when we first won in 2010 and then to be able to get back to back wins and now to have an opportunity at a third, it’s been an amazing ride. I feel fortunate to have been a part of it since day one and I’m looking forward to going at it again.”

ORACLE TEAM USA completed an amazing comeback to win the America’s Cup last year. Down 1-8 to a strong Emirates Team New Zealand, Spithill led his team to 8 consecutive wins to retain the Cup. He says the competitive challenge of the Cup and the winning atmosphere on the team, were also factors that pulled him back.

“This team is very competitive. The top guys are always surrounding themselves with very good people. There is no micromanaging on this team by Larry or Russell. They almost give you the burden of trust and that allows people to grow and learn and ultimately become better at what they do.”

Spithill sees the America’s Cup as the ultimate team challenge, a measuring stick for the individual in a team environment.

“It’s so difficult to pull it off. But when you go through it all and you do it as a team and you do pull it off, it’s just so rewarding,” he says. “As a person, you learn a lot about yourself through these campaigns. I enjoy that it’s a team environment, where you’re working towards a goal but learning about yourself and trying to get better each day. This is one of the ultimate tests, athletically, mentally and in team management, that you can find. It’s very addictive!”

As he looks ahead to the 35th America’s Cup, Spithill says he thinks ORACLE TEAM USA will once again be pushed to the limit as the American team attempts to win the Cup for the third consecutive time. And he can’t wait to take up the challenge.

“It’s going to be one hell of a battle, one hell of a fight,” he says. “I just can’t wait to get back out on the water and get racing. The prospect of going head to head with a few of these teams and the personalities involved… It’s hard to wait to be honest. I’m looking forward to training and to racing in the AC World Series again.”

Other members of the ORACLE TEAM USA crew will be revealed in the coming weeks.

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Nationality and the sport of sailing; what defines the nationality of a sailing team?

Posted on 30 January 2014 by Valencia Sailing

As we already announced yesterday, Turkey wrote a new page in sailing history by entering for the first-time ever in the Volvo Ocean Race, the premiere round-the-world race.

The team is solely backed by Alvimedica, a Turkish manufacturer of medical devices, and the official presentation of the team took place today, Thursday, in Istanbul. The CEO of Alvimedica, Cem Bozkurt, is an avid sailor himself, owns a Farr 40 and in the last four years, Alvimedica Sailing Team has been very active in the country’s sailing scene.

More importantly, the Team Alvimedica VO65 will be flying the Turkish flag!

Nevertheless, reading the official press release on the Volvo Ocean Race website, one would think that Team Alvimedica is a a purely American team, brainchild of two young American sailors, that happened to find a Turkish corporate sponsor… There is extensive mention of Charlie Enright’s and Mark Towill’s past and their efforts to mount a viable Volvo Ocean Race campaign. While their efforts and ambitions are truly admirable and their achievement even more remarkable, the team wouldn’t have come to fruition without Alvimedica, Cem Bozkurt and his interest in the sport of sailing.

It is true that Turkish sailors completely lack the offshore experience needed for one of the world’s toughest races but so did the Emirati and Chinese sailors before them.

This is how Team Sanya was defined on the official website in the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race: “Chinese entry Team Sanya will be looking to stamp their mark on the race, with Volvo Ocean Race veteran and two-time winner Mike Sanderson as skipper and a mixture of experienced sailors and raw Chinese members.” Team Sanya had just one Chinese sailor onboard, “Tiger” Teng Jianghe, while the skipper and another six sailors were New Zealanders. Following the same logic, Team Sanya should have been called a New Zealand entry with a Chinese sponsor.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing was the brainchild of Ian Walker and Jamie Boag. Without any doubt Walker and Boag deserve huge credit for taking the top-end of the sport of sailing to the Middle East and their team was heralded on the Volvo Ocean Race website as “the first team from the United Arab Emirates to enter the race.” There was just one Emirati onboard Azzam, Adil Khalid. Did that make it an Anglo-Saxon team that happened to have an Emirati sponsor?

Race organizers and the Volvo Group certainly have their eyes set on the all-important US market and the inclusion of a local story will undoubtedly drive media and marketing interest there. However, we think that calling Team Alvimedica an American team is far-fetched.

Actually, the question should be what defines the nationality of a sailing team nowadays. Is it true that an Australian-Kiwi team funded by an American billionaire won the America’s Cup last September in San Francisco? Similarly, an affiliate of Team New Zealand, funded by a Swiss billionaire, won it twice, in 2003 and 2007!

When it’s a USA boat with a single US sailor on board then it’s a US winner! When it’s a Turkish boat with a US crew on board and a single Turk then it’s, again, a US winner!

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Russell Coutts puts pressure on San Francisco with statement America’s Cup could go to Hawaii

Posted on 27 January 2014 by Valencia Sailing

Should we consider Saturday’s article on the Associated Press website, widely reproduced throughout the world, as an indication negotiations between the City of San Francisco and Oracle Team USA have reached a point that the America’s Cup holders don’t find beneficial enough? Do they need an extra push through a well-timed article by putting pressure on the city?

Oracle Team USA received Mayor Ed Lee’s preliminary proposal for hosting the next America’s Cup on December 22nd and since then, apparently, the two parties have been in negotiations in order to iron out a deal that would allow the world’s oldest sports trophy to be held again in San Francisco. Russell Coutts, two weeks before that date, stated that San Francisco was the “clear frontrunner” among the prospective bidders to host the event.

Although there has never been any official statement, it was believed that Hawaii was also in the mix, given the fact Larry Ellison bought Lanai island in 2012. Since Ellison owns the trophy why couldn’t he also own the venue? Up until Saturday there weren’t any other indications, or at least we weren’t aware of them, that other possible venues were under consideration. According to Bernie Wilson’s article, San Diego surfaced as a serious alternative as well, and the America’s Cup could be back there in 2017, following a 22-year absence.

Russell Coutts mentions another “non-US port” that is considered as a potential venue, without naming it.

If one is to believe Russell Coutts, this photo will not be repeated in the future. San Francisco, 26 June 2013. Photo copyright Gilles Martin-Raget / America’s Cup

Does that sound familiar? Well, it does because it is exactly the same strategy used by, then, BMW Oracle Racing in 2010 during their negotiations with San Francisco. The deadline set back then was December 31st, 2010 and even ten days before that, Stephen Barclay, COO of BMW Oracle Racing, had sent Rhode Island officials a letter indicating his team was “very serious” in its intent to move forward with that state in order to hold the 34th America’s Cup in Newport.

A few weeks earlier, Russell Coutts was claiming that “strong expressions of interest from four European countries are also being studied by the American Defender. GGYC/BOR will announce a final decision on the venue, along with the date and other details of the next America’s Cup by the end of this year.” There were reports of Valencia being considered as a venue, even if the city had denied it had any intention to bid, given its dire financial situation. Although not officially mentioned in a press release or statement, BMW Oracle was insinuating there was a mysterious Italian city that was offering €500 million for the right to host the America’s Cup in 2013 (yeah, sure…).

As it turned out, these “statements” were well-orchestrated, meant to put pressure on San Francisco officials. Of course, in all negotiations both parties must hold an alternative option in case everything goes awry but it’s difficult to believe, Coutts is seriously considering the option of holding the next Cup in the middle of nowhere or a mysterious “non-US” port, somewhere on this planet.

San Francisco proved to be a great venue despite the fact initial expectations were light years away from reality. It is understandable city officials could be less than enthusiastic about a deal with Oracle Team as the promises made three years ago about the event were in the realm of science fiction. No less than 12 challengers and three defense candidates were expected while Mayor Lee was claiming that he was anticipating 500,000 spectators A DAY during peak days (!!!). In reality, there were three quarters of a million spectators throughout the duration of the entire event!

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