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Oracle Racing selects Northport in New Zealand for training in 2013

Posted on 18 April 2012 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Oracle Racing] Oracle Racing will stage its 2013 training program out of Northport, New Zealand’s newest port facility located at Marsden Point, Northland.

Northport is a deep-water commercial port situated at the entrance to Whangarei Harbour, making it the northernmost multi-purpose port in New Zealand. The nearby city of Whangarei is among the 12 largest in New Zealand with a population estimated at more than 52,000.

The locale was selected for reasons including its close proximity to Core Builders Composites in Warkworth, about an hour’s drive to the south. CBC is building many of the key components for ORACLE Racing’s two AC72 wingsail catamarans while the hulls are being built at the team base in San Francisco, per the nationality rules for the Cup.

Northport also has ample shore space and easy access to open waters, where the team can test its two AC72’s. ORACLE Racing’s training is scheduled to begin mid-January 2013 and run through the end of April.

The full sailing team will be on site as well as the full support/shore team. The team plans to erect a tent on site measuring 70m by 40m that will be the main onshore facility to support the trialing of the AC72.

ORACLE Racing expects to launch its first AC72 this summer from its base at Pier 80 in San Francisco. Under the cost containment rules of the America’s Cup the team can sail that boat for only 30 days from its launch date through Jan. 31, 2013. On Feb. 1 teams are permitted to launch a second AC72 and may sail each yacht 45 days through Apr. 31, 2013.

ORACLE Racing’s first AC72 will undergo tests on San Francisco Bay after its launching. Later this year it’ll be shipped to Northport where it’ll join the second AC72 for two-boat testing beginning in February.

ORACLE Racing Fact Sheet

WHAT: ORACLE Racing 2013 Training Session

WHERE: Northport, Marsden Point, New Zealand

WHEN:

  • Sailing Team: mid-January 2013-April 2013
  • Shore/Operations Team: November 2012-April 2013

WHO:

  • Members of ORACLE Racing will join together in New Zealand beginning in January 2013 for an intense training session with the team’s two AC72 wingsail catamarans in preparation for the 2013 America’s Cup
  • The Shore and Boatbuilding teams will begin arriving by the end of October, 2012, to commence set-up of the team base at Northport, which will include a tent measuring 70m x 40m
  • The Sailing Team will arrive in full by mid-January, 2013, to begin the testing program that is scheduled to run through the end of April
  • After the training session the team will disband the remote operation and reassemble at the team base, Pier 80, in San Francisco, USA

WHY: Marsden Point was selected for a number of reasons:

  • Close proximity to Core Builders Composites in Warkworth, about an hour’s drive to the south. CBC is building many of the key components for ORACLE Racing’s two AC72 wingsail catamarans
  • Ample shore space to erect an operations tent
  • Easy access to open waters, where the team can test its two AC72 catamarans which will be used in the defense of the 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco

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Oracle Racing Spithill grabs overall lead in ACWS Championship

Posted on 15 April 2012 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Oracle Racing] ORACLE Racing Spithill placed second on the water in a testing race, but it was good enough to claim the overall lead in the America’s Cup World Series 2011-12 Season Championship with two events remaining on the schedule.

“The good news is we took the overall lead. That’s the most important part,” said Jimmy Spithill on taking over the series lead from Emirates Team New Zealand (Dean Barker).

The final day of competition at ACWS Naples saw yet another variety of condition: light and lumpy. The wind on the racecourse peaked around 8 knots but at other times was non-existent, and with a lumpy sea running the AC45 catamarans were slamming on the sea due to the lack of power from the light winds.

After a slow start, ORACLE Racing Spithill was in 8th place at the first reach mark and 6th through the first leeward gate. But by the 2nd leeward gate the quintet had climbed up to 2nd place, a position the sailors would hold to the finish of the 40-minute race.

Spithill is now leading the overall America's Cup World Series score table. Naples, 15 April 2012. Photo copyright Guillain Grenier / Oracle Racing

“We got a little stuck off the start line, were ordinary for a while,” said skipper Jimmy Spithill. “But we knew there were going to be opportunities on the race track. The guys stayed calm and JK (John Kostecki, tactician) did a real nice job calling the breeze. I thought we had good boatspeed upwind and we clawed our way back.”

ORACLE Racing Spithill crossed the finish line 1:15 behind winner Luna Rossa Piranha (Chris Draper), which went on to win the ACWS Naples Overall Championship in the crew’s first regatta. The Luna Rossa Challenge 2013 was formed over the past winter after the conclusion of ACWS San Diego last November.

Luna Rossa Piranha earned 50 points for the race win and finished with the high score of 92 points. ORACLE Racing Spithill placed second with 77 points and Emirates Team New Zealand third with 60 points.

By placing second in the fleet racing and seventh in the match racing, one place ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand, ORACLE Racing Spithill leapt into the overall lead in the ACWS 2011-12 season championship with two events remaining, Venice, May 15-20, Newport, June 26-July 1.

“We didn’t have our best regatta here, but we’ll go back and work hard for Venice and see what we have to sharpen up on,” said Spithill. “But the most important part of this regatta was getting the overall lead.”

ORACLE Racing Bundock placed 6th in the final fleet race and finished seventh overall in the regatta with 37 points. ORACLE Racing Bundock also placed third in the ACWS Naples Match Racing Championship after dropping its semifinal match against Luna Rossa Piranha.

ORACLE Racing Bundock is apparently still the fastest AC45 on the water. The crew won the ACWS Naples 500 Meter Speed Trial today with the fastest time of 47.56 seconds at a top speed of 20.43 knots in winds between 7 and 10 knots.

By comparison, ORACLE Racing Bundock won the San Diego speed trial last November with a time of 36.16 seconds at a top speed of 26.87 knots, the fastest ACWS speed trial ever recorded. The winds were blowing 16 to 20 knots that day.

“The whole fleet’s a little up and down, that’s just the caliber,” said skipper Darren Bundock. “We need to go away and focus on getting consistent. Some of our starts were very average. And today we had a good start and still finished down. But we’ve seen almost every team have a bad race, one or two. It’s tough out there.”

America’s Cup World Series Naples Fleet Racing Overall Standings
Team (Country) R1 – R2 – R3 – R4 – R5 – R6 – R9 — Total
1. Luna Rossa – Piranha (ITA) 6 (5) – 6 (5) – 2 (9) – 3 (8) – 3 (8) – 4 (7) – 1 (50) — 92 points
2. ORACLE Racing Spithill (USA) 1 (10) – 3 (8) – 7 (4) – 4 (7) – 2 (9) – 2 (9) – 2 (30) — 77
3. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) 3 (8) – 1 (10) – 1 (10) – 1 (10) – 7 (4) – 1 (10) – 7 (8) — 60
4. Energy Team (FRA) 2 (9) – 4 (7) – 8 (3) – 5 (6) -1 (10) – 7 (4) – 4 (15) — 54
5. Team Korea (KOR) 4 (7) – 2 (9) – 5 (6) – 6 (5) – 5 (6) – 5 (6) – 5 (10) — 49
6. Luna Rossa – Swordfish (ITA) 7 (4) – 5 (6) – 6 (5) – 2 (9) – 8 (3) – 3 (8) – 9 (6) — 41
7. Artemis Racing (SWE) DNF – DNC – 3 (8) – 7 (4) – 6 (5) – 8 (3) – 3 (20) — 40
8. ORACLE Racing Bundock (USA) 5 (6) – DNC – 4 (7) – 8 (3) – 4 (7) – 6 (5) – 6 (9) — 37
9. China Team (CHN) DNF – DNC – 9 (2) – 9 (2) – 9 (2) – 9 (2) – 8 (7) — 15
(Notes: Standings reflect race finish and (points scored) in parenthesis; Races 8 and 9 weren’t contested)

America’s Cup World Series Naples Match Racing Championship
1. Artemis Racing, 2. Luna Rossa Piranha, 3. ORACLE Racing Bundock, 4. Luna Rossa Swordfish, 5. Energy Team, 6. Team Korea, 7. ORACLE Racing Spithill, 8. Emirates Team New Zealand, 9. China Team

2011-12 America’s Cup World Series Overall Standings
Team (Country) Match – Fleet — Total
1. ORACLE Racing Spithill (USA) 30 – 37 — 67
2. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) 30 – 36 — 66
3. Artemis Racing (SWE) 33 – 21 — 54
4. Energy Team (FRA) 25 – 23 — 48
5. ORACLE Racing Bundock (USA) 26 – 21 — 47
5. Team Korea (KOR) 25 – 22 — 47
7. China Team (CHN) 11 – 13 — 24
8. Green Comm Racing (ESP) 11 – 12 — 23
9. Luna Rossa Piranha 9 – 10 — 19
10. Luna Rossa Swordfish 7 – 5 — 12
(After four of six scheduled events)

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ORACLE Racing Spithill closes the gap on the Kiwis while Luna Rossa places two teams in Match Race Final Four

Posted on 13 April 2012 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: America's Cup] ORACLE Racing Spithill had the best day across the two fleet races, posting two second-place finishes. In contrast, each race winner (Energy Team, Emirates Team New Zealand) also carried a seventh place score on the day. As a result, Jimmy Spithill’s American team gained four points on the leading Kiwis, nearly cutting their lead in half over the course of the day.

“It was really hard,” said Chris Draper, the helmsman of Luna Rossa Piranha, who led his team to a consistent 3-4 performance. “The swell made it hard, surfing upwind and then straight into the waves downwind… So to get the results we did, I’m really pleased with our guys, they did a great job.”

China Team, struggling to this point, also stood out on the day. Although skipper Fred Le Peutrec’s team has yet to finish out of ninth place, on Friday their starts were outstanding and the team was among the early leaders in both races. After that however, the quality of the fleet was simply too strong for the new Chinese squad.

“Good starts, yes, but not good races,” he said after racing. “We are a bit frustrated by the wind shifts, but anyway, two good starts… Unlucky with the wind, but that’s the game.”

Following the two fleet races, the remaining two Match Racing Quarterfinals were completed. Emirates Team New Zealand found itself pushed deep into the standings by Terry Hutchinson’s Artemis Racing, who found the right shifts in the tricky conditions to earn a lopsided victory. While Artemis advances to the Semi Finals, the Kiwis are forced to settle for a disappointing eighth place.

“It is nice to be able to gain some points on them for the overall World Series,” Hutchinson said. “But looking at the big picture, we still have a lot of work to do.”

In the other Quarter Final, Luna Rossa Swordfish won a close match over Energy Team, becoming the second Italian crew to qualify for the Semi Finals.

“For the team, it’s a great result for both boats to be in the top four,” said Manuel Modena, the trimmer on Luna Rossa Swordfish. “I hope we can both make it to the Final. Both our crews have the ability, but I would like to win if we both make it.”

The program for Saturday starts with the Match Racing Semi Finals and Final followed by two Fleet Races. The start of the first match is scheduled for 1330 CEST.

Fleet Racing Championship – Provisional Standings Day Three (after six races):

1. Emirates Team New Zealand (Skipper: Dean Barker); 52 points
2. ORACLE Racing – Spithill (Skipper: James Spithill); 47 points
3. Luna Rossa – Piranha (Helmsman: Chris Draper); 42 points
4. Team Korea (Skipper: Nathan Outteridge); 39 points
5. Energy Team (Skipper: Yann Guichard); 39 points
6. Luna Rossa – Swordfish (Helmsman: Paul Campbell-James); 35 points
7. ORACLE Racing – Bundock (Skipper: Darren Bundock); 28 points
8. Artemis Racing (Skipper: Terry Hutchinson); 20 points
9. China Team (Skipper: Fred Le Peutrec); 8 points

Match Racing Championship – Provisional Results:

QF3 – Artemis Racing beat Emirates Team New Zealand
QF4 – Luna Rossa Swordfish beat Energy Team
Emirates Team New Zealand finishes eighth in the Match Racing Championship; Artemis Racing advances to SF1.
Energy Team finishes fifth in the Match Racing Championship; Luna Rossa Swordfish advances to SF1

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News Day 1 – AC World Series Naples

Posted on 11 April 2012 by Valencia Sailing

News Day 1 – AC World Series Naples

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Oracle Racing presents crews for ACWS Naples

Posted on 02 April 2012 by Valencia Sailing

The team’s two AC45 catamarans – ORACLE Racing Spithill and ORACLE Racing Bundock – will be skippered, respectively, by Jimmy Spithill and Darren Bundock.

Spithill will race with his regular crew of John Kostecki (tactician), Dirk de Ridder (wingsail trimmer), Joe Newton (headsail trimmer) and Piet van Nieuwenhuyjzen (bow).

In sweeping the two championships of the America’s Cup World Series San Diego, ORACLE Racing Spithill (main picture) couldn’t have concluded 2011 in a more resounding way. The crew heads into Naples 1 point off the overall lead for the 2011-’12 season championship.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in Italy, but have never been to Naples before,” said Spithill, the youngest skipper (30 years) to ever win the America’s Cup. “The series is getting more competitive at each event. It all comes down to the final Sunday and winning that. We’re looking forward to it.”

Bundock (helm, left image) debuted at the helm of an AC45 at ACWS San Diego last November. His crew in Naples will be a mix of newcomers and veterans: Tom Slingsby (tactics), Kyle Langford (wingsail trimmer), Simon Daubney (headsails) and Simeon Tienpont (bow).

“San Diego didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked, but we’ve had two very useful training sessions in San Francisco and I think we’ll have a better showing in Naples,” said Bundock, the double Olympic silver medalist (2000, ’08) in the Tornado class.

“We know the boat is fast, it’s won two of the three speed trials, so I’m excited about Naples and getting back to racing,” Bundock said.

At ACWS San Diego, ORACLE Racing Bundock set the speed trial record time of 36.16 seconds over the 500-meter course for a top speed of 26.87 knots.

Slingsby and Langford are two of the young guns in the team. Slingsby, 27, has his sights set on winning a Gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics in the Laser class. Langford, 22, is a past youth world champion (2005) in the multihull class and a past Australian Youth Sailor of the Year (2006).

“I’m amazed at how physical the AC45 is,” said Langford. “It’s really a challenge to keep your mind focused on trimming the wing, looking up the course, tailing all the lines that need tending and keeping your heart rate in check. It’s great, athletic sailing.”

Slingsby will be arriving in Naples fresh from the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Palma, where he raced the Laser in preparation for the Olympics.

“We worked a lot on our communication and team work in the training sessions in San Francisco,” said Slingsby. “I’ve heard Naples is a light-air venue, but from what we’ve seen the weather changes daily. It’ll be good to get back on the water.”

The two bullets in San Diego put ORACLE Racing Spithill within 1 point of the overall series lead. ORACLE Racing Bundock is tied for fourth overall. After ACWS Naples, regattas follow in Venice, Italy (May 15-20) and Newport, R.I. (June 27-July 1) to conclude the 2011-’12 ACWS season.

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Russell Coutts talks to VSail.info about the America’s Cup

Posted on 30 March 2012 by Valencia Sailing

If you had the chance to talk to just one person about the America’s Cup, it would undoubtedly be Russell Coutts, not only because the Kiwi skipper is the most successful one in the 160-history of the event with four wins but, most importantly, because he’s the CEO of Oracle Racing, the current Defender. VSail caught up with Coutts in Cascais, right after a tough, long but successful day on the waters of the Portuguese city. Katusha, the Russian boat where Coutts is calling tactics, is leading the RC44 fleet races with 24 points, 14 points ahead of second-placed Team Aqua:

VSail.info: Two years have passed since you won the America’s Cup in Valencia and we are now more or less a year and a half before the next match in San Francisco. The top management of the America’s Cup Event authority went recently through a major change. Why do you change one organization roughly halfway through its mandate? Does it mean they failed in their job?
Russell Coutts: No, not at all. Richard Worth is now focusing on television and venue deals which is actually what he was doing prior to San Diego. Most of the broadcast deals are for the AC Word Series so far, with the exception of NBC in the US and, I think, TV New Zealand and one or two others that include the America’s Cup. All the others are just for the AC World Series. He now has to go and work on the deals for the America’s Cup.

I think that side of things is in a really good position right know. You must have read we announced the deal with Mediaset in Italy. Those channels, like Mediaset in Italy or Sky Sports in the UK are now taking live programming. Ten hours of live programming for an AC World Series event is a fantastic achievement, considering we have being going on for less than twelve months. The goal from the start was to create a better television product and I think there will be another broadcast arrangement, fairly major, pretty soon. This is a big step for the sport and broadcasters are now agreeing they are prepared to cover the sport live. This has been a major achievement but Richard has now to go back and finish those broadcast contracts.

It was a good strategy actually not to give them the rights right through to the America’s Cup because now everyone agrees the product is worth a rights fee. We can now start negotiating television deals appropriate for the coverage because the quality of the coverage is very good.

VSail.info: So, right now, would you state you are satisfied with the current situation of the America’s Cup?
Russell Coutts: There are, obviously, parts I’m happy with and parts I’m still unhappy with.

VSail.info: Such as?
Russell Coutts: The big focus right now is to bring more commercial partners. We have some excellent partners right now. Louis Vuitton has been a fantastic partner for years now and still continues to be. Obviously, Puma is a great achievement and we expect to have more to announce soon. We had a very good offer recently in one of the key categories but I can’t say more than that at this stage. Things are starting to move now but there is still a lot of work to do.

VSail.info: Is Larry Ellison happy with the current situation of the America’s Cup?
Russell Coutts: Yes and no. He’s very happy with the television product and he considers it a major step forward. He would have liked us to have had more commercial support today but you know, in a way, perhaps the time line was a little optimistic from day one because we didn’t have a television product. If you haven’t got a television product it’s hard to sell the event to commercial sponsors. Now that we have that and we have real numbers in terms of valuation and so forth we are in a much better position today than we were six or seven months ago.

VSail.info: If you had a magic time machine and you could go back to Valencia the day after you won the 33rd America’s Cup would you have done something differently?
Russell Coutts: Yes, a few things. I think, probably, we underestimated how good the television pictures would be for the AC45. If we had known that then, I think, we could have got away with a smaller America’s Cup boat which would have been cheaper. In hindsight that’s definitely something we probably do differently. In a way, lots of us, me included for sure, thought we needed a boat the size of the AC72 to really provide some scale and significance. However, you have to admit that looking at the television footage from the AC45′s that it’s actually pretty compelling, even if they’re smaller boats. That was a discovery this time and that’s definitely something to think about for the future and now that four teams have already their AC72′s under construction whoever wins can review that.

However, the AC72′s will be absolutely spectacular and at that time the value equations versus expenses might be better balanced in any way. I also think that you could do things such as making some elements of the boat one-design. I wouldn’t suggest making it all one-design but in order to save costs you could make some aspects of the boat one-design.

Russell Coutts helms Katusha on the opening day of the RC44 Cascais Cup. Cascais, 28 March 2012. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / VSail.info

VSail.info: Since you mention the cost of the AC72 boat, this is the fourth or fifth RC44 event I attend and I have to admit I become more enthusiastic about the RC44 yacht. Wouldn’t it have been easier for the America’s Cup or even you to create an RC90, considering the fact it’s your very own creation?
Russell Coutts: It was considered but, frankly, if you sit down with the broadcasters today they would have a different opinion. Let me give you the example of La Sete, the Italian network that covered the 2007 America’s Cup in Valencia. They analyzed the figures from Valencia and decided it didn’t work for them. As good as we, sailors, think Valencia was, frankly, from a broadcast proposition it simply didn’t work well enough. It wasn’t the only thing that turned broadcasters off though, the legal problems for two and a half years didn’t help that.

However, it was the same description we received from major broadcasters in the USA. They simply told us, “Look, the sport as it is isn’t compelling enough for TV”. So we had a choice. We either kept it the same or experimented and made changes. The fact broadcasters are taking now live TV is a pretty good indication that it has a really good chance of working. In addition, don’t forget that an RC90 would also be very big and very expensive.

VSail.info: Maybe but I used the number 90 just to give an example. Why couldn’t it be an RC80 or an RC70?
Russell Coutts: Then you have the problem with the keel depth and you can’t go to a lot of harbors in the world. The multihull packs up pretty well and you can disassemble the hulls and pack them in a 40-foot container. Event the AC722 can be pulled apart and packaged. The logistics are a lot simpler and if you go to an AC World Series event you see there are only two cranes that lift the boats. It’s probably a lot more difficult lifting a bigger and heavier yacht. It’s much more complex, plus removing the keels is more problematic. Frankly, it’s hard to get a monohull that’s actually as visibly exciting across a range of conditions. The AC72′s will be flying a hull in probably less than six knots of wind. You can have a really good race with boats that move fast.

Another problem with the broadcasters were the delays we had in Valencia. We really needed a boat that could sail in very light winds but still able to sail in very strong winds.

VSail.info: I see from your answers that, for you, television is a fundamental issue. It seems to me that, in your opinion, we either have good TV or don’t have an America’s Cup altogether.
Russell Coutts: It’s pretty hard to imagine raising commercial sponsorship these days without having a media property that is actually creating value. Don’t you think? That’s why there was a major focus on changing the media value proposition. I think that we have taken the first steps, it’s still the early days but it certainly looks like it’s been accepted by the broadcasters. We had to address several things.

First, we couldn’t afford delays, like we had in the past. We had to narrow the chances of having a delay. Second, we had to have boats that were fast enough but even if we had multihulls without the course boundaries I don’t think the races would be anywhere near as interesting. But when you impose boundaries on the course and, more or less, force the boats to maneuver you can now program the racing to fit in a television time of, let’s say, 35 minutes. You know that by lengthening or shortening the race course by only a small amount you can be very close to that broadcast time. They are all good features.

Frankly, the discovery with the AC45 races is that there is a lot of passing, a lot of excitement, it is just as tactical as the monohulls and, frankly, the same sailors are still winning. It didn’t change the game so much that all of a sudden Dean Barker is not a strong candidate any more or Jimmy Spithill, the old monohull sailors. Quite the contrary. You’ll see that guys like Nathan Outteridge, who joined the Koreans, will be really good. I expect in the future this transition from Olympic sailing as these boats are more like sailing a dinghy, relatively. You’re going to get the top sailors out of the Olympics, like Ben Ainslie, Tom Slingsby or Nathan Outteridge, coming into the Cup and, frankly, they will be the ones to dominate the sport. That’s a good thing. In the old format we, honestly, had a lot of gray hair on the boats.

Russell Coutts helms one of the two Oracle Racing AC45 yachts. Plymouth, 14 September 2011. Photo copyright Guilain Grenier / Oracle Racing

VSail.info: You have gray hair yourself though…
Russell Coutts: Yes, that’s what I mean. I had a great time in the America’s Cup but I think it should be more about young people. I think it needs to be more about the athletes and that was another intentional change, to make the AC72 a very physical boat by reducing the crew number, for cost reasons as well, that does favor a younger sailor. That’s why I think we’ll be seeing those top Olympic sailors coming once they get established in these boats.

VSail.info: Will you consider it a failure or a disappointment if there are only tree challengers next year in San Francisco?
Russell Coutts: We have four teams that are building AC72 boats right now. I think there is a good chance we get some more. There is a good chance we get a team from France and a good chance we’ll get the Koreans and the Chinese. There is still chance they can make it and if they do, it will be fantastic. In reality, I’d love to have 12 teams out there. That is probably the situation the America’s Cup should aim for in the future but right now I don’t think the value proposition has been established right. I think the costs are still too high versus the commercial return and if we can get that better balanced in the next year and a half or two years I’m sure you will see more teams competing in the Cup.

Probably where the Cup needs to go next time is to look at what we think the commercial value of a team is. Let’s say, we might decide it’s 20 million euros, for example, and you are trying to keep the costs under that figure so that the teams can be sustainable. Right now, if the commercial value is lower than the cost it’s clearly not sustainable.

VSail.info: Does that mean you would be in favor of imposing spending caps for the teams?
Russell Coutts: I think the sport needs to look at all sorts of options and there are a lot of lessons from other sports. There are a lot of methods that could be adopted and frankly the sport has a fair way to go to manage itself professionally, like the other sports do. That’s also one of the reasons we took the decision to look for a new CEO because the America’s Cup is in America and there is a significantly different approach in selling the sport in that country.

We can learn a lot of lessons from some of those big sports that have been through some of these processes before. Even the NBA is restructuring itself at the moment. The PGA doesn’t have a Q school any more and even NASCAR is considering shortening their race times in order to have a better format for TV. We have to be open minded and keep working towards getting the sport on a better commercial structure such that the teams can come in and know they can create sponsorship value and hopefully make a profit at the end of the day. That will be a sustainable activity and it’s not the case today.

VSail.info: The new, interim, CEO of the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) that has just been nominated is Stephen Barclay who also happens to be the COO of your team, Oracle Racing. However, one of the cornerstones of what you have been promising for the last two years was the independence of the America’s Cup organization. Don’t you think there is a contradiction here? How independent can Barclay be in his new role?
Russell Coutts: The important thing right now is that ACRM, in other words the on-the-water organization in charge of the rules, the regulations, the international jury and all of that, is independent. Everyone accepts that and they truly are. You are absolutely right, the goal in the future should be to have an independent ACEA. However, right now, how is ACEA funded? We are very, very fortunate to have Larry Ellison underwriting this. The money just doesn’t grow on trees, it just doesn’t come out of nowhere! He’s underwriting this and therefore, obviously, if you were the one putting most of the money, you would want to have a fair say as to how that money is managed. In the future we should take the example of the American sports leagues and have the team owners jointly controlling ACEA. That would be, in my opinion, one of the models that should be considered but right now there is one person funding it and you can’t expect him to say, “Alright, I’ll put all the money and I’ll let someone else run it”. That doesn’t make sense.

I’m only referring to the commercial side. Don’t forget ACRM and Iain Murray were elected by the other teams and everyone accepts the fact that Iain Murray is independent and has a team around him that really run the races fairly and independently. From a competitive sense, right now, this is the most important thing. Commercially, let’s be honest, you probably want someone like Larry Ellison driving some of these decision, like the television because he doesn’t have a bad track record commercially. It’s probably the best we could get right now.

Russell Coutts helms one of the two, then, BMW Oracle Racing RC44 yachts during the 'Media Evaluation Trials' held at the start of the 34th America's Cup cycle. Valencia, 22 July 2010. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / VSail.info

VSail.info: Larry Ellison in an interview in the Wall Street Journal two days ago stated he would rather have the AC45′s in the America’s Cup so that there are “more teams and more drama”.
Russell Coutts: Absolutely. Like all of us he looked at the AC45′s and realized the pictures were pretty good while we are still going through the expense of the bigger boats. Maybe we could have got away with, if not the AC45′s, something that is smaller than the AC72 and create a rule around that. That’s another thing about the multihulls. They do look spectacular at that scale and on television, with all due respect, I don’t believe that a product like the RC44, which is the same size as the AC45, would look spectacular on television and make the broadcasters pick it up. Larry is saying the same thing. What we need to do is keep the cost down so that, ultimately, there is a commercial return for the teams.

VSail.info: Enough about the America’s Cup in general, let’s talk about your team. Where is Oracle Racing standing right now in its defense of the Cup?
Russell Coutts: I haven’t spent a lot of time with Oracle Racing lately. I have been really focused on the event for quite some time now.

VSail.info: You are the CEO of the team though, aren’t you?
Russell Coutts: Yes but I just haven’t had much time to actually be the CEO of Oracle Racing. They are progressing well at the moment. Jimmy Spithill is, obviously, leading all the sailing operations and so forth. He’s 33 years old and I think he’s also capable of leading the team now and that’s a good thing. I think it’s a great thing. We want these guys to grow, I certainly want that. I think that it wouldn’t be acceptable, probably, for him to just keep the same role, year after year after year. He has to grow and have more management responsibility and ultimately do what I was doing at Alinghi or Oracle last time. I think it’s great.

VSail.info: Is there a probability or possibility that Spithill will not be helming the defending yacht in San Francisco in September of 2013?
Russell Coutts: I think it’s a low probability, let’s face it. I think that right now most people would agree that he’s one of the best, if not the best, out there. He’s pushing real hard, he’s sailing A-Class cats and all sort of things that would up his skill level for the America’s Cup. We are really very happy with Jimmy but, obviously, in a campaign like this, and he’s the first to accept that, there are two things, particularly when you are defending. First, you need a good training partner and that’s why we brought Ben Ainslie in. I think these boats are ideal for Ben. As I said, as it turned out and probably none of us realized that the format would favor this sort of sailors so much. I’m talking about the Iain Percys and the Ben Ainslies of the world, that sort of guys, none of us probably realized when the concept was being developed that the format was perfect for them.

We need an excellent backup if something happens to Jimmy. It would simply be ridiculous to risk the whole campaign or set the whole campaign on one person and not have a backup. But he also needs competition, he needs to be pushed by guys like Ben Ainslie and Darren Bundock.

VSail.info: Last but not least, when are we going to see the Oracle AC72 launched?
Russell Coutts: At the end of July. We have the wing quite progressed right now. There are four teams that plan on building two AC72′s and if we get a few other teams they will be one-boat programs. It’s a big task, I can tell you, to build two of these boats. You’ve got plenty of work to do.

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Oracle Racing’s training session ends with a collision

Posted on 23 March 2012 by Valencia Sailing

Oracle Racing’s training session ends with a collision

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Oracle Racing’s training session ends with a bang

Posted on 23 March 2012 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Oracle Racing] During training today on San Francisco Bay ORACLE Racing – Team USA’s two AC45s were involved in an accident that left one of the boats with damage to the port hull.

“We’re always trying to recreate the intensity of racing that rival challengers have with our own in-house racing,” said skipper Jimmy Spithill. “Unfortunately, we get it wrong sometimes. If you push to the maximum, you accept there are going to be some bumps and crashes.”

“It’s not good,” said second helmsman Darren Bundock, who was driving the boat that hit Jimmy’s. The damage to Jimmy’s boat (No. 5) means a forced end to the March training session one day early.

The incident occurred during maneuvers when Bundock tried to dip behind Spithill. Both boats had been luffing head-to-wind with Bundock to the left. But with the wind blowing a steady 20 knots and gusting higher, Bundock was unable to bear away and clear behind Spithill before hitting Boat No. 5 two-thirds of the way from the bow.

The sailors described the collision as a glancing blow, but the sharp bow of Darren’s Boat No. 4 put a deep crease into the hull of Boat No. 5. The ever-present support boat was quickly alongside and used a 5,000-liter-per-hour pump to drain the water from the breached hull, some of which will need to be replaced.

“It wasn’t as loud a bang as you might think,” said Will McCarthy, who dove inboard before the impending impact on Boat 5. “It was more of a glancing blow.”

None of the sailors on either boat was hurt.

“You could see it coming from about 15 seconds out,” said Joe Newton, wing trimmer on the Spithill boat and sitting close to the impact point.

Today was the last scheduled day of training for the crews before breaking camp and preparing for the ACWS Naples (Apr. 7-15).

Coincidentally, a similar accident occurred at the end of a training session last June. The shore crew are guaranteed to take a wry view on incidents like this. “This type of stuff always happens on the last day of practice. Or before a long weekend,” one said.

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