Tag Archive | "Russell Coutts"

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America’s Cup finals to be held in Chicago?

Posted on 11 March 2014 by Valencia Sailing

The San Francisco Chronicle and the Associated Press have published in the last two days reports, indicating Larry Ellison’s ambition to hold the 35th America’s Cup finals in the state of Hawaii.

In the San Francisco Chronicle article published yesterday with the title “Larry Ellison eyeing Honolulu for ’17 America’s Cup”, author Julie Guthrie states that the current edition of the world’s oldest sports trophy will “likely” take place in Honolulu.

We will skip the analysis of the details on the format Larry Ellison would like to see from 2015 to 2017. Some elements, in our opinion, are closer to science fiction than reality but we will scrutinize that at some later stage.

According to the same article, Ellison states that Russell Coutts remains “actively – and earnestly – in talks with other venues, from San Francisco and San Diego to Newport.”

Guthrie’s article was then picked up by Associated Press’ Bernie Willson who also added Chicago in the mix of cities that might be involved with the America’s Cup. According to Willson, a veteran America’s Cup reporter, the Windy City “might be considered for a warmup regatta called the America’s Cup World Series rather than the America’s Cup match.”

However, according to our information, coming from very reliable sources, Chicago could have a much more important role in the event, as it is, currently, the most likely venue!

One would never associate a city in the middle of the United States with the pinnacle event of the sport of sailing but Chicago has all it takes to be an excellent venue. There is no ocean but there is Lake Michigan! It’s a major international metropolis, it’s closer to Europe than San Francisco, both in distance as well as time zone, and it is a perfect venue for stadium sailing with a geography very similar to San Francisco. It will undoubtedly provide the backdrop for stunning photos and TV footage.

Although it is still early and the final decision on the America’s Cup venue will not be made public before the end of summer, we wouldn’t bet against Chicago, at all… The next few months will certainly be interesting.

Will the America’s Cup choose Chicago as well? It seems so! Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / www.vsail.info

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America’s Cup Protocol and Class Rule expected in March

Posted on 11 February 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: America's Cup] The new version of the America’s Cup Class Rule, which will produce a foiling, wingsailed catamaran in the 60-65 foot range, is on schedule to be released next month.

Several potential America’s Cup teams are cooperating in the rule writing process with the design firm Morrelli & Melvin.

The Protocol for the 35th America’s Cup, which defines rules specific to this event, is also on track for a March release.

“We’re working with the Challenger of Record from Hamilton Island Yacht Club to have a Protocol ready to issue in March,” said Russell Coutts, CEO of ORACLE TEAM USA.

According to Russell Coutts, both the Class Rule and the Protocol of the 35th America’s Cup will be published next month. Photo copyright Guilain Grenier / Oracel Team USA

“An overriding theme of both documents is an effort to reduce costs and increase media exposure, so that teams can provide a better return to their sponsors for significantly less money than was required last time.”

The selection of the venue for the 35th America’s Cup is likely to stretch into summer. Several venues are under consideration.

“We need to take the time to assess each potential venue and ensure we get the best possible outcome for the America’s Cup, the teams and the event commercial partners.” Coutts said.

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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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Russell Coutts’ plans for the Challenger Selection Series

Posted on 18 December 2013 by Valencia Sailing

Although no official announcement has been made yet in what regards the future of the world’s oldest sports trophy, Russell Coutts recently talked to the Yachting World magazine and outlined the preliminary plans he has been working on for the 35th edition of the America’s Cup.

The CEO of Oracle Team USA didn’t reveal anything in that interview that we hadn’t already mentioned in the recent past. In what regards the time frame for holding the next edition, it seems that Coutts is in favor of the summer of 2017, in San Francisco, if of course the negotiations with the city come to a fruitful conclusion. That doesn’t come much as a surprise, as the years 2015 and 2016 are deemed to be unsuitable. It would be too early for 2015 while 2016 is an Olympic year.

As far as the boat is concerned it appears Coutts wants to ditch the AC72′s and opt for a smaller 60-foot foiling catamaran with a crew of 7 of 8 and a number of one-design elements. Again, this is an aspect that has already been covered recently but Coutts makes it more official with this interview. Coutts argues that a smaller boat with less crew and less liberty for designers will bring costs down. Nevertheless, changing the boat once again will throw away the progress made during the last three years and will force the teams and the event to face the same potential problems and pitfalls they faced in the past. Everybody will have to go through the same steep learning curve, with huge differences between the yachts that would again result in unattractive races where one boat crosses the finish line five minutes ahead of the other. Not only that, right now there are at least a couple of AC72′s that could be readily available for any current or potential future team.

Coutts’ plan that seems to raise concerns among the potential challengers has to do with the racing format for the selection of the Challenger that will face Oracle Team in three years. Just like the previous edition, a worldwide circuit is envisioned but unlike last time it will count, and heavily, towards the final challenger selection. According to well-informed French sources, Coutts would like the preliminary circuit to serve as an initial cutoff from which just the top four will make it to the actual Red Bull Cup, or whatever the Challenger Selection Series (CSS) might be called, at the America’s Cup venue.

In this America’s Cup edition as well, Russell Coutts has the helm of the event. Photo copyright Gilles Martin-Raget / America’s Cup

As a result, the challengers will be racing in modified, foiling AC45′s from 2015 until early 2016 and then the top four will have one year to design and build their actual, new, America’s Cup boat. In order to also make it cheaper for the organization, Coutts states in the Yachting World interview that he would like each challenger to hold a preliminary race in its home country and bear the entire organizational costs. If that plan fails to succeed then Coutts could present an alternative in which two “regional” championships are held. The first one would be in Europe where the potential challengers from Europe and the Middle East would compete for two CSS berths, while the second one could take place somewhere in Australasia and will see the Australasian challengers square off for the remaining two CSS spots. The costs of each “regional” championship could then be shared among the corresponding teams.

The idea that only four of the participating teams would advance to the CSS is ludicrous, at best. Even if the AC72′s turned out to be extremely complex and expensive, each challenger that took part in the previous Cup knew at the time of its inscription that if the necessary funding was in place early on, they had their spot in the Louis Vuitton Cup guaranteed, regardless of their result in the ACWS. Now, if Coutts’ plan goes ahead and there are more than four challengers, teams will know for sure that they will be in the America’s Cup venue just 18 months before the event takes place! Unless they are backed by a billionaire they will have absolutely no chance whatsoever in getting any sponsorship at all!

Can anyone imagine what big multinational group would ever fund Ben Ainslie or Franck Cammas for the 35th America’s Cup if they have no certainty as to whether the team will exist beyond 2016? Even if they are two of the world’s best and most accomplished sailors will any marketing manager sign a sponsorship deal with them with such an unknown hanging over them? Guess what chances a newcomer will have! None.

Despite his repeated claims to the contrary, it seems that once again Russell Coutts is trying to build as big an advantage for the Defender as possible… That’s what the America’s Cup is all about after all…

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2014 RC44 Championship Tour announced

Posted on 11 December 2013 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: RC44 Class Association] Venues for the eighth season of the RC44 Championship Tour have been confirmed. Two new venues will make their debut, alongside three RC44 favorites. The season will start in the Caribbean next February, where the class will be welcomed for the first time by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Virgin Gorda.

The fleet will then travel across the Atlantic to Europe where they will compete at three European events in Cascais, Portugal; Marstrand, Sweden; and for the first time Sotogrande, Spain before crossing the 4000nm to Muscat, Oman for the final event of the season.

2014 RC44 Tour Schedule:

12 – 16 February – Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
23 – 27 April – Cascais, Portugal
25 – 29 June – Sotogrande, Spain
13 – 17 August – Marstrand, Sweden
19 – 23 November – Muscat, Oman

Making its debut, the 2014 RC44 Championship Tour will kick off in Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. One of the world’s premier sailing destinations, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) comprises of an archipelago of more than 25 islands set amid the turquoise waters of the central Caribbean Sea. Hosted by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS), the teams can expect a regular 15-20 knots of breeze in crystal clear waters. Although there will still be one day of match racing followed by four days of fleet racing, the format will be adapted to include a long distance race around the island.

April will see the fleet return to Europe as the Clube Naval de Cascais host the second event of the Tour in the picturesque bay of Cascais, Portugal for the third year.

Also making its debut on the 2014 Tour is the Andalusia town of Sotogrande; stretching along southern Spain’s Mediterranean coastline between Gibraltar and Marbella. This beautiful location will provide the teams with the dependable westerly Poniente, the strongest easterly Levante or the southerly Sirocco wind, originating in the Sahara.

August will be the fourth year the RC44 Class has returned to the heart of Swedish sailing, Marstrand, with the event doubling as the classes World Championships. The fleet will then make their winter migration to the Arabian port of Muscat, Oman for the final event of the season.

The 2014 RC44 Championship promises to be another exceptional year and RC44 Class founder Russell Coutts will be keeping a close eye on it ”I’m looking forward to getting back on the Tour next year. We have some great venues lined up and the competition within the fleet is phenomenal, the Class is growing stronger every year.”

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Iain Percy talks to VSail.info about Artemis Racing, the RC44′s and, of course, the America’s Cup

Posted on 20 November 2013 by Valencia Sailing

The three-time British Olympic medalist is in Puerto Calero, calling tactics for Torbjörn Törnqvist oboard Artemis Racing at the RC44 World Championship. We caught up with him and talked about his new role as Team Manager and the present and future of the team and the America’s Cup.

VSail.info: Let’s start with a personal question. How does it feel to go from flying AC72′s that were doing 50 knots to sailing the RC44′s that do 15?
Iain Percy: It’s a very different boat! You get very used to the speed and certainly it does feel quite slow. It’s funny because when you go from a slow monohull to a catamaran for the first time, they feel very similar in terms of the challenges. When you go back the other way it feels very different, it never feels fast. The AC72′s are incredibly fun boats to sail, they are truly awesome bits of kit. They, obviously, have to be treated with huge respect, something that, as a team, we probably know more than anyone but they are incredible bits of engineering and design and produce the fastest boat upwind and downwind that has ever been by any margin.

VSail.info: As a tactician, what is trickier for you? An AC72 or an RC44?
Iain Percy: It’s funny, I had thought and people would have thought that your decision-making must be much faster on a bigger boat but the truth of it is that on any big boat, be it an AC72 or an RC44, you can’t do a maneuver 10 seconds after the last maneuver. You always have to wait for 30 seconds, so you still have the same amount of time to make those decisions that you do. In some ways, in the Star class or the RC44′s where there are 14 boats, you have to make quicker decisions because suddenly a boat below you will tack and you will instantaneously have to decide what your response is. In some ways, in the older Version 5 boats or the AC72′s, you have that time. You made your maneuver and you have another 30 seconds before you do another straight away. The difference on the AC72′s is that in those 30 seconds you traveled a lot of distance.

Iain Percy took the helm of the Artemis Racing RC44 for the first time last month. Cascais, 2 October 2013. Photo copyright Nico Martinez / RC44 Class Association

VSail.info: What is the next small boat you will sail now? The Moth?
Iain Percy: I wanted to sail a Moth and I asked my friend Adam May who works for Artemis Racing. He said I wasn’t allowed to sail it because I was too fat and I was going to break it. We are trying to find a solution to that with a different boat. We will do a lot of foiling in-house and that’s, obviously, the future of the America’s Cup. You see it everywhere, it is becoming the future of sailing as well. It is a real step change, it’s a cool feeling and it’s incredibly efficient.

However, the focus now for myself and Artemis Racing is to build a strong team, capable of winning and dominating the America’s Cup arena. That’s our goal, that’s Torbjörn’s goal. Artemis went through some very tough times last year and some real highs when we managed to race against all the odds. It’s time now to show we are a winning team, a serious, professional team that is going to win the next America’s Cup. That’s the team we are building right now, quietly, as we tend to do, not always to the pleasure of everyone else, including the press, but we get on with our business quietly, respectfully to all our competitors. This is the way Torbjörn likes it, the way he is as a man. We are very professional and with a real will to win.

VSail.info: I’d like to step back to the previous America’s Cup. Artemis Racing was one of the teams that started very early, as early as the fall of 2010, had ample resources and became the Challenger of Record. However, it suffered from a series of very serious setbacks that culminated with the unfortunate and tragic accident last May. In hindsight, looking back, what were the errors the team committed? What lessons did you draw so that you avoid repeating them in this America’s Cup?
Iain Percy: Huge lessons! To be fair, I think that all teams that did this new challenge for the first time learnt a lot and you learn from doing things badly. Like everyone else we learnt through both, through making mistakes. I wasn’t very involved until after the 2012 Olympics but I must say that in the final 6-8 months, because of guys like Bart, Nathan or Iain Jensen, the feeling in the camp was absolutely incredible. I have, personally, never worked in such a politics-free team, such a hard-working, driven team. Where we were for most of the time I experienced, there was very little wrong. We are now going to be one team, in one venue, concentrating on winning the America’s Cup. This is probably our central message.

VSail.info: In what regards the 34th America’s Cup as an event how would you assess it? What do you think were its strong points and where do you think it could be improved? Do you have any criticism regarding the organization, the format or what you personally think should be done?
Iain Percy: One thing I never doubted was that Larry’s and Russell’s vision, what they truly believed, was going to be the best for our sport and the best for the America’s Cup. I always supported that, I never was one of those cynics and, in the end, I think that the final product proved to be a step transformation for our sport. Finally, it was very appealing to the non-sailing public as well as the sailing public. Like we all learnt from our good and bad things, I’m sure the event will too. I think it’s clear that both on the safety side and the cost side, it would be good to increase safety and reduce costs, so that we have more teams.

VSail.info: This means you personally think there should be more teams. Isn’t the America’s Cup after all meant to be just for the Torbjörn Törnqvists and Larry Ellisons of the world?
Iain Percy: I think the America’s Cup will always be exclusive, it will always be the premiere event and it’s never going to be an event for the masses. This is clear, it never has been and never will be. This is precisely part of its appeal. For centuries we had the involvement of people like Sir Thomas Lipton and it’s always going to be the pinnacle and premiere. Just like Formula 1 or Premier League Football, it’s an expensive game. However, there is a balance. You can make it so exclusive that just one man in the world can afford it and you can go down to the Optimist level where you have hundreds and thousands of people.

I think that collectively, ourselves, Torbjörn and the other teams would like to see a few more teams involved. It doesn’t need to be a huge event, we want to keep it exclusive and we want to keep the “wow” factor in there and a few of the things that were breathtaking, not just on TV but also from the shore. I think that requires a certain boat size but for sure we support very much the efforts of Oracle and we are regularly communicating with them about cost, trying to get that balance just right. You want to keep the development element as much as possible, the excitement and the “wow” factor, that also comes from the development.

VSail.info: Everybody’s raging about foiling but, after all, it wouldn’t have existed if Emirates Team New Zealand hadn’t developed it!
Iain Percy: Absolutely and that’s another thing I have huge respect for them, having led the development side of that cycle, but there is a balance. We are trying to bring the costs down by 20-30% so that the next Cup can include a few more enthusiasts of our sport, companies and commercial partners, to join and make it slightly bigger.

VSail.info: That would also allow your buddy Ben Ainslie to find the adequate corporate funding and come in with a British team, wouldn’t it?
Iain Percy: That would be great. I’m really proud of what he’s trying to achieve. It takes a lot to take that on. He’s genuinely trying to be a businessman as well as a successful sailor. Whether he succeeds or not takes nothing away from the effort he’s putting in, which I think is fantastic for the sport. He’s a huge name for our sport, he’s a good friend but also incredible competitor. It takes personalities like him to take our sport beyond its traditional public and as a result, I really support what he’s doing. I talk to him regularly and I wish him very well with that.

VSail.info: If at the end, unfortunately, he’s unable to come up with the necessary funding for the British team, will you hire him for Artemis Racing?
Iain Percy: We are currently building a team independent of that, we have to. Myself and Ben are pretty open with each other that we don’t need to play games with each other, after knowing him for 30 years. We at Artemis Racing need to build a team that is capable of winning and dominating the Cup arena. We are going ahead doing that.

Artemis Racing in the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals. San Francisco, 6 Augusts 2013. Photo copyright Carlo Borlenghi / Luna Rossa

VSail.info: If I’m not mistaken, the official title you have in Artemis Racing is Team Manager. Does this mean there will, eventually, be a CEO in the team or are you the boss?
Iain Percy: Torbjörn and myself wanted to pick a name that was a little bit less hierarchical. It is quite significant, we don’t want to have a team that has too many layers, we are a flatter structure and Torbjörn has ran his business in this way. It was a subtle but significant change in the title for the leadership of the team. in some ways, even in business, the almighty CEO title is going away and this is ironically coming out of California. Companies are working now in a slightly more collaborative way, maybe with strong leadership and direction, but not necessarily in a hierarchical top-down layer structure. Torbjörn is very innovative in his business and although it is a subtle name change, it is significant.

VSail.info: Will you be onboard the boat?
Iain Percy: Yes, if, of course, I’m up to standard.

VSail.info: Can you be the team manager, CEO or call it what you like and at the same time sail?
Iain Percy: I think if you have a lot of support you can. If you look at all the successful Cups, probably before this one, the leadership of the team came from the boat. You can think of Brad, Russell and Dennis before that, it was very unusual for the team leader not to be intrinsically involved in the boat.

VSail.info: Russell Coutts won the Cup without going onboard.
Iain Percy: That’s why I said before this Cup. This was probably the first time with Russell a CEO that wasn’t sailing. You can do it in both ways but technically it doesn’t hurt to be that type. You win the America’s Cup by going faster the right way and starting better. We can’t lose sight of that and if you’re on the boat, you’re living it, and you bring it back home to the base when you make decisions. It’s much easier.

VSail.info: In a recent statement by Torbjörn Törnqvist on Bloomberg, you and Nathan Outteridge are the nucleus of the core group that will form Artemis Racing. Will Nathan be again the helmsman?
Iain Percy: We aren’t going to make these announcements right now. We are building a team and it’s going to be a very, very strong one. It won’t be long before we make any announcements, both on the sailing and design side, that, I think, will impress the people who study this game closely and you will realize what I mean when I say we are very serious about dominating this game.

VSail.info: I look forward to reading that impressive press release. However, you still haven’t officially challenged for the 35th America’s Cup. When are you going to do that?
Iain Percy: Torbjörn has made no bounds about his ambitions to win the America’s Cup. The only thing, of course, we need to check are the rules of the competition… [Laughs] There is absolutely no cynicism in that, we are in regular contact with Russell and Oracle Team and we share very much their vision on where to take things. We don’t foresee any problem there but I think it would be prudent to wait and see what the rules are before we make that final commitment.

VSail.info: You stated a few minutes ago that one of the things you were working on was a 20-30% reduction in costs. How would you do that? Will a smaller boat bring down costs or should the next Cup also be sailed with the AC72′s?
Iain Percy: I don’t think that size is particularly the crucial factor. There has been some talk about a slightly smaller boat and to me that wouldn’t matter, to a point. Myself and Torbjörn talked a lot about this because we watched quite a lot of that fantastic final from the shore and it is important to know that, even though they are huge boats with huge wings, you couldn’t get that much smaller and still be able to watch it well from the shore. That is quite an important element of bringing that to the people of San Francisco and to those that travel to watch it. I would, personally, be happy to see a slightly smaller boat to save costs and increase safety to some extent, which is also very important.

But, the way you really reduce costs is by reducing the amount of people you have involved and you have to look at how you do that. This is something we are doing quite collaboratively in our discussions and one thing Russell is looking really hard at is how to best reduce numbers of people, number of design hours, number of sailing hours without reducing from the event. There will be a one-design element involved in that.

VSail.info: Are you in favor of incorporating one-design elements in the new America’s Cup boat?
Iain Percy: Yes but with a lot of careful forethought. I come from a dinghy background where I have seen one-designs like the 49er which I don’t think it is necessarily right when you see the top 49er sailors having to buy 20 masts before they find the right one. My opinion is that when the boats get more and more critical and technical it’s much harder for them to be one-design.

If you supply equipment where even half a millimeter makes a difference, like daggerboards, you open up the event to a lot of problems if someone suddenly feels they were supplied with a poor set of daggerboards. It would become the story of the Cup and that would be a real shame. Let the guys build their own daggerboards, it’s a small design sphere and it wouldn’t really affect the cost very much. There are bigger items of the boat, maybe an element of the wing, the beams maybe or some other elements of the boat that organizers can overbuild, supply, make them very safe without affecting performance too much.

That’s the key point for me, to find the elements that aren’t critical to performance because that would be a difficult game for me. It’s also the interesting part for both the public to watch and the teams to do: Daggerboards, hull shapes, to some extent maybe the elements of the wing and the mechanical systems. These are the things that are extremely exciting and interesting to watch and understand for an increasingly technical viewing public. But how do we cut costs? We have to look at one-design elements without really affecting performance. You see that in Formula 1 all the time. There are elements they try to keep the same to keep the costs down but they are also trying to keep as much of the design element for the spectators that very much enjoy that aspect.

According to Iain Percy, safety should be improved in this America’s Cup in order to avoid such tragic incidents

VSail.info: We are sitting right now in the Puerto Calero marina and right in front of us we have the Team SCA VO65. There you have an example of race organizers that go all the way to one-design where everything except clothing, food and logos will be strictly the same.
Iain Percy: For me that’s gone a little bit too far. I think it takes away an interest from technical partners. I think that one thing that differentiates our sport is its so visibly incredible technology. That aspect is very attractive to partners that are in that sphere. I think that could be another slight danger, if commercial partners can’t be seen to be making a technical difference. It might distract them from wanting to be in the sport.

VSail.info: Another major unknown is the date of the next America’s Cup. Conventional wisdom wants it to take place either on 2016 or 2017. Do you have any preference?
Iain Percy: I don’t think Torbjörn Törnqvist minds particularly but we don’t want it to be too long away. It’s also very tricky with the Olympic year, in 2016, and it would have to be 2017 if they want to encourage new teams, as early in the year you can in San Francisco. It was a fantastic venue and there aren’t many places in the world that allow you to guarantee start times and wind conditions every day. There are a few but San Francisco is the home town of the Defender. For me, I can see no reason why it wouldn’t be in San Francisco in 2017, unless they have issues locally.

VSail.info: If it’s in 2017, as early in the year as possible as you stated, would San Francisco be the ideal venue in, let’s say, spring?
Iain Percy: It doesn’t have to be as late as September and I think we can start a little bit earlier, in May or June. I’ve been there for the last summer and conditions started getting pretty good as early as April. It wouldn’t be good over the winter as the conditions then wouldn’t make it viable. The seabreeze and the pressure difference, obviously, must be established and that comes in spring. It could be some time in the summer and we could move it a little bit forward but last time they tried to have it as late as possible.

VSail.info: Do you rule out 2016?
Iain Percy: It has always been a challenge for the Cup as the Olympics are a huge sports event, as is the World Football Cup. It’s hard to find the dates in which such a premier sporting event can stand alone and stand out. From a commercial standpoint it’s also good not to be in an Olympic year.

VSail.info: The city of Cagliari announced that Luna Rossa had officially requested space to have a base there for two-three years. Is this something Artemis Racing will do?
Iain Percy: Yes, you need to have a base but then again you don’t make any commitments until you absolutely know where it is exactly going to be held. If, for any reason, the Cup is in the Mediterranean or on the US East coast we would need a very different base than if it were in San Francisco. For sure, we are a technical sailing team and we will need a base to develop and train.

Artemis Racing grabbed third place in the 2013 RC44 Match Racing Championship. Puerto Calero, 20 November 2013. Photo copyright MartinezStudio / RC44 Class Association

VSail.info: Short term, what is your goal on the eve of the RC44 World Championship? Is victory a feasible goal?
Iain Percy: Victory should always be your goal! This is my second regatta in the class and I really enjoyed the first one. Again, for me it has been a long time since I had done this style of grand-prix racing and there are some excellent teams here, full of past RC44 champions, America’s Cup sailors. For me it’s actually the start of the RC44 season even if it’s the end and for sure I haven’t been into any competition without wanting to win it and do as well as we possibly can. We will fight for every place in every race. Next year and the year after we will be doing the RC44 circuit and this has been a big part of Artemis Racing.

This has been a sailing team, not solely an America’s Cup team, for a lot of years and Torbjörn has been a huge supporter of a lot of classes, the TP52′s, the RC44′s and the D35′s. We look forward to the 2014 season and we will have more involvement from our America’s Cup guys, I will be more involved and that will be fantastic for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we will have the chance to develop and race a technical boat together. We will also have more time to interact with Torbjörn and having been through last year with him as the leader of the Cup team, each time we have his involvement we make smarter decisions.

VSail.info: Won’t that interfere with the America’s Cup World Series or whatever that America’s Cup circuit is called?
Iain Percy: Artemis Racing and Torbjörn were active in the RC44 class in the past and that hasn’t clashed with the America’s Cup campaign. We are going to commit to the RC44 class and I think it’s a great boat for us as a squad and I don’t think the America’s Cup will ramp up that much for a little while and that fits very well. It gives us the opportunity to develop our team before the AC45 or whatever circuit they produce.

VSail.info: Are you in favor of the AC45 circuit continuing as well?
Iain Percy: Yes, I think that everyone felt it was a real success. It was fun to do, it was great for the spectators. Fleet racing is exciting and always gave good capsizes. The AC45′s are great boats that can capsize safely, they never break. Artemis Racing had 14 capsizes and nobody was hurt. I think it’s a fantastic boat, very well designed by Oracle Team and it was a good circuit. I look forward to Oracle taking the lead again and don’t forget that takes a lot of investment in time and money that Oracle did last time. We are very grateful and we hope they will do it again this time because it is good for our sport. It is very good for sailing, it is fun for the teams to do and builds interest among the spectators.

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Russell Coutts is working on setting the foundations for the 35th America’s Cup

Posted on 08 November 2013 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: America's Cup] With existing and potential America’s Cup teams working in the background to secure sailors, designers and shore crew for the 35th America’s Cup, efforts are also being made to forge the Rules for the next event.

The Protocol for the 35th America’s Cup must be agreed between the defender and the challenger of record and will detail the timing, location, format, type of boat and other rules for the event.

Russell Coutts, the CEO of ORACLE TEAM USA, has been working on all of the above.

“There are a lot of pieces to put together when it comes to translating the various ideas for the next America’s Cup into concrete rules,” Coutts said.

“The main pillars are the teams, the partners, the broadcasters and the venue and each of these influence the other.

Russell Coutts, CE of Oracle Team USA, is working on setting the foundations for the next America’s Cup

“One aspect we’re working very hard on is cost reduction,” he continued. “If we can reduce costs, we will increase the number of the teams, which will have a positive impact on all aspects of the competition.”

Coutts noted the number of people required to staff each team is the biggest factor to consider for reducing costs.

“What we saw this summer was some spectacular racing. Very few people will disagree with that,” Coutts said. “The question is how to build on that result for less money.

“The boats will likely be smaller than 72-feet with some one-design components, which will reduce the number of sailors and designers.

“We believe the competition still needs to remain a test of sailing, design and boat building talent so we are carefully evaluating reductions in each category.”

Meetings have already taken place with city officials in San Francisco, which is the front-runner as the venue for the America’s Cup Final. Those discussions are expected to continue through the end of the year.

“There is a lot more work to do,” Coutts concluded. “But we’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting already in making the major transformations from the past America’s Cup. Now we’re looking to make the right adjustments such that the 35th America’s Cup is even better.”

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34th America’s Cup – A look back

Posted on 07 October 2013 by Valencia Sailing

Two weeks after the end of what was, admittedly, an extremely exciting and spectacular America’s Cup match we look back and assess the last three and a half years and try to guess what the future has in store. Does our opinion really matter though? Everybody seems to have one and I don’t know whether it will be taken into account by anyone in charge of running the edition that has just started. Nevertheless, here’s what we think was extraordinarily good, mediocre and bad in the 34th America’s Cup. Hopefully, we will not see another self-proclaimed guru or genius that will try to reinvent the wheel but instead, the lessons learned will be used as a stepping stone to an even better race.

The AC72′s are truly spectacular boats that provide close and exciting racing
I guess it is called the pain of being wrong. I was one of the many that argued since 2010 that a match race on AC72′s would be one of the most boring and least interesting sailing races ever. The month of September 2013 proved the exact opposite, as long as the two teams and boats are equally matched. Not only were the two AC72′s boats going at 40 knots of speed, there were lead changes, crossings, plenty of close action and, guess what, sailing skills and tactics did play an important role. These boats are out of reach to all but a few, just four to be exact, but the America’s Cup being the pinnacle event of the sport of sailing, it should push the technological boundaries. If there are four billionaires that want to take the risk and advance let them do it.

Even though no “mortal” sailor will ever step on any of these boats, they are indeed a huge step forward. I can’t see a way back and it is almost certain that a smaller, simpler version of them will be used next time. Having said that, the much-promised disappearance of the postponement flag proved to be pipe dream. The upper wind limits, imposed by safety regulations, and the lower wind limits, indirectly imposed by the ridiculously short race limit of 40 minutes, meant that the AC72′s could actually hold a valid race within the very narrow range of 10 to 20 knots. So much for the famous “3 to 33 knots” promised by Russell Coutts.

Hopefully, the next iteration of these boats will be able to race in more than 20 knots and someone will take a calculator, do some simple math and figure out what a sensible time limit should be in order to have a race in less than 10 knots.

TV coverage of the America’s Cup took a quantum leap into the 21st century
If a Sports TV production Oscar existed it should undoubtedly be awarded to Stan Honey and the America’s Cup TV production crew. Their work has been stunning and the progress achieved in making sailing understandable is unquestionable, thanks to the marvels of LiveLine. It started with the boundary, start, finish and 100-meter lines two years ago and in San Francisco it reached perfection with the tide and dirty air graphics. When once or twice the helicopters couldn’t take off due to the weather and we were deprived from Honey’s graphics I was wondering how we were able to watch sailing on TV before that.

The advances in technology from now to 2017 will certainly make it easier and cheaper to achieve the same results, even if the costs were staggering for any event not backed by a billionaire. However, there are some aspects of that technology that can be easily integrated in most sailing events at a much lower cost. The 2-centimeter accuracy of the onboard GPS by itself is an enormous advance and could give umpires a nearly-faultless tool even in simpler match races.

San Francisco is an excellent venue to hold the America’s Cup
With a couple of exceptions San Francisco provided superb wind and weather conditions and the handful of occasions where racing was cancelled or postponed were due to the artificial limits. We will not repeat what we stated above but it is indeed incomprehensible for a non-sailor to see a race cancelled while the boats were sailing at 15 knots… San Francisco also provides for a stunning backdrop and if one’s aim is to have sailing as close as possible to the shore of a major metropolis, there aren’t many places in the world that could compete.

Is foiling the way of the future? Loïck Peyron foiling on his Moth. Alameda, February 2013. Photo copyright Sander van der Borch / Artemis Racing

Does Larry Ellison really want an America’s Cup with many challengers?
Despite Larry Ellison’s own statements as back as February 2010 and Russell Coutts’ frequent claims, the 34th America’s Cup wasn’t conceived and implemented in order to attract a great number of competing teams. We will not go once again into the details of the high costs, enormous complexity and mind-boggling logistical needs of the AC72 boats, these aspects have been exhaustively covered by this and many other sailing and mainstream media. If Ellison truly wanted to have 12 challengers and 3 defenders, he could have easily done it in the three and a half years since his victory in Valencia in February 2010. The end result was that only three challengers were able to afford the necessary costs to mount a credible challenge and one of them, Artemis Racing, had no interest whatsoever in the commercial and media return of the event since they were entirely privately funded.

Having just two challengers with serious commercial interests makes it much easier for any defender, in general, and Larry Ellison in particular. His only goal was and is to retain the America’s Cup, not to organize a challenger selection series with 12 teams, avoiding a great deal of headaches that come with that. The less, the merrier. We can’t see why it will be different this time.

The question is of course whether it really matters if there are 2 or 12 challengers. The America’s Cup was never meant to be a “big” TP52 circuit. Each one has its own place in the sport of sailing and the America’s Cup isn’t meant to be for everybody, even if they can afford it! Take for example Niklas Zennström, the founder of Skype. He’s an avid sailor, his fortune could eventually allow him to fund a Cup campaign and he spends a lot of money in his TP52 and Mini-Maxi 72 campaigns, nearly 7 million euros per year! Yet he’s not interested in the America’s Cup because he wants to helm his boat, not write checks and watch her from the dock. Other, equally wealthy businessmen, prefer to race in the RC44 class.

Bob and Sandy Oatley, the father and son billionaires from Australia and Challenger of Record, stated a couple of days ago they would like to see a significant reduction in costs so that more teams can enter but then again it’s up to Larry Ellison to decide the future. Vincenzo Onorato, Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup, agreed with Ellison’s protocol because he thought Ellison would also fund his campaign. When he saw that he wouldn’t get a single euro from the American billionaire he withdrew since he was unable to find the necessary funding for Mascalzone Latino. This shows that the Challenger of Record doesn’t have a say in shaping the event and Larry Ellison doesn’t seem to bother if the challenger he chose withdraws…

However, one thing that Larry Ellison’s organization should refrain from doing again this time is to embark on a PR campaign preaching their desire to have “multiple” challengers while at the same time doing everything possible in order not to have more than a handful.

Thanks to their nearly-unlimited budget Oracle Team USA managed to successufly overcome such an important hurdle as the capsize of their first boat. San Francisco, 16 October 2012. Photo copyright Guilain Grenier / Oracle Team USA

If you are rich you will not necessarily win the America’s Cup, if you aren’t you never will
I think the 34th America’s Cup was a clear proof of the statement since we had both cases. Artemis Racing, said to have a budget of nearly 100 million euros, started well in advance and didn’t spare any effort. They hired some of the world’s best sailors, one of the world’s most accomplished yacht designers, they had enviable human and financial resources and yet they tragically failed in their attempt to win the Cup.

On the other hand Emirates Team New Zealand is, in my opinion, the demonstration that no matter how smart you are, and they proved they were when they foiled with their AC72, now matter how good you are, you will be outgunned by someone as smart as you but much richer. Our “resident expert” was claiming already in July that Dean Barker wouldn’t lift the Cup in San Francisco, not because he isn’t a talented sailor but because Oracle Team has more money.

Emirates Team New Zealand didn’t have the necessary funds to run a proper two-boat campaign and engage in serious in-house two-boat testing and training. As a result, they had to show their cards much earlier than they would have optimally done. A team that has to cannibalize the winches from the first boat and reuse them in the second one, cannot win the America’s Cup. With the AC72′s they were always one capsize away from tragically ending their campaign and they had to taste the heart-breaking feeling of nearly being there when Aotearoa was one degree from flipping over. They were no match for Luna Rossa and Artemis Racing but that wasn’t enough to take the Cup from Larry Ellison.

We will probably never know the truth behind Oracle Team USA’s miraculous comeback from the abyss. We will probably never know what happened inside their immense shed on Pier 80 when in 48 hours they turned the tables. Did they really install “Little Herbie”, the alleged Stability Augmentation Systems (SAS) from Boeing? Did they modify the boat to the extent it is rumored? Did Ben Ainslie turned the team upside down? We will never know. However, one thing is for sure, it wouldn’t have been possible without Larry Ellison’s millions. Neither the recovery from the initial capsize in October of 2012 would have been possible if Oracle Team didn’t have access to an unlimited budget.

Larry Ellison could afford to have two-three complete teams with two of the world’s best helmsmen, Ben Ainslie and Jimmy Spithill, and had an army of designers and boat builders. Grant Dalton couldn’t afford to do that because he didn’t have enough money. He’s not to blame of course, he could have done much more with an additional 50 million dollars…

Sailing will always be a tough sport to sell
We truly hope that whoever gets to run the 35th America’s Cup, realizes that it will be impossible to sell sailing as easily as soccer, football or the Formula 1. We might not like that fact but we have to live with it. The next CEO of America’s Cup Event Authority, or whatever it might be called, should learn from the hard lessons from 2010 to 2013.

Cities can no longer afford and will never pay hosting city fees of 5 million euros for a one-week America’s Cup World Series event. The times of exorbitant fees are long gone by and will not return, at least in the near future. In addition, if a city signs to hold a regatta, they will never want it to be a one-off event. They need continuity so that they can sell and market that event themselves. Nearly a month ago, Harvey Schiller, vice chairman of America’s Cup 2013 advisory board, made a presentation in New York (see video above) where he outlined Larry Ellison’s idea to create a World League of Racing. This is a beautiful idea and vision but I am curious to see how they will make it more successful than the America’s Cup World Series (ACWS). Despite the ACWS being successful sports-wise, they failed to help participating teams attract any sponsorship to go ahead, with the exception of the four ones that already had secured funding. We will be watching that development with close interest.

The fact that ACEA failed to sign up any big-name sponsor is also telling. This was also evident in the fact that none of the teams, with the exception of Emirates Team New Zealand, couldn’t have existed without a billionaire backing them. Sailing is an extremely tough sport to sell. Take one of the world’s most successful corporate groups, Samsung. The Korean electronics giant earned, approximately, US$100 million per DAY in the most recent financial quarter. It could easily afford to fund 10 America’s Cup teams as well as the entire event. However, it doesn’t. Why? If I knew the answer I wouldn’t be writing this website, I would be in Seoul, selling that sponsorship for a commission. However, it is an undeniable fact that without Larry Ellison’t money, much of what we have seen from 2010 until last month wouldn’t have existed. It isn’t criticism, it’s a fact.

The same erroneous attitude also had a negative impact on TV rights and the most striking example was Italy. France’s Canal+ paid 1 million euros for the live broadcast rights for the Louis Vuitton Cup and the America’s Cup. According to Italian sources familiar with the issue, ACEA was willing to give RAI the same rights in Italy, at the same price. Following the, undeniably, hugely successful ACWS event in April 2013 in Naples, Luna Rossa was riding a wave of popularity, Italians liked the event and were starting to get a keen interest in the new America’s Cup and as a result the state-owned Italian TV was eager to sign. Seeing that interest, ACEA, according to the same sources, started to act arrogantly, let negotiations drag and at some point doubled the asking price to 2 million euros. RAI didn’t accept and thus the 34th America’s Cup wasn’t broadcast in Italy, one of the just three countries to have a challenger…

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