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Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

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Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 4.53.24 AMWe’re fortunate to have made some very intelligent friends over the decade or so we’ve been working for Sailing Anarchy, and when they ask us serious questions about our reporting, we listen.  So when we  got an email a couple of months ago about the tone of some of our America’s Cup editorials from one of the top people at a highly respected team, our ears perked up – partly because this dude is almost frighteningly smart and extremely respectful, and partly because his questions were reasonable and not defensive.  He agreed that much of our criticism of the ridiculous delays and the lack of transparency in the AC was accurate, but asked me if ‘killing the event with negativity is really a step forward?’  He also challenged me to ‘explain what changes in the AC would encourage us that things are changing?’

With the full competitor lineup about to be released during today’s dog-and-pony in London, it’s time for me to answer his questions.

Q) Is negative criticism or ‘killing the event with negativity’ a step forward?

A) Whether criticism is a ‘step forward’ is irrelevant; we don’t work for the America’s Cup and we have no duty to ‘move the AC forward’; this is similar to the criticism we’ve gotten for writing about regattas that allow littering in the sea and for writing about classes that are being run into the ground, and our answer is always the same:  We are firm believers in transparency, and to us, letting the sailing public know what is really going on behind the scenes is always a step forward, especially over the long term, and even more especially when reality is shrouded in secrecy and bullshit.

We advocated for and applauded the move to catamarans when the majority of the world’s sailing publications were shrieking tradition and sacrilege – actually, we’ve been asking for it since about 2003.  We approved of the format for AC34 and prayed for a great venue like San Francisco.  And we lauded the beautifully sorted and widely available coverage for the most exciting regatta in sailing history.  But we could not remain quiet in the face of the mounting fuckups while ACAlphabet paraded their stunning incompetence in front of the world.  That’s what the other publications did, and if no one questions the bullshit, it will always be repeated.  We’d prefer not to see an AC35 with the same problems as AC34: Woefully low North American ratings and broadcast pickup, failure to meet any of the in-person audience/SF occupancy/ACOC sponsorship raising goals,  a fatal accident whose cause has – until today – still not been properly reported on, safety rules that changed the outcome of the event, and a venue that feels lied to and abused by the sport of sailing.

What my friend was really asking was “do we understand that our negativism is actually hurting the America’s Cup?”  My answer is very simple: That’s not our problem.  We didn’t cheat.  We didn’t fuck up the broadcast deal.  We didn’t cut the promotional budget to pieces halfway through the cycle.  We didn’t make up a bunch of ridiculous projections for the SF government and fail to get close to them..  And we certainly didn’t cover up the cause of death of a famous sailor.  So quit blaming us.

Q) What moves would encourage you that things are changing?

A) As we’ve said ten million times, lack of transparency is one of the sport’s biggest problems.  It’s got its own language, complicated and esoteric rules, centuries of history and tradition, and is mostly run – at least in America – by a cultish bunch of odd rich people in archaic clothing.  AC33 had the potential to change all that in huge ways, yet it failed spectacularly, and somehow, the guy responsible has never even acknowledged his abject failure or explained how he will prevent the exact same failures from happening again.  That’s what we would need to see in order to think about getting behind the next AC – a little openness and honesty instead of the same old back room deals that have governed the America’s Cup for a century.  So when you are watching the press conference today, consider the following questions that we’d like answered; get us that, and we’ll believe that times are changing.  And consider the fact that, for four years, Russell Coutts has consistently refused to sit down for an interview with the world’s most widely read sailing website.  There’s only one explanation for that: Fear.

WHY DID BART DIE?

As we’ve said over and over, we’re not at all happy that there still has not been a single official comment on the cause of the accident that led to Andrew Simpson’s death, and we frankly don’t understand it.  We remember Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna’s death all too well, and while the public investigation process was not an easy one, it’s amazing to us that AC organizers did not insist on even the most basic investigation or transparency for Andrew Simpson’s cause of death.  The Senna case resulted in a finding against Williams co-founder Patrick Head after a massive investigation that included a 600-page analysis of the crash; while Head would never go to jail for his ‘omitted control’ culpability, at least the Italian courts provided closure for hundreds of millions of Senna fans around the world.

We know that Artemis Racing conducted their own investigation into Simpson’s death, yet no one we’ve met will admit to seeing it.  We know the Coast Guard had a think about it too.  And we know that the San Francisco police are required to investigate any death.  Yet when we asked the America’s Cup where those documents were, they had no answer, and that’s ridiculous.  These reports should have been required by ACRM to be released to the public, and an open inquiry into the design, build, and management of Big Red – and the responsibility for her failure – should have been undergone immediately after the accident.  We don’t blame Artemis for the silence – they have good reason to be quiet.  But the event’s organizers have a duty to do more if they want to be considered anything but a failure and a joke.

We hate that we’ve had to, but we’ve done a pile of sleuthing ourselves, and thanks to Johntommy Rosas and the America’s Cup Trust, we finally got our hands on the SFPD’s official 86-page investigation into the Artemis accident, and for the first time today, we’re sharing it with the world. We’ll leave the conclusions to you guys, but it’s not brain surgery; as we all knew when he loudly acted like he never said it, Nathan Outteridge’s words to his dad were pretty accurate –  the boat ‘folded like a taco’ when it dug the hull in during a bearaway.  There wasn’t a pitchpole – according to Artemis design coordinator Adam May’s witness statement, the hull failed.  Why did it fail?  Is anyone responsible, as they were for Senna, or was it just a non-racing ‘racing incident’?  We don’t know, but if the America’s Cup is to be the ‘tier 1 sport’ that Coutts, Ellison, and new AC Commercial Commissioner Dr. Harvey have repeatedly claimed is their goal, it’s time to act like a tier 1 sport, where you investigate deaths and hold people accountable for them.

Until then, the only place in the world you can find the investigation report is right here.  Warning: It’s not for the faint of heart.

Why Did AC34 Miss Every Media/Comms/Audience Target?

We’re not going to re-hash this one – we’ve done it too many times.  The dismal ratings are public knowledge, as was NBC’s refusal to pick up the final races for a national broadcast audience – even when the comeback was in full swing.  But Russell Coutts has somehow not been called to the carpet to explain this abject failure.  Were they the wrong targets?  Is it impossible to make sailing a mainstream sport in America?  We’d all like to know.

What Happened To Continuity?

Coutts told us a dozen times that one of the AC’s big issues is continuity; that it’s incredibly tough to run a commercially viable sports league when it isn’t owned by a reliable group.  This is surely true, and Coutts’ solution the last time around was a financial windfall of several million dollars for the winner of the AC if they maintained some part of the AC event management structure he planned in AC34.

Yet when Oracle won, there was no continuity.  Near as we can tell, there was no management; just Russell and a couple of trusted advisors secretly shopping venues around and trying to create a bit of a bidding war.  The incredible action we saw in San Francisco?  Forgotten.  The ‘reliable pro-sports league’?  Gone.  Instead we have a year of silence while all the excitement fades into the background, and we’re right back on the same old Coutts train.  And we’d like to get off it.

If you would too, start asking the AC folks the same questions we have, and don’t let up. Hit them over here and over here.  If Russell Coutts or his new commercial chief are serious about what they claim, they’ll answer.

But if all the talk is bullshit and smokescreen, designed to cover up the fact that Coutts’ job is really to win the Cup and neither he nor Larry gives a shit about the rest of it, they’ll continue to say nothing, admit nothing, and accomplish nothing – besides retaining the Cup, of course.

 

September 9th, 2014 by admin

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One of the world’s legendary Maxi racers sat in a climate-controlled shed on the Eastern Shore of Lake Michigan for a decade at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars per year, while rumors said she was broken or delaminating, or that maybe she could never again be competitive against newer boats. We think Larry just a little sentimental about the boat he nearly died on, and he’d rather have her as a trophy than let someone else make new memories on Sayonara.

And that’s what you see here – the bow and stern of Sayonara waiting for a lift on Pier 80 after a date with a chainsaw; the final remaining signs that there was an America’s Cup in San Francisco.  There’s no sailing center or junior racing center; no museum or clever, multi-use development.  In fact, despite all the pre-event posturing, there’s very little legacy for ‘the Summer of Sailing’ at all on the ground in SF; just a few rusty boxes and a famous yacht sliced up like an 8-point deer, ready to go on some wall or building or corporate campus.  It can’t be any more cliché, but we’re left no choice but to say it: Sayonara!

Here’s the cover story about Larry’s infamous Hobart from something called BusinessWeek, apparently a magazine in the 20th century.  Like Sayonara, something obsolete; a collection of stories and advertisements bound together in paper.  Imagine that!

Title song from the same era as the boat, and a bit creepy, like its owner.  Interesting photo thanks to SA’er ‘L124C’.

 

August 29th, 2014 by admin

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Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 12.14.00 PMAfter the ass-kissing statement of support released last week by the ‘Euro 4’ AC35 challenger heads (Ainslie, Sirena, Percy, Cammas), we’re unsurprised to learn that, according to AC authority and AP writer Bernie Wilson, Russell Coutts specifically told ETNZ to stay home from a major, confidential Challenger/Defender summit meeting later this week in London.

According to Wilson’s piece, “the event authority is working with the teams “to further define an event based on the published protocol.” Coutts said that after he heard from another team [emphasis ours -ed] the Kiwis didn’t want to want to proceed on that basis, “I rang them up and said, ‘It’s best that you not come.’ We have four other challenging teams and the defender that want to work together to have a great event this time and in the future.”

We’re not quite sure what Coutts’ offered to get formerly logical and critical guys like Sirena on board with whatever failure-doomed plan Coutts is trying, now that his greed and hubris sent Iain Murray and Team Australia into the void previously occupied by Vincenzo Onorato.  Discounted entry fees?  Access to some of OTUSA’s old data archives? It’s gotta be something, because they all know that Australia’s Challengus Interruptus makes Russell Coutts and Larry Ellison look like some of the biggest buffoons in international sport.

Coutts’ latest bit of nastiness to his countrymen is just one more folly from a guy who is almost comically bad at the business of sport, and the same question is on every AC watcher in the world’s lips:  Why would one of the world’s best businessmen keep Russell Coutts at the head of the AC organization when he has failed at every single AC-related business decision he’s ever made, including the most costly boondoggle in the history of modern sport?  It ain’t the biggest newspaper in the world, but the Otago Daily Times has one possible answer: They say Coutts’ contract may have a ‘Bertarelli Clause’, guaranteeing Coutts the top job until he gives it up himself.

Golden Gate Yacht Club members are not happy.  Notwithstanding their recent “support”, Challengers are not happy.  Sponsors are not happy (or nonexistent).  And fans are not happy.  Hell, even Obama has a 40% approval rating.  But how long will the notoriously headstrong Larry Ellison continue to allow his reputation and the sport he loves to be screwed over by a piss-poor businessman who’s proven that he is terrible at everything…except for one skill:  Winning the America’s Cup?

Unless this is all part of the plan…screw everyone and you might not come so close to losing the next one?

Is there anyone in the world left that supports Russell Coutts?

 

July 28th, 2014 by admin

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Former San Francisco politician and now barkeep was one of the city’s biggest naysayers in the negotiations for AC34, and with the City being ‘pumped and dumped’ as a possible AC35 venue, Peskin is clearly feeling vindicated, and, well, a bit punchy.  And yesterday, he penned the “Top Ten Reasons AC Banners Are Still Flying Over SF”  that gave us a little chuckle.  From SFGate’s blog:

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10. Larry Ellison demanding taxpayers give him $11.5 million more just to make him go away.
9.  Cup Banners hiding sacks of lead weights Team Oracle used to “speed things up a bit”
8.  Port likes to pretend things it doesn’t like never happened – see secret plans to revive 8 Washington
7.  First C.W. Nevius has to write another bizarre column blaming NIMBYs for everything
6. Ed Lee hoping “America’s Cup Success” banner is his version of “Mission Accomplished”
5.  Top Port officials don’t even live in SF so they never noticed banners still there
4.  David Chiu hoping banner maintenance can fulfill his mayoral campaign promises that “America’s Cup has already created thousands of local jobs right here!”
3.  Just a few more layers of car exhaust and dirty banners will blend in perfectly with piers
2.  Larry Ellison cemented banners on with his super-fancy “billionaire yacht glue”
1.  Ed still waiting for the ok sign from Willie and Rose.

In other America’s Cup news, Coutts was seen at the Chicago Yacht Club yesterday; ostensibly scouting out his new office space…We’re going to throw our endorsement behind the Windy City as our top choice for the Cup, and we encourage you to do the same.  Why?  How about our own serious Top Ten list?

SA’s Top Ten Reasons For Oracle To Hold An America’s Cup in Chicago:

10. Bermuda’s costume is possibly the stupidest national dress in the universe.  Worse than Burkhas.  No one can take a year of those shorts.

9. Bermuda’s sharks and big reef fish would play havoc with AC62 foils.

8. The Editor would be angry for two years if SD got taken over by Coutts and his minions.

7. SD Kelp + foiling = uh-oh.

6. No more mammal slaughter; AC34 killed literally tons of seals, sea lions, and dolphins.

5. Chicago’s hipster population is minimal.

4. Chicago is way closer to Clean’s house, meaning SA might actually cover the 35th AC.

3. Don Wilson is smarter than the entire San Francisco City Board of Supervisors, and should be able to drive a good bargain.

2. 2 of the 4 Americans currently sailing for Cup teams are (more or less) local.

And the number one reason to have AC35 in Chicago:

1. Late night lead ‘modifications’ to Oracle’s boats will weigh more in fresh water.

 

 

June 19th, 2014 by admin

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coneySan Francisco’s demands to host the 35th America’s Cup proved too much for Russell Coutts, who sent a letter to Mayor Ed Lee this morning.

“”Given the tight timeline and demands from prospective teams to confirm the final venue, it has been necessary to continue reducing the shortlist of candidate cities,” Coutts wrote. “We have therefore taken the difficult decision to no longer consider San Francisco as a possible candidate to host AC35.”

Union wages, NIMBY bitching, and the lack of concessions on fire/police services and pier restoration money don’t work with Coutts’ mission to make the Cup sustainable – a mission that depends on 8-figure venue hosting fees, tax breaks, and long term subsidies from places that see the value in offering them, and we’ve learned that Bermuda is currently throwing the biggest pot of gold at Coutts & Co as of today.

Far be it for us to criticize the business acumen of a guy who just threw spent more money on a per-spectator/per-viewer basis than anyone in the history of sport with almost nothing to show for it, but is an island nation that has lost more than a third of its hotel rooms since 1990 and that, according to most sources, has less than 10,000 beds and 4,000 rooms, a good choice to host what they called a couple of years ago, the ‘third most economically valuable sporting event in the world?’  Remember, this is an island where literally everything needs to be flown in from elsewhere, and it has one of the highest costs of living on Earth.

Maybe Russell is on to something here; after all, the only Bermudian industry bigger than tourism is tax avoidance and international banking; specifically, Bermuda is one of the world’s top tax havens for businesses, and a great place to register your multi-million dollar yacht or plane.  Did Coutts finally come to the decision that millions of poor, downtrodden masses will never make the Cup pay?  Can the Cup reach commercial nirvana by catering only to the kind of ultra-rich folks who own super yachts and can write off million-dollar trips to schmooze in VIP tents in Bermuda?  It worked for Louis Vouitton – well, at least until Coutts’ last big plan chased them out of the game…

Or is Coutts just completely out of his mind?

 

June 11th, 2014 by admin

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As Russell Coutts continues his efforts to become the Bernie Ecclestone of the America’s Cup, another Bernie learned yesterday that San Francisco is most likely OUT of consideration for AC35.  You’d think the new buzzwords of sustainability and commercial viability might argue for Northern California staying part of the AC, but apparently, they’re just too big a pain in the ass for Coutts; in a truly bizarre twist, an island in the middle of the Atlantic is now thought to be at the head of the list, thanks to government subsidies, tax breaks, and time zones, while San Diego and Chicago remain in the hunt, with the SoCal gem a marginal, haven’t-we-been-here-before option, thanks to the kelp, light air, and the fact that the racing will either be so far south offshore that it will be in Mexico or so far west that it might as well be in Hawaii, except it isn’t. It is equally retarded to think that the Midwest option is probably the best possible one, all things considered.

A Bermuda choice would be a major admission that huge crowds aren’t that important to the ‘commercial cup’, nor does any connection to America matter beyond the 25% nationality requirement or the name of the defending team or the competition itself.  More irony in an AC35 that’s overflowing with the stuff.

 

June 10th, 2014 by admin

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GoAmateurGoPro has never been about technology, and in fact the now-ubiquitous (and longtime SA advertising) San Francisco-based product line never had the smallest, the lightest, the cheapest, the most convenient, or the best-looking camera on the market.  That’s what makes their marketing accomplishments more impressive, and make no mistake: GoPro is a marketing and branding company first, and a product second.  They market their asses off, and sell enough accessories that anyone in the world can use their cameras to record their passion.  We’ve enjoyed our relationship with the company, and we’re stoked to see that they filed their S-1 Statement on Monday in preparation for an Initial Public Offering some time in September or sooner, though this IPO has been rumored since at least 2012.

After working with with the company for years, would we buy any stock?  It’s a tough call in a business with tiny margins and almost guaranteed obsolescence; that being said, GoPro has solid numbers, an actual, physical product and distribution network, and has done a phenomenal job of diversifying its brand (becoming a content provider, streaming system, and social media juggernaut). The company has also spread its product amongst the most important people in extreme sports, and niche athletes are pretty reliable when it comes to brand loyalty.  In other words, even if a perfect GoPro killer emerged tomorrow, it would take gross incompetence and many moons to knock the industry leader off its pedestal.  Let’s say we’re ‘cautiously optimistic’.

Talk IPO and tech stocks in the thread here.

 

May 22nd, 2014 by admin

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andrew_bart_simpson_050913It’s the one-year anniversary of Andrew “Bart” Simpson’s death aboard the JuanK AC72 known as Big Red, and also Bart’s wife Leah’s birthday, and no one can say that Bart’s friends – guys like Iain Percy, Nathan Outerridge, Paul Goodison, and Ben Ainslie – have let the memory of the man fade away, even for a few moments.  They’ve spread his name all over the UK in countless ways, with major time and money going into the creation of the record-attempting Bart’s Bash and todays ‘s dedication of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre in Weymouth.

It all seems so uplifting until you realize that there still hasn’t been a single word of the investigation into Bart’s death released by anyone, anywhere, at any time – if one was ever completed at all. We asked the San Francisco PD whether their investigation was ever completed, and they said, “what investigation?”  We asked last year for the results of Artemis’ investigation, and never heard a word.  Not a single federal or state agency has said a word about culpability for Bart’s death, and we don’t expect them to.

Is every one of Bart’s friends willing to just say ‘shit happens’ instead of finding a shred of responsibility or accountability for the fuckups in design, construction, and/or sailing that killed their teammate?  We  expected it from disgraced team CEO Paul Cayard, who said next to nothing and basically became invisible after Bart’s death until being booted from the team after Artemis’ ignominious exit from the LV Cup.  But to get the same silence from real leaders; guys like Ainslie and Percy and Goodi who’ve never been bashful about speaking their mind, we expect better.

If this was Formula One, someone would be in court or jail right now, or at the very minimum, hauled before a governmental investigation panel.  But this is sailing, something no one in public office cares about for more than 12 seconds, and if Bart’s friends inside the sport don’t make noise, no one will.  While we think it’s awesome they are raising all this money – much of it going to Bart’s widow – we also wonder if maybe, the best way to remember Bart would be to find out exactly why his boat killed him after folding itself into little pieces on a typical day in San Francisco. You don’t hold people accountable out of vengeance, or anger – you do it so history doesn’t repeat itself.

CLARIFICATION: There’s been a lot of discussion about our editorial above, and we’d like to clarify a bit:  We are not questioning the integrity of any of Bart’s friends or family.  We are questioning why a death on an AC72 is any different than a motor sports, air racing, or traffic accident, or for that matter, any of the numerous life-ending sailing tragedies we’ve seen over the past couple of years, and we are questioning why people close to Bart haven’t demanded more.  Low Speed Chase went up on the rocks just a few miles from San Francisco last year in a crewed race, killing 5 crew of the 8 aboard.  An extensive, expensive, nearly year-long investigation took place thanks to US Sailing, with a lot of important lessons learned by the hundreds of thousands around the world following the tragedy, and some closure for the families and friends of the deceased sailors.

Meanwhile, there’s been no such response by US Sailing, ISAF, the USCG, the State, or anyone else for Simpson; rather, there have been a few open-and-shut inquiries by police departments with no apparent interest in delving into an area that’s totally unfamiliar to them, with every move watched over by legal counsel to billionaire businessmen.  There has been an internal investigation by Artemis without a single page released to anyone outside a tiny circle of Artemisians.  What about the tens of thousands of fans Bart had?  What about an English public that cheered he and Percy on so strongly during the Games?  Do they not deserve more than silence?

CORRECTION: Richard Butcher is Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation, the charity formed in memory of Bart, and he wanted to correct our piece.  Over to him.

The purpose of the charity is principally educational, via the sport of sailing. This will partly be met by encouraging into the sport those youngsters who would not otherwise have that opportunity. One of our aims is to help find marine related apprenticeships for some of these youngsters.  Yesterday, we achieved a historic milestone in the charity’s short period of existence by opening the sailing centre in Weymouth. This enables us to have a focus at a world class facility.  Every bit of the amount raised is destined to help fulfil our objectives, and we have every ambition of this becoming a world-wide charity once funding permits.

There was a serious inaccuracy in the item you published yesterday. None of the monies raised for the charity will go to Leah, Bart’s widow. It will only go towards the fulfilment of our objectives. Leah is one of our Trustees and it would not, in any event, be permissible for her to benefit from the charity.   It is most important that those making donations to the charity, whether it be by Bart’s Bash or otherwise, are not in any way misled as to what will become of their donations.

Yours sincerely,
Richard Butcher

 

May 9th, 2014 by admin

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Larry Punchable

2-time America’s Cup winner and Oracle Team USA principal Larry Ellison ranks as the most punchable CEO in America based on criteria such as  scope of influence, public image, annual income, and general physical appearance, according to one of the most reliable sources of fake news in human history…read on.

 

April 3rd, 2014 by admin

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Golden-Gate

Former underground journalist and now travel writer/shooter Tina Fitzgerald grabbed this reminder of just how gorgeous San Francisco is in the winter.  Maybe this whole Summer/Winter thing for the America’s Cup needs to be revisited?  More beauty on her Facebook page here, and her blog here.  Title shout to the Violent Femmes.

 

February 12th, 2014 by admin

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