same old, same old
Since long before BMW/Oracle sent Alinghi packing off Valencia, Ehman, Ellison, and Coutts have been shouting about "change" and bringing "a new spirit of openness" to salling’s premier event. After the big win, Ellison turned it up a notch, claiming that he wanted to provide an event that appealed to the kids, and to the mainstream, and we did a little dance; after all, we’ve been clamoring for the same thing since our site began.
But it appears the honeymoon’s over, and at the moment, it looks like most of BMW/Oracle’s words are nothing but fluff, intended to appease a public who’d been long disillusioned with Bertarelli’s management style. A team that just a year ago was using the support of the entire sailing community to spread their message has gone silent. A team that provided spectacular communcation at almost every step of their runup to the 33rd Cup match has now become a closed door. Perhaps, as they claim, they are just so busy putting the next edition together that they can’t afford to explain what’s really going on beyond a few main talking points. Perhaps, as they claim, they have to be very careful about what they say for fear of alienating some teams or misleading the public. Anarchist ‘dogwatch’ summed up our sentiment precisely the other day, when he wrote, "It seems discussions and possibly negotiations have been underway for a month or two between BMWO, the CoR and other potential challengers, yet barely a squeak has emerged on the content of those discussions except in a highly controlled manner through RC. The only plausible explanation is that NDAs are in place. That doesn’t particular bother me – other than the hypocrisy."
We call bullshit. It seems to us that all the bluster about openness and transparency was just that; bluster. Or worse yet, that the openness they once aspired to has devolved into the same good ol’ boy politics that has ruled the Cup for decades. Case in point: The long awaited "designer’s conference" in Valencia last week was only open to a handful of Cup designers – all of them well-oiled parts of the ‘fraternity.’ There was no process for anyone not a member of this tiny fraternity to be involved at all, and the information released afterwards was limited to more talking points. There was literally nothing of substance AT ALL to come from any of the camps, and if it wasn’t for Pierre from Valencia Sailing doing a couple of decent interviews, we’d have nothing. Incredibly, BMW/Oracle never even released a list of the attending designers, leaving it to the Anarchists to figure out the attendee list when they put names to the faces in some publicity shots. Now what in the hell could be so secret about an attendee list that this Defender, who’s allegedly so committed to openness, chose to keep the world in the dark?
Hell, even their "design conference" is nothing new, despite the team’s claims that it is a sign of the lengths they are going to build consensus and do so much for the future of the Cup. Hell, it happened in 1988, when the new IACC class was going to "eliminate rail meat" with their "speedster" of a boat that would change everything. So is ther anything new at all here, or is BMW/Oracle taking a page out of the Bush administration play book by claiming openness and transparency so often that the unwashed masses believe it despite all evidence to the contrary?
Either way, it sucks; and while anyone is better than Bertarelli, the hope we’ve had that Coutts and Ellison would use the America’s Cup to truly change the politics, the backroom deals, the nepotism, and the good ol’ boys network is rapidly being extinguished. It might be quicker, it might be more exciting, but if the past few months are any indication, it’ll still be the same old circle jerk.
The Other Cup
At least Louis Vuitton makes no claims to populism; currently running in La Maddalena, Sardinia is an LVT event that’s so remote that only the truly wealthy can even spectate. It’s not enough that the racing happens in Northern Sardinia – not an easy place to get to to begin with – but the racing is actually based in La Maddalena, which is even a smaller island,only accessible by boat. La Maddalena was transformed from a decrepit naval base into a massive resort/conference center with some massive EU funding a few years ago, and now it’s Vincenzo Onorato’s home club (though not for Challenge purposes) and one of the most beautiful (and exclusive) yacht clubs on the planet. We’re unabashed fans of the Italian ferry line owner – he’s a self-made man who contributes millions of dollars to help inner city kids go sailing and improve their lives – but that makes the LVT event even more bizarre, especially if you believe Italian newspaper Repubblica’s report that the event siphoned off millions of Euros from funds intended to help one of the poorest areas in Sardinia Where are the tens or hundreds of thousands of fans and spectators that Auckland saw? Not at this event. Even the live streaming video that looked so good in New Zealand hasn’t made it to Sardinia: Only the video game that is Virtual Eye is on hand, and that’s only watchable for the truly die hard. If Onorato’s real goal is to spread his love for this sport, and the benefits that accrue to those who participate, the LVT is a big, fat failure.
The Meek (and French/Germans) Inherit The Earth
That’s not to say there’s no drama in Sardinia, despite the fact that no one seems to be able to get into it, if they even care. Onorato’s ‘Mascalzone Latino’ took a 5 second victory today in their first match, especially sweet as a come-from-behind victory for Gavin Brady in ML’s first-ever victory over Luna Rossa. And BMW/Oracle got spanked again, with the phenomenal Spitty controlling the start and John Kosetcki giving away the left after their first cross, allowing Berterand Pace and Team Aleph to take the lead and get the win. And Team Origin is in full implosion mode after giving Moose Sanderson the surprise boot last week. Ainslie’s crew had some humiliating crew work to give away their first victory the other day, while Sunday’s match saw them hook not one but two crab pots in the pre-start, ending their race before it even started. Team Origin navigator Peter Isler said…wait a second. Peter Isler? For real? Well, that explains it!
Sailing Anarchy has never cared much for Cup racing, though there’s little that we enjoy more than publishing the behind-the-scenes scoops that the sycophantic slags that make up the rest of yachting media are too afraid to. But our circuits are way more charged up from skiffs, cats, sportboats, foilers – all the things that go screaming through the collective consciousness of adrenalin lovers, and without the politics that make it distasteful to even bother covering it. We were seduced by the extreme boats and drama of the 33rd Cup, and now that it’s over, everything just screams "same old shit."