the show must go on. mustn’t it?
I owe Bruno Troublé an apology, and I swear it has nothing to do with the bacon-wrapped veal or lobster with vegetable ragout that I was served at the LVT gala dinner in Sardinia last week. No, I owe Bruno and the Louis Vuitton Trophy an apology for calling them out on this very front page for not doing ‘enough’ to get their regatta series in front of the world.
I’m extremely frustrated with the goings on in the Cup world, and grow more so every single day that Coutts squanders all the interest that suddently appeared when interesting boats finally sailed for the America’s Cup. And the LVT and WSTA, both products of Ellison’s wallet and Coutts’ brain, bore the brunt of that frustration, along with Ian and the folks at Virtual Eye, to a lesser extent. And boys, I’m sorry about that.
If the LVT and WSTA want to have Virtual Eye only for their race coverage, good for them. It’s beautiful technology that augments live video perfectly, and if they think they can get people to watch it for a meaningful amount of time without humans on the screen, more power to them. If LVT chooses to have an old, blowhard Brit as their commentator, good for them. After all, only old men are watching the racing, so it makes sense. If they want to hold their event at the end of the Earth, who am I to complain? La Maddalena is easily the most beautiful subtropical island chain I’ve ever seen, the food is great, and there’s a seabreeze, sort of. Who needs crowds and all the messiness that goes along with them? Not Louis Vuitton, that’s for sure. And there’s nothing wrong with 3-week long events. My wife tells me that her birthday lasts for a month, and that doesn’t get old until the final few days. And it’s not like these pro sailors have busy schedules, right?
You see, somehow I got it in my head that the Louis Vuitton Trophy had some kind of leadership role in sailing, that it was one of the real biggies on the international calendar, and that it afforded a chance to reach more people with an exciting product that might pique their interest in yacht racing. With that in mind, I criticized their lackluster coverage (no live video until the final few days), silly format (3 weeks in Italy?), isolated venue (25 hours of door-to-door travel to get here from the SE USA), and slow, silly boats. The one thing I never asked myself was "Why should I hold this event up to some stringent standard for the good of the sport?" And the answer? I shouldn’t. While we will never stop making fun of the dinosaurs that are IACC designs, Troublé is of course free to run his series however the hell he wants to – so long as he doesn’t pretend that the Louis Vuitton Trophy is anything but exactly what it is. But what the hell is that? That’s a complicated question.
What’s In A Name?
First, it pays to look into how the whole thing came about. Most of you know that the WSTA was formed by Russell Ellison – or was it Larry Coutts – while the 33rd Cup challenge was still being decided by the courts. It was a stop-gap measure meant to apply pressure to Bertarelli while giving existing Cup teams some racing to keep their sailors and shore teams sharp. More importantly, it was to provide at least some type of avenue to retain existing sponsors and to woo new prospects at a time when it looked like there might not be an AC until 2017. Since Ellison couldn’t get what he wanted out of the World Match Race Tour or Audi Medcup, he and Troublé (united in their hatred for Ernesto) formed the World Sailing Teams Association and launched the Louis Vuitton World Series. The WMRT didn’t like that, and used their exclusive agreement with ISAF to use "World" (sound familiar?) in conjunction with match racing to force a name change to the less impactful "Louis Vuitton Trophy."
And they sailed their races in Auckland, and it provided a nice diversion. And they sailed in chilly, windless Nice, and again – a good diversion and a chance for newbie teams to wet their feet in IACC match racing. And then BMW/Oracle won the Cup, and all of a sudden, there was no reason for the Louis Vuitton Trophy to exist any more.
Think about it. You want fast boats? The Medcup in Marseille starts this week, and the rush from TP52s screaming downwind at 22 knots leaves anything an old, beat up IACC boat can do behind. You’ve even got ETNZ and some other Cup teams playing, so you can test your own team with the best. You want massive crowds of spectators? There’s an Extreme Sailing Series just around the corner anywhere you are in Europe. Match racing? Nothing wrong with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money at the WMRT, and undeniably the best pure match racing there is, with good live coverage and a cast of interesting characters. Wanna hone your core crew? Get ’em a Melges 32 and send them off to do the Worlds circuit this year. Wanna hobknob with kings and the ultra-rich while racing purpose-built racers? RC-44s are all over Europe and the Middle East and cost less than the entry fee for the LVT.
With all these options, why did ten teams fork over a cool million each in entry fees (and another pile of dosh in expenses for three weeks of racing) to race in La Maddalena?
ANSWERS TOMORROW IN PART 2