the big show?
It’s been a bit over a month since we first called ‘bullshit’ on BMW/Oracle’s handling of the decisionmaking process for the next America’s Cup, a move that seems to have moved the world’s most popular sailing website onto Coutts and Ehman’s "blackball" list. You heard right, dear readers; now that Coutts has won the cup, apparently there is no need for the boys to engage with the Anarchists! We were certainly good enough for them when they needed our help; they came to us with their hat in their hands when they needed court affidavits to support their legal motions, they came to us when their spies couldn’t find out enough info, they came to us to help build support amongst the sailing community, and they came to us when they wanted their YouTube videos to get more than a few hundred views, but the honeymoon is apparently over. Normally, we’d say "your loss, douchebags," but we think there’s more in it than that. Ehman knows very well that the SA’ers have an uncanny ability to get to the truth (after all, it was the AC Anarchists that figured out what Alinghi looked like months before anyone else in the world), and to us, the team’s silence might mean that they’re just busy at hell, but it could mean something entirely different: Someone is worried about something getting out. Perhaps the boat decision has already been made, maybe some of those venue rumors (Italy paying 500 million for the AC?) are true, or maybe it’s something entirely unexpected.
Of course we might just be paranoid, cynical, or just plain wrong, though we tried a little experiment to see which way the wind was blowing when the Defender released their first Draft Protocol last week. We sent emails to our friends inside the top teams to ask them if they’d leak the protocol to us to help us with an analysis of it, and were turned down every time, despite the fact that the document was already released and public. Clearly, the word has been passed around that talking to SA will not be tolerated…
As unlikely as it is, we can honestly say that we hope our skepticism will be proven wrong, that BMW/Oracle and SA start talking again honestly, and that the 34th AC is the one that every Anarchist has been waiting for all of their lives. We do still have great friends inside the team, and while we don’t have official communications with them, we hear plenty, including that BMW/Oracle team will be at the White House on Tuesday morning with Obama, then on the CBS Morning Show on Wednesday, and will be ringing the NASDAQ opening bell before heading up to Newport for a big benefit for Sail Newport and junior sailing on Thursday.
Out Of The Closet
Meanwhile, the Draft Protocol itself (which is not binding in the least and including nothing about the boat, venue, or much else of substance) does propose some of the things that Sir Coutts has been yapping about for a while; it establishes ACRM, an independent race management company empowered to handle the whole dog and pony show (though GGYC does retain some control, negating the ‘independent’ claims a bit), it provides an incentive of up to 10 million euro for the winner of the 34th Cup to continue using ACRM for subsequent matches (if the AC makes any money, that is), and it requires all teams to carry whatever media equipment and personnel that management deems necessary for whatever TV coverage is on the table.
But this protocol has some uncomfortable spots in it as well. Especially strange is the high cost of admission, considering the huge sponsorship troubles that most teams are having, and the cost-control moves that were already being considered by most of the Cup community before the current economic crisis even started. First, the entry fee and performance bond are both significantly higher than those of any America’s Cup in history – not what you’d expect when most challengers and the Defender themselves have promised cost-cutting measures. Second, two-boat programs are specifically authorized – meaning that it will be that much harder for one-boat teams to even get off the ground, and that much harder to get sponsorship. And third, this Protocol sets a schedule for a 2013 Cup, a year earlier than most teams can likely handle. Note that ETNZ boss Grant Dalton told Seahorse last month that "Obviously this inclusion thing is not quite as it seems. But guess what, I’m not surprised about that. In the end, unless it is an affordable cup for a commercially funded team the Cup will die. No, it won’t die, but it won’t be successful. And I hope that Oracle’s view of what’s affordable – well, along with their little mates at Artemis, you know, trying to run the world – I hope that view gets grounded along the way."
But our big "WTF?" comes from BMW/Oracle’s attempt to do away with one of the clauses over which they battled so brutally with Alinghi during their protocol negotiations for AC 32. Ehman fought successfully to require that any changes to the Protocol be approved not just by the Defender and Challenger of Record, but also by the Challenger commission, providing an essential check to collusive amendments that could hurt the rest of the teams. Yet this protocol does away with the very thing they fought for, allowing GGYC and Onorato’s Club to amend the protocol only after ‘consultation’ with the other parties. This is hyposcricy of the highest order (picked up by the Anarchists, of course), and we’re shocked that the authors didn’t realize how dishonest it would make them look.
Then again, BMW/Oracle may simply be playing an old negotiating game with the clauses that we’ve picked out above, giving themselves a handful of terms that they could ‘gracefully’ back away from to look like nice guys. It may be transparent, but not the kind we’ve been clamoring for. You can check out the protocol and the already long discussion here in the forum.
Lookin’ For Love…
Meanwhile, the BMW/Oracle Media Team have apparently not gotten what they’ve been looking for from the ‘media experts’ they’ve been citing as the answer to their TV coverage woes, because they’ve just turned to high-schoolers and the slightly older to solve their media problems. Under-28 Anarchists who want to put their video shooting and editing skills to the test should check out the silly contest details here; you’re unlikely to get hired, but you might just win a macbook pro or HD camera for your troubles after being judged by a panel of ‘social media and extreme sports experts.’ Their writing, not ours. We humbly suggest you leave your SA nickname out of your application…
Ellison and Coutts (should we just start calling them "ElliCoutts?") are missing the boat here in a big way. Making sailing exciting and interesting is just not that hard when you have millions of dollars to burn. Witness the millions of viewers of poker, golf, fishing, and a dozen other boring-ass ‘sports’ that have audiences that embarass even the biggest sailing events. So here’s a little tip for ElliCoutts: Ditch the old fart commentators (sorry, Martin, PJ, and Peter), keep the blabbering self-promoters the hell off the mike (sorry Paul and Cam), get the Virtual Eye technology overlaid on actual video images, wire the most obnoxious and emotional for sound, and spend the boring 70% of the races showing footage of girls and interviews with the most interesting characters in sailing – those are the ones that will make TV possible. And make sure all the sponsors know that their team will only get good exposure if they make sure that the colorful guys (and girls…yeah, right) are required to speak their mind instead of toeing the corporate line on camera. And finally, give up any hope you might have that TV will cover this event on their own dime; until at least one Cup cycle proves that people will watch it, you’re gonna have to pay them full price and recoup your costs in other ways.