On February 14, 2010 Oracle won the America’s Cup, thus bringing it back to America. Looking back now, that moment, the win, was the high point of their campaign to retain it.
Before and after they inked the deal with San Francisco as a host city for the Americas Cup, the Oracle hired organizers were in shambles. They couldn’t determine venues, there was regular turnover, and they balked and bluffed their way through a deal that was regarded as the height of arrogance, ultimately giving the organizers of the event huge chunks of waterfront property to host it here. But that too fell apart.
Some of the competitors were frustrated by this sloppy work and said so. So the Organizers ruled that speaking out against the event or behaving in a way as to tarnish the America’s Cup name was punishable by fine, or more.
They started racing around the world. For a moment it was glorious and the promise of 14 boats for the Louis Vuitton Cup in SF in 2013 seemed plausible.
Then teams one by one pulled out. By the last moment one could commit to the AC72, only 3 boats were signed up to challenge, Artemis, the new Challenger of Record after the original challenger pulled out, Emirates Team New Zealand, who partnered with Luna Rossa making 3 teams, two of which were viable contenders.
Then New Zealand foiled. This changed the game for the rest of the competitors. This was a great piece of news, the loophole they’d found in the rules, and a fantastic diversion from the chaos in San Francisco. Teams decided then how to answer that. OR altered their boat to better foil after it crashed in October of 2012, which incidentally made headlines around the world.
Then Bart was killed.
The second major crash of an AC72, the Artemis catamaran tripped and this time broke as it pitched over, trapping their teammate inescapably underwater. The team went dark. Their esteemed leader essentially disappeared. And then they slowly rebuilt. This time they built a boat so structurally strong it was too slow against the others, but it could foil. It raced four races, lost them all, and may never race again.
New Zealand won the LV Cup. Most watching the developments of the event were not surprised by this and Grant was a humble and happy champion.
Then Oracle was caught cheating. In a sport that is cloaked in honor, in sportsmanship, and is predominately self governed, this is a deep trench of travesty. It brings disrespect to the sport and to the event, which is exactly what they’d told the other teams not to do. Their names, and the team name will be forever tarnished as cheaters.
Who can still cheer for Oracle Team USA? They have painted themselves into a cinematic vision of evil, leaving NZ looking spit polished in a knight’s suit of armor. Rename them Whoracle.
Retaining the team, even if they do win, will be next to impossible. I cannot imagine the torment the remaining team members, many of whom I still – perhaps blindly – hold in high regard, are experiencing right now.
At the very least, when we finally get the match on September 7, 2013, we will have an underdog. And they are not named New Zealand.