OK let’s face it, most of us have at one time or other criticized the current America’s Cup and in some cases for quite good reasons. I think now that the cup is almost over it’s time we take a hard look at what’s been accomplished and how it fits into the bigger picture. Let’s start by agreeing that while Larry Ellison and his team may be close to losing the Cup to the Kiwi’s, they in fact have turned out winners. This is especially true for Ellison. They have successfully, and for once and for all, brought the world’s oldest sporting trophy into the modern age. Those AC72 spaceships ripping up San Francisco Bay were nothing short of spectacular and for the first time in many years I was immensely proud to be a sailor. For too many years it was embarrassing to show non-sailing friends sailing coverage on TV. Frankly it was dull and boring, but that’s all changed.
To innovate you also have to be a pioneer and Larry Ellison has proven over and over again that he is capable of being a pioneer. His own quote, “When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you that you’re nuts,” says it all. Yes we criticized his ambition and like every successful salesman he over estimated how many entries would show up and how much money the event would bring into the local economy, but his contribution is simple; he has placed sailing squarely among the very best sports to watch on television. I am giving Ellison the credit here, not the great commentators or the awesome filming and the amazing computer graphics. Ellison brought us spectacular boats and some unbelievable sailing. Without their majesty the best TV coverage would be bland.
The last time the America’s Cup was in the charge of New Zealand they managed it with a steady hand and we can only hope and expect that they will do the same again. Grant Dalton has been explicit that the AC72’s are too big and too expensive and he is leaning toward some kind of super fast multihull or a smaller monohull. SpeedDream perhaps? We already have a prototype that has proven the concept and we are more than happy to work with the Kiwis to refine the idea. If Dalton wants to go back to monohulls he is going to have to come up with something quite spectacular and frankly flying keels will be spectacular. Let’s see what happens. Dalton is an old mate from my Whitbread days so I may just have to put a word in his ear.
Before the dust settles on this AC let’s once again give a nod to Team Oracle USA and the huge strides in boat speed and the exciting sailing they have brought to us over the last three years. Ellison is to be congratulated for his bold innovation. The AC72’s are simply extraordinary sailboats. They are indeed the J-boats of a modern era and perhaps like the original J-boats they are destined to disappear. Sad, but probably true. When the final race for this America’s Cup is sailed it may well be the last time we see these amazing machines out sailing and that has to be a sad thought. – Brian Hancock.
Title inspiration thanks to Fatboy Slim.