February 7, 2010

It's Still Not Too Late...


This began as a comment to Tillerman's recent post about the America's Cup, but, as usual with me, started getting too long for the comments page.

It's still not too late for someone to save the America's Cup. Lawyers for both sides still have another twelve hours to file briefs.

It's rumored the New York Appellate Courts are holding a special window open until midnight Sunday for the filing of papers by procrastinating attorneys.

But if counsel for both Bertarelli and Ellison screw up and blow the deadline, they'll be faced with the perplexing dilemma of having sailors decide the cup's outcome. This is a denouement almost no one was prepared for.

OK, sorry, the past few years may have made me a bit cynical about all of this.

Actually, I'm not as upset as a lot of Sailing Authorities (capital 'S' and 'A') and sail bloggers seem to be. It's been a very long time since I've felt the America's Cup was in the same league as Mom, Apple Pie, and the World Series.

You see, long before I knew anything about sailing, I began to suspect something was fishy with the America's Cup. Howuzit we managed to win at this for 260 years in a row, or whatever it was? Not even the Yankees win that often.

As a kid, I was told it was because Americans are just smarter and work harder than English people. But then, I started reading up on the Cup's history and learned those wiseguys at the New York Yacht Club had been monkeying with the rules to tip the scales in their favor. For 260 years.

Can you imagine? Rich guys were using their money and influence and legal shenanigans to make sure things worked out their way. Wait a minute, was that why they call it The America's Cup?

Well, at least all of their fancy footwork and millions of dollars insured that we got to watch the fastest boats in the world compete. If you don't count Hobie Cats.

Apparently, I haven't been the only one who's noticed these things and started connecting the dots. OK, it's been many years since the NYYC controlled the show, but why are we getting bent out of shape when the current players are playing the same games on a larger scale? Like any farce, doesn't this just show how absurd the game has been all along?

If those two waterborne spaceships do get to duke it out this week, I will be glued to my screen like most other sailing junkies and drooling along with everyone else. I'll almost expect to hear announcers promoting the spectacle like they do drag races, monster truck shows, and the Wonky Wrestling Extravaganza (or whatever WWE stands for):



But do I grieve for the passing of The America's Cup As We Knew It?


If we want to watch truly fast boats racing, crewed by the best teams and smartest skippers, and in much more challenging conditions than recent AC venues have offered, there are now plenty of opportunities for that.

Let the fat cats build their spaceships and play, as Tillerman has put it, 'my thingie is longer than your thingie', or my lawyer is smarter than your lawyer.

But if we're going to put a segment of our sport on a pedestal and bow down before it, why not let it be one where sailors have worked their butts off to excel over all others on a level playing field?

That would be a cup worthy of having 'America' in its name.



  1. O Docker, this is one of the best posts about the America's Cup that I have ever read. How do you do it?

  2. All good stuff, forgot to reply to Tillermans post.

    One positive thing about AC33 is it looks like it will be visually exciting which will be a good thing for sailing.

    Carbon fibre rocket ships going 30 knots plus will look amazing, unlike a lot of sailing which its hard for non-sailors to work out who's winning without knowing about rules, wind shifts, and weather systems.

  3. What do you mean JP? I am a sailor and I don't understand "rules, wind shifts and weather systems." Could that possibly explain why I hardly ever win any races?

  4. Great post O'D.I can't believe I am saying this but in the press conference on Friday, Larry Ellison had what I thought was a good suggestion.

    Once all this DOG nonsense is over, the AC should go back to something like the last one where it's monohulls built to the same design but tricked out with technology to make it a better viewing spectacle like Formula 1. That would mean cameras on everything, graphics that explained how each boat was performing, ways to listen to the support crews, etc.

    Formula 1 is not that big over here but when I was back in England over the holidays I watched a DVD on the last F1 season and the use of technology made it an immersive experience.

    Now that would be cool

  5. Here we are again, back to Less is More. Next you'll be advocating campaign spending caps.
    Never could understand the thrill of watching sailing on TV, but I'm with Adam - the video cams on-board are too cool.

  6. I'm really not advocating any constraints or controls on the current AC at all.

    My take is that from its beginnings, the AC has been a high-stakes, anything-goes wild-west shootout, under a thin patina of east coast civility. The early captains of industry who were the players didn't get to be captains of industry by playing nice or playing fair. At work and at play, they were out to win, no matter what. It made for a great show back then and still does today.

    I think where the problem lies is in holding up this rough and tumble battle of the rogues as the best our sport has to offer. As a spectacle, maybe it is. But let's not confuse it with sportsmanship, fair play, or the corinthian spirit.

    I think this is what Tillerman has been saying, and, basically, I agree with him.