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HIGH-TECH WILL NOT THE AMERICA'S CUP MAKE
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The Publisher
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Oct 13, 2011, 10:36 AM

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There are a lot of questions surrounding the format for the 34th America's Cup. The two big ones are at the root of the changes: 1) will AC34 draw interest to the event and, 2) will AC34 draw interest to sailing. Bill Sandberg, in his October column for WindCheck Magazine, remains unconvinced on both:
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One year ago this month, my column was entitled "America's Cup. R.I.P." I'm happy to report that I stand by my statement one year later.

I must admit, I'm not an ardent follower of the America's Cup, as I belong to the Flintstones generation, but I think I keep up enough to be somewhat knowledgeable.

What I see is the America's Cup being turned into a video game. The AC Committee was very smart in enlisting the aid of world-class sailor and Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Stan Honey. Among Stan's non-sailing achievements was the creation of the yellow line you see on your TV screen showing where the first down line is in football games. However, technology will not the America's Cup make.

This is yet another high-tech way to attract non-sailing young people into sailing. In my opinion, it's not going to work. While these boats may be fast, 40 knots is a turtle's pace compared to the 200 mph speeds of NASCAR. If someone doesn't know port from starboard, they still won't care.

What are the most exciting parts of match racing to a sailor? Dial-ups before the start and tacking duels upwind. Those won't happen with catamarans.

I contend what might get non-sailors involved in the AC. Going back to nation vs. nation would help - look what it did for the Miracle on Ice of the 1980 hockey Olympics? Not a lot of hockey fans in the U.S., but the storybook tale took the country by storm. But why do that when with the proper checkbook you can have the best designer, builder, sailmaker or sailor that money can buy.

A noted yachting writer recently commented to a friend of mine that the America's Cup has a long history of contentious sorts, but it has continued and technological breakthroughs have trickled down and benefitted the general sailing public. There have certainly been disagreements in the past involving huge egos and some cheating going on, but it was played on a far smaller stage.

The fighting that went on between Bertarelli and Ellison was played out in court. Sailing gets very little coverage from the mainstream media, but this battle got picked up by everyone. Even the New York Times, which gives more coverage to the Dog Show than it does to sailing, ran item after item. Of course, it only played to the perception of the sport by the average non-sailor: It's a rich guy's sport. Anyone say Cliff Robertson's (may he rest in peace) role in 'Wind'? -- Read on: http://tinyurl.com/WindCheck-101211


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Oct 13, 2011, 10:37 AM

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From Ed Vitrano:
Each day, I look forward to the email notice that the latest edition of scuttlebutt has arrived. I peruse most, if not all, of the items but have noticed a subtle trend . . . that being a tendency to publish anti-AC threads. Is it simply my perception? I look on the "second guessers" as being someone who wants to be able to say he/she was right when something goes wrong . . . and almost hopes it does.

Americas Cup has been a source of head-shaking fodder ever since I was a kid and started following it. Current conditions are no better or worse. For anyone to wish for the old days is being foolish, or worse being viewed upon as a dinosaur. Since I'm in my 60's, I might be viewed upon as a Flintstone but I am intrigued by the latest technology and view the current attempts at modernization with eagerness. Does anybody really pine for the "dial-ups before the start and tacking duels upwind" as claimed by Bill Sandberg (in Scuttlebutt 3447). He certainly is right when he claims "those won't happen with catamarans!" When I watched races with mono-hulls in past AC's, I would quit paying close attention after the starts since very little changed after that. You certainly can't do that now!

While I love the new technology AC gives and the trickle-down effect to the boats I race on, by far the most disappointing development for me has been the removal of the national citizenry requirement. That disturbing fact was changed by the very group that some now lament as being better managers of the tradition? Where's the skewering of that decision?


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Oct 13, 2011, 10:38 AM

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From Ed Vitrano:
Each day, I look forward to the email notice that the latest edition of scuttlebutt has arrived. I peruse most, if not all, of the items but have noticed a subtle trend . . . that being a tendency to publish anti-AC threads. Is it simply my perception? I look on the "second guessers" as being someone who wants to be able to say he/she was right when something goes wrong . . . and almost hopes it does.



Not sure about a trend toward anti-AC reports, but Scuttlebutt does strive to publish respected opinions. We also strive to hold the defender accountable. Just like politics, we often forget the promises and predictions made to sway and convince. We can't always be right, but we can always be transparent.

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt


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Oct 13, 2011, 10:39 AM

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From Mal Emerson:
Bill's column in WindCheck was just another example of much of sailing media's bias against the new format of the America's Cup. He was actually happy to report that his former denigration of the Cup is still true today. If he were giving the Cup the least bit of credit, he would have been sad to say that. His article continued down from there.

Stan Honey's efforts don't have anything whatsoever to do with video games. Technology certainly will not the America's Cup make. It will, however, make it more easily understood by the non sailor and, I would contend, the non racer as well. Just as the sticks weren't visible across the field, the boundaries, wind, etc. lines weren't in the America's Cup. Stan's efforts have made following the race accessible to a greater number of fans. How does that detract from the Cup?

While Stan's efforts might indeed "not work" according to Bill, The relative speeds he reports can as easily be expressed in another way. It's all relative. The average driver is familiar with 70 or so mph so the 200 or so that NASCAR produces becomes exciting. So 3 times the familiar speed is exciting. The average sailor sees maybe 8 kts on a good day. Even the IACC boats were lucky to see 10. Using Bill's numbers a factor of three between the average sailor and the AC 45 is even easier to reach than between the average driver and NASCAR.

While match racing cats is indeed a bit different than mono hulls, there have been dial ups and tacking duels. It's the narrow sailor that only has an interest in those maneuvers. The new format has opened up all sorts of new match racing tactics while detracting very little from the old ones. When one has had an interest in only slower displacement hull match racing, the AC 45 takes some getting used to. Mistakes are more costly, the effect of wind variations in different parts of the course is magnified, tacks are as fast but much more costly in terms of distance lost, boundaries add complications not seen before and so forth. If mono hull sailors watch it critically, they will learn those intricacies that will more than replace the excitement of two boats in a protracted dial up or a 20 tack tacking duel with no change in the lead. Passing opportunities are far more common in the AC 45 than they were in any of the AC boats of the past.

Bill needs to do a little study in the history of the Cup. Contentious sorts, disagreements, huge egos, accusations of cheating is correct, maybe even an understatement but played on a smaller stage is not. Even Wiki has an illustration of the cover of Time with no less than Harold Vanderbuilt at the helm on its cover. Sir Lipton virtually built his tea empire in the States due to his popularity in the mainstream media. His good sportsmanship and tenacity in competing for the Cup practically made him a national hero here in the States. The stage must have been huge. Many would say that the public lost interest not only because of a loss of national identity but also because the contest was somewhat dumbed down after the war with the little 12's. We sailors enjoyed it but there wasn't near the drama on or off the water.

It sounds like Bill has a disdain for the rich that seems more and more common these days. The pinnacle of most sports is a rich man's game, particularly if high tech equipment is involved . It's the only way it would happen. The public knows that and even negative publicity such as that seen in AC 33, is publicity.

Specific criticism is good for the sport but the general animosity seen in some of the ....... okay Bill, Flintstone, sailing writers is regrettable and only hurts our sport and any chance it has to gain the fan base and interest it deserves. I visited the New York Yacht Club's trophy room some years ago and didn't see Cliff's head in the case that formerly housed the Cup. Mr. Robertson's demise is indeed real but I hope Bill's repeated eulogies to the Cup are, as S L Clemens once said ...... greatly exaggerated.




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Oct 13, 2011, 5:05 PM

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From Geoffrey Emanuel, Southlake, Texas:
I am responding to Bill Sandberg's America's Cup commentary.

Every sport or hobby needs an extreme derivative to provide "R&D" for the rest of the genre. The America's Cup has, for the most part, played that role. For example, in 1903, the Yacht Reliance defended the America's Cup and never competed again. It was not only extreme but considered dangerous by its 64 man crew. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliance_(yacht)

The J Class yachts, raced in the 1930s, were an awesome leap in technology and directly contributed to the development of aluminum spars, marine electronics, modern winches and the genoa jib. The fact that today they are enjoying an extraordinary renaissance is a tribute to this innovation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J-class_yacht.

The 12 meter era started with full keeled wooden hulls and ended with composite fiberglass, carbon fiber and winged keels. However, the era of the America's Cup running from 1958-2008 deviated from the 1851-1937 period as the pace of technological advancement slowed. Many of the innovations used by the last generation of IACC and 12 meter yachts were developed elsewhere first. The exception was the 1988 rogue New Zealand challenge, when they challenged for the Cup in a 125 foot "aircraft carrier" against a 60 foot catamaran with a winged sail.

Starting with Oracle's rogue challenge of Alinghi in 2010, the America's Cup now has returned to its roots of extraordinary design and construction innovation. In addition, the current format is introducing a wholly unique and new set of rules, race course design and television programming. Rather than fault the change in direction, we should hold judgment and give the new approach a chance to take hold, or fail. Since the whole idea of racing multihulls with wing sails was first introduced, I have seen a rather significant reversal of opinion from the initially negative reaction.

Finally, our sport has reached a crossroads whereby its most active, lifelong participants are aging and the total number of especially adult participants are declining even though the total human population is increasing. To rejuvenate our sport will require experimentation with new ideas as well as improvement of conventional approaches. What better event then the America's Cup to lead the R&D effort!


From Eric Sorensen:
I am guessing Bill Sandberg has not glued his nose to the screen to watch these 45s zoom around. NOT dead or even close! There is the hemorrhagic loss of cash from Larry Ellison. The cost of setting up a new paradigm apparently.

The helicopter noise is abusive and takes away from the sailing aspect but the smaller courses with the blinking lights are pretty good at keeping the races tight and interesting. I suspect the choppers may not be needed for the AC in San Francisco as the bay is pretty small for these new 72' rockets as it is. Most of the drivers will be able to see the shore approaching and have no need of a blinking light to warn them.

RIP??? I don't think so.... I may be a lead mine racer but I envy the kids who can stay with these machines!


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