En skændsel for Americas Cup

12-04-2015 12:15 Søren Øverup12-04-2015 10:15 - Søren Øverup
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Verdens mest anerkendte sejlsportsjournalist, Bob Fischer har sendt et åbent brev til America's Cup. Han retter en usædvanlig skarp kritik mod Russell Coutts, som i sin egenskab af CEO for Americas Cup Event Authoruty, har ansvaret for den kommende 35. udgave af Cup'en.

Det er et ganske usædvanligt skridt fra Fischers hånd, og fra en journalist der har fulgt Americas Cup siden 1967. Bob Fischer har også en enestående indsigt i Americas Cup historien, og har blandt andet skrevet flere bøger om Cup'en, så det er bestemt ikke 'hr-hvem-som-helst' der reagerer voldsomt over for Coutts.

34 gange på 164 år!

Lige netop det, at der kun har været afviklet 34 udgaver af denne event, som har været gennemført i mere end 164 år, siger jo ganske meget.

Americas Cup har altid været omgærdet af en imponerende og uopnåelig aura – en mystik – en prægtige – millioner af dollars, og retssager – hvor mere er blevet afgjort i retslokalerne, frem for på vandet, og samtidig har Americas Cup været uopnåeligt for den gennemsnitlige sejler.

Det er blandt andet nogle af disse ting der har været med til at skabe verdens mest eftertragtede sportstrofæ. Der er altså ikke bare tale om en eller anden pokal. 'The Auld Mug' - som pokalen er døbt, er om nogen uopnåelig, men skal den pludselig kunne vindes af 'hvem som helst'?

Respekt for udviklingen

Respekt for udviklingen, men de seneste ændringer, på et meget sent tidspunkt, virker som desperation, i jagten på at få gennemført en udgave af Americas Cup. De enkelte teams kan ganske simpelt ikke skaffe penge nok, og tidligere betød det den direkte vej til døren, hvor det grønne skilt 'exit' sidder over.

Dette vil man ikke længere acceptere, og gennemfører derfor ændringer som bringer budgetter ned på noget der minder om en brøkdel af tidligere tiders niveau. Men Coutts har nået et kritisk punkt, hvor overliggeren er bragt ned på et alt for lavt niveau.

Læs også: Første AC World Series aflyst

Det er naturligt at der skal ske en udvikling, det har vi jo også oplevet de senest mange år, men at lave så radikale ændringer, så tæt på deadline, er dømt til at gå galt!

Det Italienske hold Luna Rossa, med mere end 30 års erfaring i Americas Cup, har siden januar 2014 arbejdet med over 40 ansatte på at designe deres AC62'er – var de kommet for langt foran Oracle, ville de blive for stor en trussel til den samlede sejr?

– Beslutningerne om at gå ned i 45-48 fods betød et farvel til nok den mest seriøse udfordre Luna Rossa/Prada, og rygtebørsen løber også om store problemer for Team New Zealand (TNZL, red.).

TNZL har altid været støttet med millioner af staten New Zealand, men igen - en ændring hos Mr. Coutts har betydet, at afviklingen af eventen i New Zealand er blevet aflyst! Dette skaber store udfordringer og problemer for et team som i forvejen kæmper for overlevelse, efter de tabte den så berømte finale i den 34. Udgave 9-8, efter at have været foran 8-1, et nederlag der også kostede Dean Barker jobbet.

Det virker som en parodi at Coutts har valgt at hjælpe det franske hold med design. Det er et hold som man godt ved man sejler i cirkler om, men i desperation for at få teams med, ja så lader man det franske team få hjælp.

Til al den ballade hører også beslutningen om at afvikle den 35. Udgave af Cup'en på Bermuda. Amerikanerne får ikke lov til at sejle om 'The Auld Mug' i Guds eget land, på trods af de er forsvarende mestre. Bermuda skal bygges om, og op, for milliarder, og det bliver bestemt ikke billigt at drive en kampagne fra dette eventyrlige skattely, nææ 'cirkus AC' fortsætter ...

Tidligere på ugen udtalte den forhenværende chef for Louis Vuitton, Bruno Trouble, at det nærmer sig en 'beach event' der lugter af pommes fritter! Bob Fischer lægger bestemt heller ikke fingre mellem i sin kritik. Læs Fischers kommentar på næste side (på engelsk, red.)


 

Gentlemen,

I cannot escape notice of what you are doing to the America's Cup – it has been nothing short of a disgrace to the premier event in the sport of Sailing. You have abused it, misused it and reduced it to no more than an average regatta, losing on the way its prestige and at the same time driven away the most serious competitors.

In the last America's Cup event, held on the waters of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, for whom you act in a management role, the two challengers that came up to the mark were those from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and the Circolo della Vela Sicilia – Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) and Luna Rossa. In the course of the past week you have made it virtually impossible for ETNZ to raise the necessary funds to continue by removing any chance of a major regatta in Auckland, and, by a huge change in the size of boat, caused the Italian team to withdraw. Is this what you really want?

Gone is all semblance of stability and adherence to rules unanimously agreed at the outset and in their place an undercurrent of commercial misunderstanding and constantly changing rules without the unanimity of the challengers as initially agreed. Both of these are a disgrace to the Cup and to yourselves.

It was brought to my notice by you, in Auckland, that it was important for a part of the Challenger Final Selection Series to be held in the City of Sails in order to generate publicity for the America's Cup in Asia and the reason for that was a Japanese team would shortly emerge, and that this would encourage television networks to purchase the rights.

Subsequently ACEA has made it clear that ALL Challenger Selection races will be held in Bermuda, effectively slapping ETNZ in the face and reducing the Kiwis' chances of Government sponsorship (which hung on a major AC regatta in Auckland), possibly even eliminating this team from AC35

It is unnecessary for the America's Cup to have a television audience. For many years there was no television coverage, and later only inserts into News programmes. Televising the event began in 1983 and was carried to a new height by ESPN in 1987 in Fremantle. Even then it didn't need catamarans on hydrofoils sailing at 40 knots to be attractive – just 12-Metre yachts in boisterous conditions with some live sound from the boats.

Now, thanks to the wizardry of Stan Honey and his colleagues, full details of the speed and direction of each of the competitors is overlaid on the live pictures of the racing. The technology of other sports has improved television for even the non-sailor, but this does not drive the America's Cup. Money does. And there will certainly not be enough from television rights to pay for the somewhat unnecessary regattas that take place using the name of the event that has, over 164 years, taken place only 34 times.

The America's Cup is a one-off event. It does not need promoting with pseudo regattas in the intervening years, which use its name. The Challenger Selection Trials, together with the long lost Defender Selection Trials, are adequate and the responsibility for their expense is down to the individual teams. Now there is a state of affairs in which the Defender trials have been eliminated. In the Protocol, Item 17 clearly states:

"Defender means GGYC and the sailing team that represents GGYC in AC35;"

You have excluded any chance of another US Yacht Club from competing for the Cup, maybe even giving GGYC the type of competition it needs to retain the Cup. Not even the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) felt sufficiently confident to resort to that.

Neither did the NYYC resort to changing the boats at a late date – the move from the AC-62 to the AC-48 has been very last minute and particularly hard on the teams that had set up their design groups well in advance to produce the smaller AC-62, as announced soon after the last AC match. It is hardly surprising that you have put Patrizio Bertelli's feelings in disarray to the extent he has withdrawn Luna Rossa from AC35. His team had been working since early January 2014 at its headquarters in Cagliari with a Design Office of 40, all working on the design of a 62-footer. I suppose your comment will be: "Silly him," but you have lost one of the biggest commercial sponsors of the Cup – just look where the Prada advertisements for Luna Rossa appear.

To throw fat on the fire, you are offering to give design and financial support to the French team, which has made little progress, and what is worse attempting to justify this with the terms of the Deed of Gift, where it indicates that the event is to be: "a friendly competition between foreign nations." But you may well counter this with the quote from the judge of the New York Court of Appeals in the case between the Mercury Bay Boating Club and San Diego Yacht Club, who queried: "Where in the Deed of Gift does it say the America's Cup is supposed to be fair?"

The loss of Louis Vuitton, after 30 years, is another huge loss of commercial sponsorship, but the writing for that was on the wall in San Francisco.

Everything this time around has been late, and bringing in new entries at this stage is another breach of the Protocol. I implore you to get your act together, remember the event with which you are dealing, with its glorious past, and begin to act in a proper manner.

– Bob Fisher, April 11, 2015

Se historien på Bådmagasinets Internationale website, Sail-World her 

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