The America’s Cup will never be the same again. In the London jeweler’s shop where the “Old Pitcher” was chiseled in 1848, five teams of the six participating in the 35th edition of the world’s oldest competition gathered: all, under the aegis of the defender Oracle (Artemis, Sotfbank, Groupama, Land Rover BAR), except the New Zealanders led by Grant Dalton (with our own Max Sirena on the management team). They decided on a shared protocol that actually twists the spirit of the America’s Cup: same boats, the flying AC50 Cats also for the next two editions and biennial cadence. In short, a challenge between equal boats that will be staged in 2017, 2019, and 2021. Russell Coutts has succeeded in turning the Cup into a “normal” one-design racing circuit between professionals.
We will not launch into judgment (the New Zealanders, who were absent in London, pointed out that according to the Deed of Gift, the set of rules and customs that in fact governed the America’s Cup since 1851, provides that the format of each edition is to be decided by the defender and challenger of record and not by all of them together), we simply publish the lucid but at the same time heartfelt analysis of our reader Adriano Tagliavento, from whom we also “stole” the title of the article.
SO THEY DESTROYED THE WORLD’S OLDEST REGATTA
There was a time when we, you, everyone, dreamed. Every four years, like a ritual, the international sailing community would pause to watch a unique, inimitable regatta, the America’s Cup, one of the oldest sports trophies in the world.
The America’s Cup was not just any event, it was not the usual race course where mercenary sailors inflated their multi-figure salaries. No, the America’s Cup was the challenge of “There is no second, your Majesty”-it was the high point of a sailor’s career, a designer’s career, an engineer’s career. To win it, some of the most prominent businessmen and entrepreneurs in history did crazy things. To conquer it, in some cases like New Zealand, whole countries have contributed.
It was the regatta of such figures as Cornelius Vanderbilt, William Rockefeller, Thomas Lipton, Marcel Bich, Dennis Conner, Alan Bond, Sir Peter Blake, Raul Gardini, and Patrizio Bertelli. That of Ben Lexcen’s “flaps,” of Bill Cock’s spying that for months in San Diego tried to figure out why the Moor was so fast in the light wind. It was Luna Rossa’s epic 5-4 regatta against America One. It was the regatta that forced even non-sailors to stay up at night, only to talk in the bar the next morning, cluelessly, about bowsprits, tangons, upwind and downwind. It was sailing that made the front pages of newspapers. For this, and much more, the America’s Cup was unique, inimitable. What is left of it today? Nothing, not even dust. Torn apart by the ego of an American billionaire and his good mercenary, the latter a traitor to an entire people.
The latest staging, a clowning, of this scientific demolition has taken place in these very days. The theater chosen was no accident: the Garrard Jewelers in London, where it all began back in 1848. It was in fact this jewelry shop that forged the mythical cup, which as we all know was originally known as the Hundred Guineas Cup.
Here our modern interpreters have announced the end of it: the Cup will be held every two years, and at least for the next two editions the boats will be AC50s, with a ban on launching other similar prototypes for testing. Six out of seven teams decided this, in defiance of the historic protocol of having the defender and challenge of record make the rules. It may seem like something insignificant, but it really is the end of the Cup and the reason is subtle but easy to understand.
The Cup was run every four years precisely because it was an exceptional, unique event that required large funds, extensive scientific research for the boat’s construction and development to be run. A regatta whose preparation therefore took four years. Future AC 50s will be almost completely one-types, the only thing that will differentiate them will be the appendages. A detail that is certainly important, but one that greatly reduces the scope for study, research, design and technical development by design teams and crews.
With these boats, and the biennial cadence, will the America’s Cup be so different from a circuit of one-designs, albeit spectacular ones, that we have seen proliferate in recent years? The future “jug” will see great professionals compete in very fast boats, almost all the same, and every two years. What ultimately changes, apart from the name, between the future America’s Cup and one of the many professional circuits currently operating with good success? From my personal point of view, nothing. This is not an aversion to speed: welcome, for example, the spectacle offered by the Vendée Globe, which has been able to upgrade and speed up while remaining itself.
It was right for Team New Zealand not to participate in this staging. The Kiwis to date are the only team that keeps the spirit of the Cup intact. A people, its boat, its best sailors and the ambition to win a unique trophy. Sir Peter Blake, from up there, watches and shakes his head: Russell Coutts is his unworthy heir, and this the noble Kiwis did not deserve, they who are the last hope of this centuries-old epic.