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America's Cup

Where now for the America's Cup?

As Oracle continue to confound the doubters and ETNZ teeter on the edge of implosion, discussion is already turning to whether the eventual winner will return it to a lengthier format?

But that is not the real problem the winner will face. The real problem is how they come up with a concept that allows a greater number of challengers and maintains the excitement of these huge machines, while bringing the cost down from its present sky high level.

The made for TV race format is the reality of televised sport trying to cope with a competition that was designed for the moneyed classes to fill their leisure time. In contrast the Olympics has gone from an all keelboat format (racing 12 meters etc.) to an athletic dinghy format racing on shorter and shorter courses. Reflecting a changed reality of how we sail and more importantly how we watch sport.

The America's Cup has gone from a exclusive super big boat (J-class - mega rich owners) through a relatively cheap big boat (12mtr - millionaire owners) back to a super extreme boat (AC72 multihull - billionaire owners). In effect returning to its, super exclusive origins.

Anyone aspiring to the modern Olympics has given up the racing format experienced by the vast majority of competitive dinghy sailors on a weekly basis, in order to meet the requirements of a once every four years competition. A competition that would not exist but for the money generated by television media.

Is TV and thus the general viewing public, going to be interested in monohulls grinding to windward at 10 knots over 2 to 3 hour courses? It does not matter to TV or even most of the sailing world what happens to the latest America's Cup concept - moneyed classes filling their leisure time (complete with paid hands).

The direction Larry Ellison has taken the Cup may be a glorious blind alley, the spruce-goose of sailing. But it has taken the cup back, kicking and screaming, to its position as the cutting edge of sailing - not for the faint-hearted or the short of cash.

G New
23 September 2013 8:30 GMT


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