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Russell Coutts responds to Kiwi Cup Protocol comments

Russell Coutts, CEO of the America's Cup Events Authority and a five time winner of the Cup, has hit back at criticism over the recent changes to the 35th America's Cup Protocol.Coutts has taken to his Facebook page to respond to articles by the New Zealand press.The post runs to over 1,700 words and presents a defence of the 35th America's Cup organisation and format.He opens with . . .It appears the silly season has once again arrived, driven by a select few in the media who seem to find it difficult to separate fact from fiction, or research a balanced story, for the benefit of their readers.

In particular he responds to the articles of Dana Johannsen of the NZ Herald, which he claims, "often lacks both accuracy and balance and it’s for this reason that many people usually dismiss her articles".

Coutts says he felt compelled to respond after Johannsen wrote of “naked self interest” and “self serving rules changes”, and point out at least some of the follies in her story telling.

He claims that, the new format has saved every team a lot of unnecessary cost and will provide a greater exposure for all.

And that:

ETNZ, despite promoting themselves as an underfunded, small team, actually has one of the largest and best resourced outfits, currently with a listed staff of 96. Even this is still considerably less than the numbers they had in San Francisco.

In defence of the the rules being decided by majority vote, he says that this is far better than the old system where the Defender and its elected Challenger of Record decided all the rules.

And claims that:

New Zealand has actually voted in favor of the majority of the rules changes in this current campaign, although they are not shy in criticizing the same process that has served their self interest well, on the few occasions when the democratic vote has gone against them.

With regard to the stance of ETNZ on the recently announced future framework for the Cup, voted for by the other five teams, Coutts claims that:

In that respect, it’s clear from Team New Zealand’s recent social media posts that they are determined to forge a lonely path against the consensus of the rest of the America’s Cup community, which includes the teams and all current event sponsors.

And asks:

If they successfully win this Cup, how do they propose to make that work commercially for visiting teams, because it certainly didn’t work when the America’s Cup was previously hosted in New Zealand.

He finishes with:

While the plucky underdog story is a powerful marketing tool for Team New Zealand in its home market, we’d like to believe it could be deployed without pulling down the reputation of the other competitors and the event.

And . . .

We continue to remain hopeful that whilst Emirates Team New Zealand may have different views on many aspects, they will nevertheless embrace the America’s Cup with a positive attitude, for what promises to be a compelling, competitive and memorable event starting on May 26th in Bermuda.

Sailweb . . .

If nothing else this on-going spat between Coutts, and ETNZ and the New Zealand media has enlivened an event that has recently seemed to have runout of Pazazz.

The World Series events have hardly set the sports media alight and interesting characters are in short supply

Past America's Cup events are mostly remembered for their particular rows and conflicts before the event. As a lot of the racing - when it finally happens - has turned out to be very one-sided and boring.

Often interesting in hind-sight to aficionados but of little interest to even the general sailing audience and even less to the world sports media.

Which is why after the surprise media interest in the San Fracisco America's Cup, with its nail-biting comeback story, there has been an attempt to re-structure the event and build on that interest to a wider audience.

At the first World Series event in Portsmouth UK in 2015, Coutts said of America's Cup racing:

'It needed more than just fast boats and short courses. For the television audience it had to be repeatable, and understandable.

Popular big audience sports may have archaic rule books but the basics are straight forward: you score goals, you sink putts, you hit winners and you do it on a known playing field.

Sailing obeyed none of those rules, except it has a mind bending rule book.'

As ever where the America's Cup is concerned the changes have ruffled a lot of finally balanced egos.

Read the full Russell Coutts article here