by Bob Fisher
Dean Barker - Louis Vuitton Cup Final Media Conference, August 15, 2013
'The Louis Vuitton Cup is a crucial part of the build-up for the America’s Cup,' declared Dean Barker, the Emirates Team New Zealand skipper in his opening remarks at the pre-final press conference.
For the past 30 years, winning the Louis Vuitton Cup has been an essential step in the dethroning of the defender. It was in 1983, when for the first time in 132 years, the New York Yacht Club was toppled from its pedestal.
So it was in 1995 when Team New Zealand, skippered by Sir Peter Blake and steered by Russell Coutts, beat Dennis Conner on his home water, and again eight years later when Coutts, at the helm of Alinghi, took the Cup to Switzerland. Now, Coutts as CEO of Oracle Team USA, will face the winner of the up-coming match between Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa.
The Italian team has been in the final of the Louis Vuitton Cup on two previous occasions – in 2000, when it beat AmericaOne (and then went on to meet the Kiwis in the America’s Cup), and in 2007, when it lost to Emirates Team New Zealand in Valencia. Can this third meeting of the teams produce a different result perhaps?
There was much on the minds of both skippers, but Max Sirena of Luna Rossa realised that his team was very much behind the eight-ball. 'While we have improved much in the past two weeks (while beating Artemis Racing in the semi-final), I still believe that Emirates Team New Zealand is the strongest team in the water today,' he said. Later he added: 'Today, New Zealand is ahead of Oracle.'
Glenn Ashby, the Kiwi team’s wing trimmer believed his team had improved too: 'The biggest change,' he said, 'is in the sailing of the boat – it’s in the boat handling.' Obviously there are others who agree as a new 170 degree angle television camera has been fitted to the king-post of each of the finalists. This will enable viewers to see exactly what goes on during a foiling gybe, and not everyone is happy about this.
'Camera 7 (as this one is called) has been planned from the beginning,' said Denis Harvey, the Head of ACTV. Max Sirena sees it as yet another intrusion to help Oracle Team USA: 'Why now? I can only see this as another advantage to the defender. They already have access to our telemetry on the racecourse and we have nothing from them to balance the scales.'
On the question of what possible sanctions might be levied on Oracle Team USA by the International Jury for cheating in the AC-45 World Series, most were tight-lipped. Barker said: 'We have every confidence in the International Jury.' Sirena, privately, was more direct, saying that he believed the sanction should be strong, possibly even the ultimate of dismissing the team from the America’s Cup. If that were the case, the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup would, by default, take home the America’s Cup.