Official releases have been flying after Emirates Team NZ's skipper, Dean Barker, launched on a change to plans for team bases, called by America's Cup organisers, the America's Cup Events Authority.
Writing on his blog at Kiwi Yachting Consultants, Barker described as a 'bombshell' the changes removing a hospitality area planned for Piers 30-32 in San Francisco where the teams would be based, to be moved to Marina Green to be closer to the racing.
'Today the Event organisers dropped a bombshell on the Americas Cup competitors when they announced they will no longer be requiring the Teams to be based on Piers 30 and 32, and more importantly would not be paying for any redevelopment of the Piers as has been promised for the last 18 months,' Barker wrote.
'I am sitting here completely stunned. We are a little over 6 months from relocating our base to San Fran to what we have been told would be a fully functioning base area complete with Team hospitality spaces and full access for the public to watch the teams preparing and launching their boats. It is now going to be a concrete slab with absolutely nothing on it which will now require us to secure cranes, jettys, and all services required to function. We have never budgeted for this and to be dropped on us now is quite unbelievable.'
The Americas Cup Protocol provides a so-called Dalton Amendment (Clause 60) which prohibits any competitor or team member making a public statement 'prejudicial or detrimental' to a litany of items surrounding the America's Cup.
In today's edition of his Blog, Barker was rather contrite.
'It would be fair to say my blog from yesterday created a lot of unintended interest throughout the sailing media. It was not to expose any situation, just my own personal view on how things are unfolding in this edition of the Americas Cup. San Francisco is a great venue and we enjoy being here. Next year will be amazing. '
Whether the draconian Clause 60 had been waved under the nose of the New Zealand skipper, is a matter for conjecture - leaving fans to draw their own conclusions. However his team did not back off from his position when their media release was issued.
Teams given choice
Without the hospitality area on Piers 30-32, where all Challenger and Defender teams were supposed to be located, there was little point in the teams being in that central location, so ACEA CEO, Stephen Barclay gave the teams the option of going where they pleased.
Given that Oracle Team USA and Artemis Racing already have training bases established at Pier 80 and Alameda respectively, it would make logistical sense for them to remain in those bases.
That scenario triggered a view that there would be little in the way of infrastructure for the teams remaining.
The Protocol governing the America's Cup is fairly clear. Clause 52.1 requires all Competitors to 'lease a Team Base at the AC Village from which they shall conduct their operations at the Venue.' This would appear to prohibit teams remaining at their training bases, or anywhere else other than the Pier 30-32 area. Unless, of course, there was a Protocol change.
After a couple of brief email discussions with Emirates Team NZ, this morning (NZT) a statement was released by the team mid-afternoon (NZT).
'Emirates Team New Zealand says the America’s Cup event organizer’s decision to abandon development of a team hub on the San Francisco waterfront is irresponsible and another let-down for San Francisco. It ignores the America’s Cup conditions of entry under which all teams are contractually bound to exclusively conduct their operations from team bases provided by the event organisers in an America’s Cup village.
Managing director Grant Dalton said: 'The original vision of locating all team bases on Piers 30 and 32 along with all the facilities required to operate the AC72s, will not be fulfilled.'
'A site plan showing team bases and the facilities has been in circulation for months and, as recently as the last regatta at San Francisco, event organisers promised to provide hospitality facilities. Negotiations have got as far as allocating base areas to individual teams.
'Teams have been planning their operations in San Francisco next year on the strength of these promises.
'To hear yesterday that those plans have been abandoned six months from when the teams would move to San Francisco is scandalous. Oracle, which has a permanent base on city limits, will not be adversely affected.'
'Two teams in particular – Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa – will be disadvantaged,' he said.
The decision potentially denies the people of San Francisco and visitors to the city an opportunity to see all the teams close up. Just as with motor racing, people like to visit the pits. With the Swedish team wanting to be based at Alameda and Oracle a long way to the south and out of reach to the public, the city and port authority may not realize expected financial returns that have been widely publicised by the organisers.
'Our team has experienced nothing but goodwill and warmth from the people and authorities in San Francisco and we feel acute embarrassment at this turn of events. We hope authorities are able to step in and hold organizers accountable for this further retreat which is symptomatic of a continuing pattern.'
But in an interview with Sail-World.com, Stephen Barclay it was claimed that the change to the teams would be negligible.
Speaking from San Francisco, Barclay concedes that the hospitality will be moved, in response to fan reaction during last month's America's Cup World Series and that will have a financial impact on the teams who had planned their own hospitality around a shared facility.
The cost of that hospitality was budgeted at $1.25million and the cost in a centralized location at Piers 30-32 would now be a team cost. Barclay conceded that Emirates Team NZ had planned to do the most of any teams in that area and would be the most affected.
However in terms of the rest of the facilities, Barclay says there is little change.
All teams would have had to pay for their infrastructure costs on Pier 30-32 (sheds etc). There are common facilities such as water, sewerage and reticulated power - which remain the same as before. 'In fact the power may be cheaper, as if there are only two teams there, there is no upgrade required to the power supply, which would have been a cost on all four or five teams.'
Barclay says there is no rent payable by the teams on the Piers 30-32, which still have to be upgraded by the City. That process gets underway on October 22, 2012 and is scheduled for completion on January 14, 2013.
It was always planned for one crane to be shared between two teams, again Barclay claims there is no change in the costs, or logistics, for the teams on Pier 30-32 in that regard - assuming that Emirates Team NZ and Luna Rossa stay together.
ACEA has subsequently agreed to pay for the fence that will separate the fans from the teams.
In a statement Barclay said:
Moving the hospitality from Piers 30/32 to Marina is a very positive action. It puts the fans first. And it has been welcomed by the City and our partners.
The America’s Cup World Series in August was effectively a test event for the host city ahead of the 2013 America’s Cup.
Its success was universally applauded by the teams. We have applied some of the lessons learnt.
The choice to move some elements from Piers 30/32 was driven directly by the success of August regatta and by asking the question: 'how do we deliver the best possible fan experience?'
We are focusing the activities where the fans want to be.
Yes, there has been criticism of this initiative by Emirates Team New Zealand but a more fan-focused and fan-friendly event is to everyone’s benefit.
There will be new facilities on the Peninsula and Marina Green like the AC World Series. There will be the America’s Cup Village at Piers 27/29, which is taking shape with the Team and the Puma stores already open and an AC45 on display.
And there will still be team activity at Piers 30/32 with teams continuing to have the option to base themselves there if they want to.
Louis Vuitton Cup and Defender Series
Barclay told Sail-World that the format of the Louis Vuitton Cup and Defender Series had been agreed, at the Newport Round of the America's Cup World Series, with two formats - depending on whether there were three or four Challengers. Team Korea are yet to formally announce that they have begun construction of their AC72, although they have entered a team.
Barclay says that the Challenger and Defender teams will race on the same day, but using the America's Cup course at different times.
The Defence Series will be to determine which of the two teams Spithill or Ainslie represent the Defender, Golden Gate yacht Club.
The plan at this stage is for the teams to come into a motor racing style pit area between races - although the practicality of this in giant wingsailed catamarans remains to be determined.
The teams were told of the changes to the Pier 30-32 hospitality area, and have been given until the end of the current edition of the America's Cup World Series, on Sunday, to come up with a common position or positive suggestions for change.
To see the TVNZ news report click here
by Richard Gladwell
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10:33 AM Wed 3 Oct 2012GMT
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