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Gladwell's Line- Summer of Sailing set to become to Summer of Waiting?

by Richard Gladwell on 8 Jun 2013
Waiting for the wind at the America’s Cup World Series Naples 2013 - Final Race Day © Gilles Martin-Raget

The 34th America's Cup reached a farcical level today, with the release of a revised race schedule, co-incident with an announcement by the Challenger of Record, Artemis Racing (SWE) that they did not expect to be racing until the end of July.

The race schedule in fact shows that the America's Cup Regatta will begin on July 7, with a match between Emirates Team NZ and Luna Rossa (ITA).

The farcical first Act of the so-called Summer of Sailing is scheduled for July 9 when Emirates Team NZ are down to meet Artemis Racing. The Challenger of Record are now, by their own statement a no-show. That scene is repeated again on July 11, when the phantom of the race schedule, Artemis Racing, is scheduled to meet Luna Rossa, and will be another no-show.

Quite whether Luna Rossa or Emirates Team New Zealand have to sail the course, alone, to get the point remains to be seen. The would seem to be the case, as announced rather appropriately by a 'tweet' from America's Cup Event Authority CEO, Stephen Barclay: the course wll b set ech day. If a tm not turn up, other tm must complete course 2 earn the point

The sight of an AC72 sailing the course, alone, to get the point, is a far cry from when the Enlightened Ones were discussing the options as to how the various series in the Louis Vuitton Cup and America's Cup could have been scored.

Then the scenarios were touted as having three races a day when the majority winner took the point. Now the regatta has devolved to a situation where a Challenger, under normal sailing rules, has to sail the course alone to get the point?

Would this happen in any other sporting tournament, where a team defaulted, and the opposing team had to play against themselves, scoring goal after goal, just to get the tournament point?

The general sporting media may not understand a a lot about the nuances of the America's Cup. But they do recognise stupidity and farce when they see it. They will have a field day with this one.

Just two races a week

In the first week, according to the current schedule, the two sailing Challengers will meet just twice, with the other five days being taken up with Reserve Days and no-show days by Artemis Racing. The original schedule had five days of racing scheduled for the same period. The pattern continues for the first month, which should have been the keenly contested Round Robin Series, with the Semi-Finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup beginning early August.

Under a scenario where they win every race in which they are drawn in the Round Robins, Emirates Team NZ is through to the Finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup after her race on July 27. Luna Rossa can achieve the same feat on July 25. The obvious inference being that Artemis will enter the Round Robin once the Finalist has already been decided.

In a statement issued earlier today the Swedish team advised: 'The team is now working to ready its second AC72, which it expects to launch in a few weeks and which will undergo a rigorous testing regime. When the sailing team is satisfied that the boat can be pushed hard in race conditions, it will join the competition.

'We are working around-the-clock to get our new boat ready, in the water and to prepare our team to race' said Paul Cayard, CEO of Artemis Racing. 'We still have a mountain to climb, but our plan is to launch our new boat in early July and get ourselves in a position where we can race by the end of the month.'

The effect of the Artemis decision not to race means that only one race of the three scheduled for each of the five Round Robins will be a contested race, the other two will be Sail-Overs. Of the 15 races in the Round Robin section, as many as ten could be Sail-Overs, if Artemis was a complete no-show.

The simple point being that the Round Robin section of the Louis Vuitton Cup will mostly consist of a single AC72 sailing the course to get the default point. And this is a pinnacle event of the sport??

The spin doctors amongst America's Cup organisers hailed the Artemis statement as being inspired, but fans on reading its impact on race schedules would have reached for the anti-depressants.

At best Artemis Racing will come in on the end of the Round Robin and have four races between July 25 and August 1, when the Round Robin is due to end. In the whole month from July 7 to August 1, Luna Rossa and Emirates Team NZ are scheduled to meet on just five occasions. The Summer of Sailing has been turned into a Summer of Waiting . The schedule changes have ostensibly been bought about as a result of safety recommendations arising from the Review Committee Recommendations, developed by the Chairman alone, after a week long exercise following Artemis Racing's the fatal training incident.

Some of those Recommendations involving changes to the Class Rule were believed to be in dispute between the teams (when total unanimity is required under the Protocol for such changes to be made). On that basis it would seem likely that some of the changes will be taken to the International Jury for a full hearing or Mediation for one or more members of that body.

Under the current rules, such as they seem to exist, for the 34th America's Cup, the winner of the Round Robin Series would have the option to progress to the Finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup, bypassing the Semi-Finals, which are a best of seven series.

How long will Artemis last?

Few would place serious money on Artemis Racing winning the Round Robin phase. They would have to start into the Round Robins, no later than July 14, and certainly no later than July 18, if Artemis Racing were to proceed to the directly Finals. Effectively Artemis Racing's strategy is to default on most of the Round Robin Racing, use a few for target practice at the end. They could also sail for a couple of days before the start of the Semi-Finals against Oracle Team USA, giving the Defender a vital benchmark on the Challengers, and then go into the Semi-Finals, hoping to to eliminate the other boat and make the Final that way.

The worst case scenario is that Artemis Racing, miss the Round Robin phase altogether, and they last just four days of racing in that phase of the event and their America's Cup Regatta is bought to a close on August 10, 2013.

That would then leave Luna Rossa and Emirates Team NZ to contest the Final of the Louis Vuitton Cup and the winner of that, as matters stand, goes onto meet Oracle Team USA in the America's Cup Match itself, beginning on September 7, 2013. The Louis Vuitton Cup Final is a best of 13 series, and the soonest that can be finished (with one team winning the first seven races, and no other unscheduled delays), is for the second team to exit the regatta on August 24. Only one race per day will be sailed in the Round Robins and Semi-Finals, with the format switching to a two shorter races per day at the Finals level. The Red Bull Youth America's Cup, which looks set to become the flagship event event of the so-called Summer of Sailing, begins on September 1, with four days of back to back racing with national teams of youth sailors sailing AC45's.

The America's Cup Match begins on September 7, with two races a day being sailed in a best of seventeen race series. If one team were completely dominant, and there were no delays, the America's Cup Match will be over by September 14, 2013.

The implications of the reduced schedule and the No-Show days by Artemis Racing brings home the sad reality of current edition of the once proud Louis Vuitton Cup, which for most if its life almost overshadowed the Main Event. It generally ran to 12 teams, with a strong multi-national flavour, which created a two or three month build up to the America's Cup Match.

A sad end to a great ride

Conceived by Bruno Trouble, the Louis Vuitton Cup was first sailed in 1983 with five nations represented by eight teams. In what should be its 30th anniversary, just two teams from two nations will compete in the full event.

At its height (and it enjoyed a long flight at stellar altitudes), the Louis Vuitton Cup was a stunning regatta, full of twists and turns and where no two days were the same.

The Louis Vuitton Cup marked the longest sponsorship in world sport. Its decline, manifested in San Francisco in 2013, began with the marginalization of ringmaster Bruno Trouble, and the merging of the Challengers and Defenders interests, and then the effective assimilation of the Challengers Selection Series by the Defenders.

Trouble's passion for the Louis Vuitton Cup was undeniable, but it was submerged by the commercial aspirations of others keen to become the Supremo of both Events, whose very success stemmed from the fact that they were not joined. Remember the mantra of the Challengers Forum, coined by Tom Ehman: 'To relieve the Defenders of the Burden of Defending the America's Cup'? That was the essence of the existence of the Challengers group, manifested in the Louis Vuitton Cup. It is a forlorn cry, in today's environment of an acquiescent Challenger of Record, whose role should be to stand at the front of the Challenger group and represent its best interests, rather than be a No-Show in a key the Challenger Selection Series, and effectively spike that series. They should step aside as Challenger of Record, attend to their own issues, tragic as they may be, and allow the event to be put on the strongest footing possible in the circumstances.

Goddammit, Teams turned up in San Francisco to race, not wait and repair.

Louis Vuitton Cup produced winners

In previous years, competition in the Louis Vuitton Cup was so intense that, it could frequently be expected to deliver a new America's Cup winner. The advent of the Louis Vuitton Cup, and turned the America's Cup Regatta away from being the lopsided forgone conclusion, that was a testimony to the outstanding Defence efforts of the New York Yacht Club from the first Defence in 1870 to 1983.

The principal interest in the Louis Vuitton Cup will be in the Finals, which will probably be over inside a week. Under the revised schedule, the Defender of the America's Cup are the main beneficiaries, with the Challengers' opportunity for racing under the America's Cup conditions severely curtailed firstly by the reduced 'racing' program, and secondly by the no-shows from Artemis Racing for the first month of the series.

The Louis Vuitton Cup has today, devolved from being a great stand alone sailing regatta run by the Challengers in their own right in their own right, to being a series, to select the Partner for the Defender in the Last Waltz. In the process the rights of the Challengers have been completely neutered.

The suggestion put forward by race organisers that the rationale for the reduced schedule is allow the teams to have more time for maintenance, is just spin, and an insult to the intelligence of race fans.

Also losing are the sponsors, both of the events and the teams, with reduced racing exposure through all media and the reduced television time, with organisers putting all their weight on achieving the goal of two days free to air time on NBC, covering the first four races, before the rest of the coverage gets handled on NBC's Sports channel.

And of course, the sailing fans who have been fed a diet of spectacular images since August 2011, when the AC72's first began sailing in Auckland and then in San Francisco, in the expectation, that the show would get underway on July 4 with a four long fleet racing event. Even that was trimmed to one day on July 5, now is trimmed to a 'Special Event'. A fireworks show, maybe? Or a concert? Some schedules still have it as Fleet Race with three AC72's competing. The July Racing Schedule, which even with three teams promised a bit of action, is now down to Practice Laps, twice a week.

Yes, it does build a little in the Semi-Finals, assuming they do in fact take place. In an Event that has become renowned for over-promise and short-delivery, most fans will be skeptical that even those will happen, as announced.

The only certainty at this stage is the Louis Vuitton Cup Final, followed by the America's Cup Match. The so-called Summer of Sailing, will in reality last for just a month.

© This commentary is copyright to Richard Gladwell and and may not be republished without permission
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