Sail-World.com : Letter from the Defenderland: How the America's Cup could be run
Letter from the Defenderland: How the America's Cup could be run
Noted America's Cup crewman, film producer, and San Franciscan resident, Dick Enersen shares his perspective of the latest happening in the America's Cup world:
As most of you know, I am 'old school' with respect to the America’s Cup; so old, in fact, that in May I attended the fiftieth reunion of my class at a very old (1791) high school.
I have written that it will be very difficult to conduct an old school America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay and, frankly, nothing has changed on the Bay to alter that thought, since the tides still rip, container ships, tankers and ferries still come and go, and it's not as big, or as deep, as it looks.
What has happened, to my surprise, is that the appetite for the event among our local leaders has risen to a level I could not have imagined.
In an attempt visualize a way to make the Cup work on the Bay, I have thrown out my old school view of the Cup (match racing, in the most impressive mono-hulled sloops available, conducted over the course of a summer, with 'foreigners' competing for the right to challenge and one or more defenders competing, or just practicing, on a separate, but equal, course) and start almost from scratch. I think there is actually a way to do it.
But first, a progress report on plans for the 34th Cup, for those of you not keeping score at home:
· GGYC (BMW Oracle Racing) is the Defender
· Club Nautico di Roma (Mascalzone Latino) is the Challenger of Record
· They get along fine
· As many as a dozen other teams (none from the US) have expressed interest in competing
· The Defender has issued a very large draft protocol for the next Match
· It will be sailed in 2014 in a new class of boat (either a mono- or multi-hull of around 65 feet), designed to a committee-created rule, to be announced in September
· It will be sailed either on SF Bay or somewhere in Europe, to be revealed by the end of this year
· There will be preliminary regattas in various parts of the world which are yet to be determined.
These are, in my view, all good things, but most importantly, the sturm und drang of name calling, litigation and bad manners which characterized the last Cup, right up through the prize giving, are in the past. All the decisions which govern the next match have been, or will be, made under the 'mutual consent' provision of the Deed of Gift.
So, here’s my plan:
1. Designate the class as a 'box rule' multi-hull, with maximum length of 75 LOA (including rudders and spars), beam of whatever, and max draft (appendages fully deployed) of 8 feet. This will allow the organizers to use a lot more of the Bay, including the Berkeley Circle (and maybe the South Bay), for simultaneous Challenger race courses and Defender practice areas.
2. Since I am completely unconvinced that multi-hulls make for good match racing as we know it (intricate pre-starts, quick tacks & jibes, close covering, slam dunks, etc.) and the Bay will always have major tides and traffic, do all the racing in a fleet racing format.
3. Many of those who squawked at my earlier observation about racing the Cup on the Bay cited the StFYC Big Boat Series as proof that we can have a terrific AC on the Bay.
Well they are right, but first we need to turn the AC into a great big BBS. I sailed in the first official St Francis Perpetual Trophy Regatta (1965) and lots of its successors and, the more I think about it, why not just do what it does? If you think in terms of 'fleet' (all at once), rather than 'match' (two at a time) racing, a lot of existing problems go away, or are minimized.
Racing on the main section of the Bay can be done on all sorts of courses, a la the traditional 'Bay tour' final race of the BBS, with great viewing for all. We could even use the famous reach-to-reach jibe mark in front of the St. Francis Grill Room. As in the BBS, a 'guard boat' will be used to keep the racing boats clear of commercial traffic and rounding fixed government marks makes life easier for the RC.
If one has to have 'sausages' (windward/leeward, twice around, races), they can be held on the Circle, and its western extension, without bothering much of anyone and the relatively shallow draft of the multi-hulls won’t plow the bottom.
4. The Louis Vuitton Cup (or whatever the 'foreigner trials' might be called) should be scored on cumulative points. Fleet racing, lots of it, will average out bad breaks and allow the superior challenger to emerge. Increasing the point value of the later races will keep all the crews incentivized, rather than eliminating boats as the summer goes on.
Importantly, and maybe the only old school provision in the new scheme, is the iron clad rule that the defender(s) may not race against, brush with, or in any way test speed with any of the challengers until AC Race One.
5. The America’s Cup Match itself, the Challenger and the Defender, mano a mano, could be conducted exactly the same way, as fleet racing, but with only two boats in the fleet; sausages on the Circle one day, Bay tour the next, for example.
So there you have it. It’s not your father’s America’s Cup, or Bus Mosbacher’s, but it can be done, and it can be fair and exciting. Moreover, if ever television can be enticed to cover sailing with the vigor we saw in Fremantle, WA, it will be here.
Having solved the nautical issues (see above), there are still the real estate and infrastructure problems to solve.
These are not my domain, but I know that both the incentives and the solutions involve major money. Monday’s Chronicle quoted an economic impact report suggesting that the Cup could bring $1.4 B to the SF area: click here to read. That sounds like major money to me.
I have no idea what it will cost to rehab piers, provide parking, and beef up public services, but I am sure SF will need help from Sacramento, and beyond, to pull it off.
I ran into former Mayor Willie Brown over the weekend. While he no longer holds office, he has immense political savvy and not a little power. Willie says it can be done, and that he’s on the case. I believe him.
by Dick Enersen
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9:17 AM Sun 25 Jul 2010 GMT
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