Sail-World's America's Cup Editor, Richard Gladwell, talks with Team Australia CEO and America's Cup Challenger of Record negotiator, Iain Murray, (Big Fella) in this third part of a three part series, updating on the state of the 35th America's Cup, as seen through his eyes.
As one of the key negotiators of the Protocol, Murray says that the public release of the Protocol is very close. 'Why the process is so protracted is that we are so much wiser than last time – when there was so much left open to be decided by later voting. But this time we know the racing rules. We have a very polished up boat rule. We understand the boats are going to foil. We understand the safety. We understand the television systems, the arbitration systems and have experience with all of that from last time.'
'There has been a large concentration of how this event can be commercialised going forward'.
It will be up to the new Events Authority to decide how many viable teams have entered and how that relates into an America's Cup World Series competition before the EA starts having discussions with possible ACWS venues, which will be quickly confirmed.
'Getting the expectations aligned is not easily. I have been on both sides and can see it both ways. There is nothing easy about it to be honest,' says Murray briefly slipping on his old hat of Regatta Director for the last edition of the America's Cup World Series, and America's Cup itself.
Tense debate on Challenger selection Series
One area that Murray is reluctant to discuss publicly is how the Challenger Selection Series will run, despite public comment being made from the Defender side.
'The Americas Cup World Series (sailed in AC45's) will have the ability to be split into multiple venues same as last time', he says.
The Challenger Selection Series itself, or Louis Vuitton Cup, is traditionally sailed in its entirety at the venue for the America's Cup.
Comment from the Defender has been that maybe only the final four challenger teams may be able to sail in the CSS. The report have caused alarm and consternation amongst the potential challenger groups as having won though the early qualifiers the top teams would have to pack up and move to the Match venue. The Defender, on the other hand, with their ability to sail two AC62's could be at the one venue for the duration. There are a number of other permutations which all work the Defender's way.
Event organisation gets rewired
As Challenger of Record, Hamilton Island Yacht Club has no involvement in the organisation of the America's Cup World Series – that will all be done by the new America's Cup Events Authority, which will handle event and race management.
Murray says the race management will be even more independent that last time, with the costs being shared between the teams, and not just the Defender. His comment negates the cynical line that in the last Cup, ultimately the race officials were all paid by the Defender, and were, therefore, ultimately beholden to them.
A fresh start with Team Australia
Turning to matters closer to home and equally pressing, Murray has a big task ahead with Team Australia.
'We are just starting. This has been a huge job for us and the Oatley family.
'To just dive headlong into the politics of this event and the America's Cup it is never easy. There are some very strong willed characters involved, and it has taken a long time to work through'.
Team Australia has already announced 2012 Olympic Gold medallist Matt Belcher as its skipper, and a sailing team has been formed. Many of those in the team will be combining Olympic and America's Cup programs. Part of that has involved sailing against Oracle Team USA in the AC45's on Sydney Harbour. That exchange continues next week.
'Luckily the 'Aussie Oracles' seem to have camped down here and are quite happy to sail with us. So we have to make the most of that opportunity - it's a great opportunity for us'.
'Those guys are all good mates, because they were all in the Olympic team together. So we have to make the most of that opportunity while we can. Sailing one design AC45's is a good way for us to step up'.
He expects Team Australia to build to a 50-60 strong group. That is well shy of the 120 listed for Emirates Team New Zealand in the 34th America's Cup and the 220 (including builders) for Oracle Team USA.
'We obviously have to build the boats here, in Australia, but we have a very good composites industry, and there's a lot of skills and facilities here.
Strong base in Australian Sailing Team
Had the 35th America's Cup been sailed on a State of Origin basis, with a 100% home-grown nationality rule, Team Australia would be in a very strong position indeed with the top designers, sailors and managers in the Americas' Cup business.
The task for Iain Murray is to build a team grafted from the Australian Sailing Team, which is a top performer at Olympic level. The Oatley's and Hamilton Island Yacht Club have always been strong backers of the Australian Sailing Team, so the relationship is an easy one.
'I think we can do a good job', says Murray. 'We have to build our team from scratch. We have hired some good people. But we need to bring some experience into the team.
Shifting gears completely ... Saturday's Beneteau Cup Pittwater 2014 is set to offer owners double the competition and double the fun for the first time in the event's 14-year history.
As well as vying for Beneteau glory within the select class, crews will contest race two of the regular Lion Island Series run by the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club at Newport, on Saturday May 10, 2014.
A handful of those entered in the Beneteau Cup have elected to tackle the spinnaker option and compete against the bulk of the RPAYC fleet in divisions one to three. The rest will transform division four from a small non-spinnaker fleet into a mass Beneteau flotilla.
Given the Cup is for some Beneteau owners one of only two times a year they race - the other being the Beneteau Cup Sydney Harbour - forecast light N-NW winds at 10 knots is good news for owners who'd rather keep the champagne flowing and stress levels corked.
2014 Airlie Beach Race Week - There is going to be Cookson conflict on the IRC race course in the Vision Surveys Airlie Beach Race Week, being held from eighth to 15th August 2014.
The battle lines are already being drawn as the two Sydney-based Cookson 50s, Colin Woods's Pretty Fly III and Darryl Hodgkinson's Victoire, prepare to take each other on, boat against boat in regatta racing.
After Airlie Beach there is Audi Hamilton Island Race Week and SeaLink Magnetic Island Race Week. NOW would be a good time tor register.
News from the first Eurosaf event of the season – Garda Vela Trentino and the Finn Europeans, where Britain's Giles Scott is absolutely dominating.
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