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McConaghy 2022 - MC63p & MC75 LEADERBOARD

Gladwell's Line - Cup Decision all but officially confirmed

by Richard Gladwell, on 13 Sep 2016
Oracle Team USA - America’s Cup World Series Toulon - there was no foiling in the AC World Series Toulon Ricardo Pinto / Oracle Team USA
Since we published the updated editorial commentary on the Arbitration Panel Decision on the now no more Auckland Qualifier Series for the 2017 America's Cup, at least four unconnected international sources have confirmed to Sail-World that our story is correct, and the Decision has indeed gone the way of the Kiwis.

Having won the first round, quite what happens next will be both interesting - and up to the Arbitration Panel.

The obvious move, to re-instate the Qualifiers to Auckland won't happen. The time taken to set up the Arbitration Panel and get the Hearing underway has killed that option. The damage done to the America's Cup brand and Team New Zealand by the local fall-out after the Qualifiers were arbitrarily pulled on April 1, 2015 mean that there will be Government appetite to step in with their funding offer again.

Money and funding issues aside, logistically the late staging of the Qualifiers in Auckland is very fraught - with the regatta set down for Bermuda in just over eight months time. The six teams are beyond the point of no-return with most well underway with construction and fit-out of their AC50's, programmed for a New Year launch in Bermuda.

As previously noted we have noted in the updated story, the presumption is that some financial compensation will be the end of the matter. However, this issue goes significantly deeper than that. The America's Cup is a time management exercise, and four of the other teams have got the best part of a year's jump on Emirates Team NZ as a result of this decision.

The only restraint on the question of remedy will be the degree of fault on the part of Emirates Team NZ. From what we have been able to see since April 1, 2015, there has been little to no fault, and the whole incident was precipitated by the actions of the Golden Gate Yacht Club's event organisation and management entity, America's Cup Events Authority.

(Golden Gate Yacht Club has a dual role in the 35th America's Cup - as event organiser which it does through ACEA, and as a competitor which it does with its team Oracle Team USA.)

For all the secrecy and confidentiality stipulations in the Protocol, it took about a week for the Decision to emerge into the daylight. As we noted in an earlier commentary, being transparent, front-footing the issue and taking the hit is a far less damaging route, and enables the ACEA's of the world to control the agenda, a little more.

Test of Toulon
Meanwhile the teams have suffered the Test of Toulon - otherwise, known as the America's Cup World Series Toulon. The French city of the Cote d'Azur is better known in New Zealand as being home of former All Blacks Ma'a Nonu and Dan Carter. Both were out on Emirates Team NZ and Land Rover BAR during the Series, with Ma'a Nonu getting the better ride during the Practice Race as it was the only time the boats got onto foils.

Emirates Team New Zealand had a mixed two days in Toulon.

The obvious point of analysis comes from the points table which shows that Land Rover BAR now tops the table and has a very handy lead going into the final regatta of the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series.

Even with the racing being scored on an equal basis - no points loading for the final day - the outcome of Toulon is no different. Artemis Racing still wins, and Emirates Team NZ is fifth, and Oracle Team USA is sixth. Between second and fourth the places switch slightly under both points systems.

While it is easy to point to the soft and fickle winds of Toulon as turning the racing into a crap shoot, it is a fact that one team, Artemis Racing won three races, and only finished out of the top three once in six races. Clearly, they deserved their win, and it was a big turnaround from their last place overall result in the previous event in Portsmouth.

Land Rover BAR won two races - recovering well from finishing last in the first two races of the regatta. But weren't quite as consistent as Artemis in the other races in Toulon.

Three of the teams had returning Olympic medalists. Artemis Racing with Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) Silver medallists in the 49er didn't seem to have any issues coming back up to speed and opened their series with back to back wins on the first day.

Land Rover BAR was at the other end of the spectrum recording two last places in the opening stanzas of the six race series. Who knows whether Finn Gold medallist and LRBAR strategist Giles Scott hadn't quite gelled with his predecessor on the top echelon of the Olympic podium? The body language from Ainslie was telling as he ripped off this helmet at the end of Race 2 and threw it on the trampoline. But to the Brits' credit, they got their heads up and got their nose in front as the new breeze crept down the course at the start of Leg 3 and Ainslie led the procession, as the hulls flew once again.

Softbank Team Japan and Groupama Team France also made encouraging gains in the regatta with the Dean Barker led Japanese team looking much more confident and able to make gains in the back end of a race - a characteristic they have not been able to consistently display in previous events. The leg-up that STJ have been given by Oracle Team USA in the 35th America's Cup seems to be paying a dividend.

Skipper Dean Barker looks more relaxed and confident - assisted by several ex Team NZ crew. The team also has a base up and running in Bermuda, along with a shared design and development program with the Defender. The hours spent in the AC45S hand-me-down from Oracle Team USA also gives the team the opportunity to gel their teamwork, and their AC50 is well on the way from Oracle's builder, Core Builders Composites.

Why would the Defender need a second AC50 when they have Softbank Team Japan?

Groupama Team France also made good gains in Toulon scoring two second and two third places. Like Softbank Team Japan they too showed a consistency in Toulon that has been lacking previously.

Turning to Cup heavyweights, Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team NZ, their performances in Toulon are less easy to rationalise. Oracle does have an excuse in the late withdrawal of skipper Jimmy Spithill, on medical advice. 2012 Olympic Gold medallist, Tom Slingsby (AUS) was a late fill-in. Like Ben Ainslie in Race 2, Slingsby's body language at the end of Race 6, when the Defender finished last, was a telling sight.

One point that has been made clear in the crew roulette that has been played over the last few events is that resetting the crew dynamic is not easy. Maybe that is a pointer for the Main Event starting in May 2017.

Emirates Team NZ is a little harder to understand. Maybe Peter Burling and Blair Tuke had one Olympic parade too many. Maybe the fact that the AC45's did not get on their foils once in the six races was a little unexpected. If luck was, a factor in the racing Emirates Team New Zealand didn't seem to have a lot. The team published a fairly scathing piece of self-analysis following the series, which we have re-published on

From here on Burling and Tuke will have a single, instead of a split campaign focus. Being dropped on their butts in Toulon could be the best thing for the team as they head into a summer and long days of testing in the Hauraki Gulf, while the other teams suffer the joys of the European winter before de-camping for a Bermudan winter.

And of course, the Arbitration Panel is yet to ponder the remedy options for Emirates Team New Zealand on the back of their Decision in favour of the Kiwis. Clearly, some levelling of the AC playing field is required over and above financial compensation.

McConaghy 2022 - MC63p & MC75 FOOTER38 South - Sun Fast 3300 - FOOTER - Sept2021Navico AUS Zeus3S FOOTER

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