Please select your home edition
Protector 728x90

America's Cup - New York Yacht Club makes a smart early move

by Richard Gladwell, NZ on 6 Oct 2017
Quantum Racing - 2016 Egnos 52 Super Series Cascais Cup Nico Martinez/ Martinez Studio
New York Yacht Club's announcement of an entry in the 36th America's Cup on Thursday (EDT) may have seemed to some as a premature move.

Coming just seven days after the Protocol joint announcement, most would have expected the club with the longest involvement in the America's Cup to have at least waited until the concept drawing of the AC75 was published, at the end of November, before confirming their intentions.

Or more usually to keep their powder dry until entries opened on January 1, 2018.

The New York Yacht Club will be represented by two groups working under the aegis of the Bella Mente Quantum Racing Association (BMQRA), led by two yachtsmen and businessmen John J. “Hap” Fauth of Naples, Florida, and Doug DeVos of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

DeVos is president of Amway and the son of Rich DeVos who headed up the New York Yacht Club Challenge at the 1987 America's Cup in Fremantle. Doug DeVos is best known for his exploits on the MedCup (TP52) and its successor the Super 52 Series. The DeVos owned Quantum Racing won the series trophy in 2008, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2016.

Interestingly in their brief foray into the TP52/MedCup, Emirates Team New Zealand won the series in 2009 and 2010, while the America's Cup was being litigated in the New York Supreme Court.

Fauth is a three-time world champion in the Maxi72 Class helming three yachts in the owner-driver class all named Belle Mente.

CEO and skipper of the new team will be Terry Hutchinson, tactician for Team New Zealand in the 2007 America's Cup in Valencia which they lost 5-2 to Alinghi.

The basics of the AC75 class for the 36th America's Cup were leaked by the Italians and then confirmed by the New Zealanders as a high-performance monohull.

Now just a week old, the new Protocol has survived with very minimal criticism. The purring has been deafening.

That's a complete contrast to the controversy and torrent of 16 amendments made in the first week of its predecessor, governing the 35th America's Cup, launched in June 2014 after a nine-month gestation period.

The key provision in the new Protocol for New York Yacht Club and others interested in a fast start is that while the use of surrogate boats longer than 12 metres is prohibited, class boats such as the TP52 (and presumably its clone the Super Series 52) are specifically excluded from the definition of Surrogates. In other words, an America's Cup team can train and race the 52ft class boat almost without restriction.

That's and an about-face from the Protocol for the previous America's Cup which decreed 'any entity that has been selected to represent any yacht club in AC35 shall not compete in any regatta not forming part of any [America's Cup] Event without the prior written approval of the Commercial Commissioner.'

Simply put that meant for an America's Cup entry to race as a team outside the America's Cup Regatta or America's Cup World Series, permission was required. While a few individual team members raced in the occasional non-AC event, none of the Cup teams sailed their first line crew in other events.

A maybe paranoid Team New Zealand is believed to have questioned as to whether that restriction applied to competing in RNZYS club racing.

Under the new Protocol, teams are essentially allowed complete freedom as to events in which they race, except for an America's Cup ambush regatta. It works both ways - other events gain prestige and attention with America's Cup teams competing, and it is good exposure for the Cup from a non-America's Cup event.

New York YC/Bella Mente Quantum Racing Association can certainly race under their own name and with their first-line America's Cup crew.

BMQRA are expected to continue racing as Quantum Racing in the Super52 Series. It may well be that they can also race in the Maxi72 Class, which was not specifically named but which is also subject to a class rule like the Super52.

A quick scan of the crew rosters for both Quantum Racing and Bella Mente show they are packed with Italians, Kiwis and a couple of other breeds, as well as several top sailors who are also US nationals.

If the two programs are to be used for America's Cup crew development some changes will have to be rung.

Attracting and developing sailing talent will be one of the biggest issues facing the teams who don't have the benefit of links with successful national Olympic programs or other feeder programs that are producing international world championship winners on an ongoing basis.

The USA hasn't had a top performing Olympic program for some years.

Others have the Olympic sailors but don't have the interfaces to their America's Cup programs - if indeed they have one.

The exception is New Zealand which won in Bermuda with a crew which had five Olympic medalists in the nine-strong named Cup race squad. The same group had only one America's Cup between them and in that respect were the lightest crew to ever win the trophy.

A much tighter Nationality rule in the new Protocol requires all sailing crew either be bona fide nationals of the country of their club or satisfy the residence tests contained in the Protocol.

By racing in the Super52's (and maybe Maxi 72) Bella Mente Quantum Racing will be able to bring on and trial promising US crew, and develop them on the race circuits to bring them up to the America's Cup standard.

And the sooner they get this process started the better. With three US teams tipped to enter the 36th America's Cup being first to announce and moving smartly after that move makes a lot of sense.

For New York Yacht Club and BMQRA, there was no point concealing their hand until January 2018. They are better to get their intentions out there and start attracting and signing the pick of available US America's Cup team talent.

The two other teams who have indicated to Team New Zealand that they will be entering, Land Rover BAR (GBR) and Groupama Team France (FRA) don't have the same issues.

The Brits can draw from a very successful series of Olympic campaigns going back to 2000, plus their academy and Red Bull Youth America's Cup programs established during the last Cup cycle.

France too also has a strong Olympic and offshore racing base that it can use as talent suppliers.

One of Team New Zealand's winning strategies of the last America's Cup was being able to turn adversity into a strength by taking a novel approach and making the best use of assets they did have.

It will be interesting to see if New York Yacht Club's America's Cup team does the same.

With the club's less than flattering record in the America's Cup post-1980, a new approach is required. Maybe Thursday's announcement is a vital first step down that path.

Fever-Tree 660x82Marine Resources BOTTOMNebo 660x82 3