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Gladwell's Line - Cup capers continue in Auckland and Bermuda

by Richard Gladwell, NZ on 27 Aug 2017
The requirement for 3 or 4 of the six AC50 crew to be "galley slaves" meant the AC boats were sailing shorthanded leading to mistakes Richard Gladwell
Two months have now passed since New Zealand won the America's Cup, without too much as yet on how the next event will shape up.

What has been released is a big improvement on what was produced in the run up to the last four America's Cups, which drip fed basic information over 14 months, and then changed the class nine months after entries opened.

Staying with the 35th America's Cup in Bermuda, it is incredibly disappointing to see the America's Cup video content taken down off Youtube, a month after the event concluded.

This includes the media conferences and other reports that were produced on a daily basis. Also gone is all content going back to, and including the previous 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco.

Those Cup fans who follow the traffic statistics on the old 2013 San Francisco videos will know that they kept getting replays and had some very good viewer numbers – and were still getting plays well after the end of the event.

There was an enormous of content generated during the 35th America's Cup - and many fans will not have got around to viewing all of it. Now the content would seem to have vanished for ever.

For all the comment from those involved in the Golden Gate YC's team and marketing/event management arm about wanting to lift interest in the America's Cup, and sailing generally, this seems to be a very strange way to do it.

How does it benefit the sport to have all official footage and images suppressed a month after the event? What other major sports event does that?

It gets worse.

The America's Cup website has been switched to an online America's Cup clothing store based in Manchester UK.

Also gone is the America's Cup image library - a vital source of some outstanding images for sailing and non-sailing media. That too is diverted to the same discount-sale site. (This won't affect Sail-World too much as we have our own image content - but that's not the situation for most publications.)

When the much maligned Swiss team Alinghi lost the America's Cup in 2010, they at least kept the content of that available for several months. But other than pirate copies that video is also not publicly available either.

There is a body set up to receive content from past America’s Cup events. It was set up after the 2000 Cup, and has a good line of funding – but is yet to receive any content.

The 35th America's Cup Facebook page with over 400,000 followers was also taken down and then reappeared a few days later under the name of 35ACBDA - with all the original content. But that too now seems to have been banished.

Those with a passing knowledge of website and social media process will know that to hand-over the content is a simple matter of passing over the keys to the new owner, and the sites can continue in their original form for fans. The cost is relatively insignificant.

Questions on these issues have been asked of America's Cup Events Authority, but have not been given the courtesy of a reply - as have others requested in the same vein. Most of those involved at ACEA came off contract on July 31. We are told that the take-downs were not at the request of New Zealand Cup entities. ACEA we understand is now being run by a couple of administrators in Bermuda.

It is a complete travesty that this content should be removed by those who have the impression that they own it, rather than being the custodians of the images. Did the Cup teams really sign up for the video and other content to be available for the Cup and then removed a month after the event? No other sport or event behaves in this way.

A concerted effort of Cup Content-Cleansing was made before the Youtube take-down to remove all the pirate copies of broadcast video from various sources. That was fair enough if the content was all replicated on free to view sources and pirate copies were unnecessary. But we now know that is not the situation.

The TV deals and App all had expiry dates of July 31, 2017, and even though there were replays available for 30 days after the Cup, these are now gone. From our enquiries, there is no intention by Sky in NZ (and probably elsewhere) to make the content available on an ongoing basis.

Every website (including Sail-World) which played the game with ACEA and its TV arm, and put the embedded code of America's Cup media conferences, previews and reviews into their reports of the racing and events has now had that coverage replaced with blank screens and 'video not available' text. It’s a big job to go back and change those stories and won’t happen. Story deletion isn’t an option.

What is achieved by this petulance? Nothing. In fact it is a huge step backwards for the America's Cup.

Fortunately there are some pirate copies of the racing available online, along with privately shot video shot on the water of full races - however, it is not the same.

Auckland venue:
The speculation over what will happen in Auckland is also bubbling away with limited comment.

The regatta will be held in Auckland, and in February 2021 - which is only three and a half years after Bermuda. That’s two of the three basic questions answered. The boat-type will apparently be answered when the Protocol is released in September.

Local media, without a lot of knowledge of the Cup, were quick to suggest a race course on the inner Waitemata. Lake Pupuke would be more suitable.

A bit of quick work with Google Earth will tell you that the Waitemata harbour is about half the width (and substantially less at low tide) of the Great Sound in Bermuda - and the Sound was tight to accommodate America's Cup racing.

In turn, the course length in the Great Sound was about two thirds of the course length in San Francisco - Cup courses just can't keep getting shorter and shorter.

Plus, the Waitemata harbour is orientated east-west, and the prevailing wind SW/NE is diagonally across the harbour. Racing on the harbour will result in skewed courses which is an unacceptable comprise.

The next location option, off North Head, drops the racing in behind the influence of the 850ft high volcano Rangitoto in a sea breeze (a very common wind direction in February) – which will make the racing a complete lottery.

Fans wanting to view the racing from North Head (the closest vantage point) will have to endure traffic on the most congested road in New Zealand. Fans might put up with that for a once off Volvo Ocean Race start - but not on a regular basis of sitting in a car for four hours to see 40 minutes of racing.

The concept of stadium racing in the America's Cup is flawed. In Bermuda, the fans in the grandstands saw about 60 seconds each race at the finish, and for the rest of the coverage, they relied on big screen coverage of the TV feed, plus what they could pick up in the distance out on the course. For sure it was a great day out, but even the brochure sold it as the chance to see the great entertainment in the America's Cup Village, with the opportunity to first see some America's Cup racing.

Racing further out into the outer Waitemata harbour/inner Hauraki Gulf is the only sensible option. But will require a seaworthy America's Cup Class of which the AC50 is probably too small for a 15-18kt sea breeze with a moderate sea, and often wind against the tide as well.

Turning to the boat type - keelboat vs catamaran - a factor that seems to be overlooked with the former is Auckland's three metre plus tides, which will require dredging for a keelboat base venue - to give all tide access.

Dredging and harbour intrusion is very difficult to get through a planning process in Auckland, with sailors being at the forefront of protest action on previously mooted projects.

A catamaran is much more practical, as they can operate in the normal Auckland harbour water depth - without any need for dredging. Wingsailed catamarans are not that easy to manoeuvre, tow and hoist – requiring some work before the Auckland bases are sorted.

The other big advantage of catamarans (for the reason of relatively shallow draft) is that other locations around the course such as Gulf harbour, Tamaki Estuary and other marinas can be used, which are not suitable for other than shallow drafted keelboats. There is plenty of existing infrastructure which can be used without the need for new facilities.

If they wished, prospective Cup teams could start training in Auckland this coming summer, using their existing catamarans and pick up valuable weather and performance data.

Emirates Team New Zealand has a huge advantage in this area - having worked up for two campaigns on these waters - first with their two AC72's, and then having spent a lot less time in the AC50/AC45S, preferring the 'Back Paddock' off Browns Island for training.

Getting the teams out of the central City for the Cup build-up also has the advantage of the crews not having to battle with Auckland's rush-hour traffic - which is in full flight at 6.30am.

It also reduces the pressure on the need for inner city accommodation with the price gouging that invariably occurs with major sailing regattas, significantly increasing the cost for visiting teams.

Shore bases:

Already there has been some interaction with harbour protection groups and the Auckland Council.

But in contrast to the planning fiasco with the 'Supes' in San Francisco, the early submissions on base positioning are a lot more positive.

The only area that will work for bases is clearing the tanks and junk off the Wynyard Wharf area and turning that into a flat area that can be used by the teams for base construction, using prefabricated or temporary bases similar to that used in Bermuda.

What must not happen is that developers become involved in the way that occurred around the Viaduct Habour development post 1995. Once the Cup was gone the reclaimed land was snapped up for apartments, hotels and expensive office buildings. If Auckland loses the Wynyard Wharf to developers there will be no more harbour space that can be used for future Cups, and taken public space.

Auckland's legacy from this Cup and the Wynyard Wharf area must be a substantial area of public waterfront space, without any of the antics that have served to block public access in the past.

New Zealand is one month out from a General Election. A priority after the votes are counted is to pass America's Cup empowering legislation, as was done for the 2000 Cup, to allow fast tracking of planning hearings and allow early demolition and construction to get underway.

Plans for the Wynyard Wharf area must include a permanent base for Emirates Team New Zealand and get the team out of their spartan accommodation in their current temporary base. In the video below the development yet to come in Wynyard Quarter is shown. The area that should be levelled and used for bases shown as being covered in tanks. Currently a modest 4.5ha perimeter park is planned on two sides with the rest of the tanks remaining. Other graphics show the tanks removed and with yet more office and hotel space.

Despite the concept drawings, the latest signs are encouraging with Auckland Councillors being urged from within to follow Emirates Team New Zealand's planning example and 'throw the ball out as far as possible' when conceiving options for the hosting of the America's Cup. Expect some out of the box thinking. But don't criticise Councillors and others coming up with some wacky ideas - provided they aren't compromising the quality of America's Cup competition.

Auckland Council meeting on America's Cup submissions (starts as 12'35')

Boat choice:

Those involved in the selection of the boat should be listening to the views of new generations of sailing fans and not hitting system reset on a type of boat which has grabbed the attention of a much wider sailing audience.

One of the issues with the AC50 revolved around having the bulk of the sailing team involved in 'moving oil' rather than focussing on active sailing functions.

Regardless of whether a monohull or multihull is chosen, there will need to be an onboard power source - whether it be battery driven for a catamaran, or diesel to drive a canting keel in a monohull.

The same happened in the 2010 America's Cup, and wasn’t the major issue it initially seemed. Without an engine the Cup boats, mono or multihull will still be powered by contemporary galley slaves.

Using a more efficient engine will free crew to actually sail the boat, and get away from the ludicrous situation of the AC50 where at least half the crew were tied up on power generation and the remaining two or three shared daggerboard control, sail trimming, tactics, steering, tactics and navigation.

Essentially the 35th America's Cup was a short-handed sailing event, marred by the snafus created when two people try to do the job of six. A big factor in Bermuda was how the functions were split between the crew, with Emirates Team New Zealand opting for a different functional split than the other five teams.

In Bermuda, how often were good races abruptly decided by one team sailing outside a boundary, because of a navigation error? Or even more ridiculous because the penalty for sailing outside a boundary was less than the distance lost by tacking or gybing with less than the required hydraulic pressure and consequent splashdown and stop. There was a situation where taking the penalty for sailing through a boundary was the lesser evil.

There's an interesting recent angle on the proposed nationality rule - with Kiwi sailors complaining they can't go and sail for other teams if they don't make the cut for Emirates Team New Zealand.

The America's Cup should not exist for the furtherance of individual professional sailing careers - with the hired guns being able to play off one billionaire against another for their services. That just drives up costs and adds little to the event.

There are plenty of other sailing events which cater for multi-national crews and professional sailors of all nationalities. The America's Cup is a “friendly competition between foreign countries” and by implication the crews should be nationals of those countries.

The solution for spare Kiwi sailors is to sail for another team, either on the trial horse or some other guise without being on board the race boat. If they are that good, they will be invaluable in lifting the performance of the nationals on the race boat. The alternative is to comply with the new Protocol’s nationality clause and get a passport of the country they wish to represent or work within whatever residency restrictions are in place.

The way to build interest in the America's Cup is with a tight nationality clause - which lowers the payroll cost and attracts fans in the state of origin of the defending/challenging club.

The demise of nationalism in the last few Cups has been accompanied by the sanitising of the profiles of those at the top end being perceived by the viewing public as somewhat bland personalities.

Jimmy Spithill is the glorious exception with his ability to spark a story with a few words at a media conference or interview. Sadly, the real personalities of the Cup who could have gone head to head with Spithill were kept off the America's Cup stage, right until the very end. Hopefully the so-called 'Dalton clause', designed to curb adverse comment will be struck from future America's Cup Protocols, and the competitive sparks can again fly.

Some interesting statistics came out of the America's Cup and Challenger Final.

The 35th America's Cup was a lot more lop-sided than the results suggest - which is widely recorded as being 7-1 on points.

The real score is 8-1 scored as wins - which will be engraved on the Cup, same as the margin for the 34th America's Cup was 11-8 wins.

The score of Mark Roundings reflects a massive dominance by Emirates Team New Zealand leading around 49 of the 54 marks in the nine race Match.

In the Challenger Final, it was a much more even contest with Emirates Team New Zealand leading around 22 marks compared to Artemis Racing's 20 marks 'won' in the seven race series

The very interesting statistic is that in the first half or so of the Challenger Final - the first four of seven races, Artemis Racing won 18 marks compared to Emirates Team New Zealand's six mark wins.

However, in the backend of the Challenger Final, Emirates Team NZ dominated winning 16 marks compared to Artemis Racing's two mark wins.

That stacks up with the view that Emirates Team New Zealand's most critical day of the regatta was the second day of the Challenger Final. That is the point where Emirates Team New Zealand rose to ascendancy after the first race of the second day when the score was 2-2. The Kiwis completely dominated the final two days or three races - carrying that form into the America's Cup itself.

If Artemis Racing had indeed beaten Oracle Team USA in their last 17 encounters (in Practice and Qualifier racing), then it is not so surprising that Emirates Team New Zealand were able to defeat the Defender in the Match. Maybe the Challenger Final was the tougher contest of the two.

The mark win statistics would certainly point to that being the situation.

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