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Gladwell's Line: Greek Sabbatical..Cup launch dates drag..Kiwi successes

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 15 Jul 19:46 PDT 16 July 2019
Cruising yachts, three tavernas and nine Australian boats - Arki, Greek Islands © Richard Gladwell, Sail World NZ

We have spent the past five weeks having a sabbatical in the form of three and a half weeks sailing and living around the Greek Islands, followed by a few days in Cowes and Ireland.

Sailing around the Greek Islands is something many have only read about.

It is in some ways similar to sailing in the Hauraki Gulf or Whitsundays with pristine water and plenty of islands, but with a lot more history, and usually a favourable warm breeze. The shore life can only be imagined- tying up to a dock and whiling away the time at a taverna or two accompanied by several cold drinks and outstanding food. The people are great. There's plenty to explore - particularly if you read up the history - which ranges from WW2 to many thousands of years BC. You can do it with a flotilla or alone on a bareboat chartering as we did.

For a couple of nights, we shared ports with a flotilla run by Mariner Boating Holidays in Sydney - with nine boats and 54 sailors. It was strange to be so far away but with a very familiar accent!

Greece is a photographer's paradise, and we will be running a series on the sailing part of the trip, plus a couple of other related pieces, in Sail-World.

Cowes is the mecca for sailors, and it was great, just to be there and catch up with friends. We missed the start of the Round the Island Race - by a day - however, most failed to finish due to light winds.

A feature of the trip was the lack of availability of working wireless coverage - even though it was promised and advertised everywhere - but never worked. My "Get out Jail" card was Vodafone and the ability to set up a "hotspot" - that gave some limited but usually very workable internet coverage. It is an excellent fallback option, and Vodafone's cheap roaming plan was a Godsend.

It was also great to catch up with two of the world's great yachting scribes Bob Fisher in Lymington, and Stuart Alexander in Cowes, plus the pleasure of meeting Sail-World's publisher Stuart Jardine face to face, for the first time in three and a half years!

On a sadder note, my mother - a very keen America's Cup fan before the onset of dementia - passed away two days after our return home. She was in her 97th year. So the past seven weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster ride.

America's Cup timing gets tough

One of my concerns on being out of New Zealand for June and early July was that I would miss the AC75 launchings. However, that didn't happen. It seems likely that these will not take place until late August or September.

The issue lies with the delivery of the carbon foil arms from Persico Marine - confirmed by Ben Ainslie, skipper and team principal of INEOS Team UK in this edition.

Ainslie says this issue is expected to be resolved in a few days, but it is still more delay.

By our reckoning, the impact of this delay is a lot more serious for the Challenging teams (USA and UK) than it is for the Defender, and to a lesser extent the Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.

Earlier this year, INEOS Team UK and NYYC American Magic both relocated to bases in Southern Spain and Florida respectively - to avoid the northern winter. Luna Rossa, being based in Cagliari, Sardinia can probably winter over as could Emirates Team New Zealand. Stars & Stripes Team USA are in a similar but different position to the Italians.

With the way the dates now work out - the AC75's will launch in August/September - the Northern Hemisphere Autumn - and going into their Winter in December. Emirates Team New Zealand will launch in the Southern Hemisphere Spring, and go into the Kiwi Summer and then into the very sailable Kiwi Autumn, starting in March. Plus the Defender is already set up with a base in Auckland and is ready to go. The Kiwis are very well placed through to the end of the Cup.

As Ben Ainslie disclosed in the forward program for the Brits (and we suspect NYYC American Magic) - they will have to decide whether to pack up their AC75 and head south or work out some other option - probably based around their test boats (T5 and The Mule).

The announcement that the first America's Cup World Series regatta will be held in Cagliari from April 23-26 has defined one date. Still hanging are the dates for the Newport and Portsmouth events. However, they are likely to be in the 2020 European Summer and will occupy the teams' first AC75, at least. A fourth America's Cup World Series event was earlier talked of for Auckland in August 2020 - at the most three months after the Cagliari event. Whether that is still a goer remains to be announced.

Long story short is that time is running out fast for the Challenging teams, who start their America's Cup Qualifier in January 2021. The individual team program decisions have to be overlaid with the launch date for the second AC75 (and probably the teams' raceboat) which can be after February 15, 2020. While the teams can only sail one AC75 at a time, they will need to have boats so they can fly in crews between ACWS events and keep training and testing.

Count back from that February 15, 2020 to the present, and there are just seven months from today until that date for the launch of the second AC75.

With build time and shipping logistics, the Challenging teams are, as Ainslie notes, very close to having to push the build button on their second AC75, without having sailed their first, or certainly without spending substantial time in the boat. Without the AC75 experience they will be relying heavily on information from their test boat - if they have one.

One solution could be for the teams to set up in Cagliari or nearby, sail through the winter, do the ACWS regatta, and then launch and work-up their second boat in New Zealand.

Currently, the Challengers with test boats are getting the sailing hours, and are refining their simulators. However, that pendulum is about to swing the Defender's way who have a lot easier run into the America's Cup Match in March 2021 than the Challengers.

One of the disappointing aspects of the past month or three has been the New Zealand media's coverage of the America's Cup, particularly with the dropout of two Late Challengers and negative commentary around the third, Stars & Stripes.

Both NZ TV channels put reporters into the Bermuda America's Cup - why can't these women, who now understand an America's Cup cycle, be used for running these stories, instead of plucking someone off the bench?

Anyone who has covered the America's Cup for a full-cycle knows that stories crop up along the way, which are not to be taken too seriously, and are often gamesmanship, and which must be put in a larger context.

While the use of unnamed sources has been a feature of America's Cup commentary, there is no need for this practice in the current America's Cup cycle. There is no "Dalton Clause" in effect, and teams are allowed to speak their minds - and have done so. One example being Luna Rossa team principal, Patrizio Bertelli, sounding off about the merits of the AC75 and whether the new class is too extreme.

It is a relatively simple exercise for media to contact the teams directly and get an accurate update, rather than relying on comment from sources who can't be named - and likely have an axe to grind. There would appear an ongoing attempt to de-stabilise Team New Zealand.

So far this cycle, Sail-World has conducted interviews with five of the Challenging teams. There are a couple more in past weeks with INEOS Team UK, and Simeon Tienpont on future directions for DutchSail.

These people are not hard to contact. Why aren't the teams being contacted directly? Is it because the story angle is pre-determined?

Kiwi sailors running hot on World circuits

New Zealand has performed well on the world stage over the past couple of months.

In the 420 Worlds, Seb Menzies and Blake McGlashan were not able to defend their Open 420 title in Portugal but did the next best thing - winning the Silver medal with another Mens crew in the top eight. The best NZ Womens crew placed 19th overall in a 73 boat fleet.

Two New Zealand sailors - George Gautrey and Sam Meech finished third and fourth overall in the Laser Worlds in Japan, with a third New Zealand sailor - Thomas Saunders finishing 10th overall. Australian sailors took the Gold and Silver medals - a great result for the Antipodes. At the end of May, Meech came from behind on the final day to win the Silver medal at the Laser Europeans in Porto, Portugal.

Phil Robertson, as well as sailing the Team China entry in SailGP, won his second World Match Racing championship in the M32 catamaran in Marstrand, Sweden. He headed off top US match racer and America's Cup Challenger helmsman-designate Taylor Canfield (S&S Team USA). Canfield is also sailing on the US SailGP entry.

In the 49er class, Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn continued their run of form, winning the 49er event at Kiel Week - with Peter Burling and Blair Tuke finishing 13 points astern in fifth overall. Issac McHardie and William McKenzie finished 11th overall in the 82 boat fleet. A week later in Risor, Norway, McHardie and McKenzie won the 49er Junior world championship sailing in a fleet of 53 boats.

America's Cup sailors, Josh Junior and Andy Maloney both competing in the Finn class finished first and second respectively at the World Cup Series Final in Marseille. That result backed up with a first and second by Maloney in the Princess Sofia Trophy (the largest Olympic classes regatta in Europe) and second in the Finn Europeans. Josh Junior was third in Palma and eighth in the Finn Europeans. While the World Cup Series was only contested by 12 boats, the other regattas were contested by strong fleets.

Andy Maloney got the nod from the Olympic selectors to contest the Finn class at the Olympic Test Event at Enoshima from August 17-22. New Zealand will be represented in just six of the ten Olympic classes.

Currently under way are the Optimist Worlds in Antigua, and four New Zealand match racing crews will contest the Governor's Cup this week at Balboa YC, Calif. USA.

It's been a good month or so for New Zealand sailors.

Finn class pushes back

The discussion about the dropping of all Olympic events for male sailors weighting more than 85kgs continues. Latest salvo come from the world's most successful Olympic sailor, Sir Ben Ainslie - which came at the end of our interview last week. We have split the story away from the America's Cup and it is attracting significant readership.

The Finn class itself is pushing back with its own revised Events slate for 2024, which is unlikely to succeed - as it is advocating the same degree of change as that promoted by World Sailing. No other Olympic sport has advocated the same degree of change to its Event line-up as Sailing.

So are the other 32 Sports all wrong, and Sailing is the only one to have got it right? Or is it the other way around?

Over the past month or so, World Sailing's leadership has made several statements, including one in response to a open letter signed by Finn sailors. Sadly much of what is coming from World Sailing in this regard is just spin and is not accurate.

Sailors deserve better than this from their leadership. The ramifications of the wholesale changes for MNA's and their external funding are, we believe, significant - but that is a later story.

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