Front Rudder - December 2017

Let’s Make Nice

It’s not quite Christmas, but it feels like it. For me the lead up to the next America’s Cup is almost as fun as the races themselves. It all just started to get real again with the recent Protocol announcement.

The next version is still a few years away, but many prospective teams are already out hiring crews, skippers and designers. By the time the application deadline starts in January, it may already be too late! As you will read, the NYYC has just gotten in the game, along with the Kiwis (obviously), the Italians and the British.

Even with a rumored rival series in the works by Larry Ellison and Louis Vuitton, most of sailing’s rock star royalty will be in the America’s Cup, first and foremost.

As we will soon see and read, the next version is just getting started. Both entities are trying to be more transparent this time, in contrast with the Oracle Team takeover of the Golden Gate Yacht Club last time. Even though ultimately Bermuda turned out to be a pretty amazing affair for everyone but OTUSA, most are applauding the new defender trustees, who have had the hardware down under there before.

Following the successful America’s Cup challenge of Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ), which defeated defender Oracle Team USA (OTUSA) 8-1 in the 35th edition held June 17 to 25 in Bermuda, the organization of the 36th Match wasted little time to take shape.

Just hours after the final race, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS), as official club of the Kiwi team, announced it had accepted a challenge from Circolo della Vela Sicilia (CdVS) which was received immediately upon the victory of ETNZ in the last race of the 35th America’s Cup.

“As the first challenger, CVS will be the Challenger of Record (CoR) for the 36th America’s Cup and its representative team will be Luna Rossa Challenge,” said the statement on behalf of Steve Mair, Commodore of RNZYS, and Agostino Randazzo Randazzo, Commodore of CdVS.

“The 36th America’s Cup will be open to further challengers from any organized Yacht Club of a foreign country under conditions to be announced in due course. RNZYS and its representative team, ETNZ look forward to working with CVS and Luna Rossa Challenge to create an exciting future for the event by combining innovation with the traditional sporting values of the America’s Cup.”

The Protocol of the 36th America’s Cup has been released. This Protocol is intended to reflect the true spirit of the America’s Cup established by The Deed of Gift (DoG).

“It gives me great privilege to release the Protocol,” said Grant Dalton of ETNZ. “From the moment we won we have felt a responsibility to release this document as soon as possible to provide the required details that potential teams can now base a challenge on. The plans are coming together nicely, we shall have a very exciting boat that will be fast and powerful,” said Dalton. “We are pushing the boundaries of what is possible technically and this will test the designers, boat builders and the sailors to the limit. Just what the America’s Cup is all about.”

With the return to monohulls confirmed earlier, it was announced that the AC75 Class of boat will be a high performance monohull governed by the AC75 Class Rule, which will be published by the March 31, 2018, with initial concepts of the class being released to key stakeholders by the end of November 2017.

The design of the boat will probably incorporate popular features of boats like Comanche and the TP52 Class. Triangular shapes concepts with extremely wide beams aft, canting keels and possible foiling aspects. Modern day ocean racers like Volvo and Vendee surf downwind at unheard of monohull speeds of over 30 knots!

Clearly the fast and fragile AC50 catamarans that raced in Bermuda would fare poorly in the sometimes extreme, challenging conditions of the Haruki Gulf where the America’s Cup races took place in 2000 and 2003.

It looks longtime sponsor Louis Vuitton has been kicked to the curb as Dalton also confirmed that Prada, not Pravda has secured the right to be the exclusive naming and presenting sponsor of all events comprising the 36th America’s Cup including the Challenger Selection Series, which will officially be named The PRADA Cup.

The dates and venue of both the America’s Cup Match and The PRADA Cup will be announced by 31st August 2018. The intended venue is Auckland, New Zealand with the Match to be raced in March 2021, preceded by The PRADA Cup in January and February 2021.

A series of preliminary regattas will be raced internationally in 2019 & 2020 in the AC75 Class boats, culminating with a Christmas Regatta in December 2020 for all competitors.

Each competitor is permitted to build two boats, the hulls of which must be laminated in the country of the competitor.

The first boat is not permitted to be launched prior to March 31, 2019; the second can be launched after the February 1, 2020. The rules stipulate that no two boat testing will be allowed except by the Defender only during the period of racing in The PRADA Cup, as they will play no part in this stage of the competition.

This decision, amongst others, plays true to the challenger/defender tradition of the America’s Cup throughout its long history which both negotiating parties were keen to embrace. An increased emphasis has been placed in the rules around the nationality of the sailing crews when racing.

Twenty percent or three crew, whichever is higher, must be true nationals (i.e. citizens) of the competing yacht club. The remainder of the crew can be made up of residents of the challenging yacht club’s country defined by being physically present in that country for a minimum of 380 days over a 2-year period between September 2018 and August 31, 2020.

The Protocol has been negotiated to result in a fair and transparent event with cost containment at its center to help attract as many quality challengers as possible.

Race management will be entirely independent of the event organization led by the Regatta Director. The umpires and jury that will manage all on the water rules and disputes for all events.

An independent Measurement Committee will manage the measurement process in accordance with the AC75 Class Rule.

An Arbitration Panel will oversee and deal with all Protocol disputes with published decisions to maintain the integrity of the event. The CoR will organize the PRADA Cup and the Defender will organize the America’s Cup Match while cooperating with regards to commercial issues such as sponsorship and broadcast rights for the 36th America’s Cup as a whole.

“The release of the protocol just three months after the last race of the America’s Cup is the start line for all teams, existing or prospective, of the 36th America’s Cup campaign,” said Dalton. “This was a focused negotiation with the CoR but the common ground was to produce a Protocol that was fair first and foremost with a basis of both tradition and technology. We are also absolutely delighted that Prada, a global brand of the highest repute and style, will be joining us as the Title Sponsor on this exciting journey.”

“Luna Rossa has welcomed the opportunity to be CoR for AC36 as a mark of confidence and support towards Team New Zealand and the new course given to the America’s Cup,” said Patrizio Bertelli, President of Luna Rossa Challenge. “Indeed we could not have accepted this position in the last edition since the environment was not unbiased. After our withdrawal from AC35, we were glad to encourage Team New Zealand and today we renew our congratulations to Grant Dalton and his Team for their fantastic achievement.

Now the situation has completely changed: the original values of the Cup are being restored and the traditional prerogatives of each side preserved. Emirates Team New Zealand are longtime friends of Luna Rossa, while fully independent from each other.

The new Protocol has been negotiated bearing in mind the founding principles of the Deed of Gift, but with a strong innovative approach towards technical and sporting evolution of the Cup and the sport of sailing. Because of this new promising trend, the management of Prada Group has decided to assume the prestigious yet demanding role of Title and Presenting Sponsor of the whole AC 36.”

“The relationship between the RNZYS and Circolo Dela Vela Sicilia has been entirely constructive and friendly throughout,” said Steve Mair, Commodore of the RNZYS. “It is a pleasure to work with Agostino Randazzo and we are certainly looking forward to all aspects of Americas Cup 36. In CdVS we feel we have a fantastic challenger of record who certainly cherish the tradition of the cup as much as we do.”

Twenty percent of sailors on competing teams must be citizens of country for which the teams are competing. The rest of the sailing team must meet a criteria of residency, which will be 365 days within the team’s country. Dalton said, “Countries need to be encouraged to grow their own talent. It is not an attempt to stop yachtsmen earning a living but an attempt to make countries look to their own first.”

One of the tricky parts going forward is where will the Cup be held. The area where Auckland hosted teams and the Cup Village had been developed is no longer available. Space is limited, though several proposals are being put forth. If by August of next year the America’s Cup will be held in Italy. Most likely in the port city of Cagliari on Sardinia where Luna Rossa has its team base.

Though most likely the America’s Cup will be in Auckland in 2021 as I expect the Kiwis to figure it out. At this stage no infrastructure exists to allow that. That needs to start by the middle of next year.

One person who seems to be onboard with the new rules is longtime Louis Vuitton Cup supporter; Bruno Trouble.

“I am happy, the protocol is fair, more understandable and more in line with the Cup I love, where the challengers and defender are friends, but with separated management. No points carried forward. No rule changes. A breath of fresh air,” said Trouble.

As far as the nationality rule imposed by Dalton, Trouble feels that. “If it was too strict, the rule would have prevented tiny sailing countries to participate.”

“If for any reason the event could not be held in Auckland then it will go to Italy but the intention is absolutely to hold it in Auckland,” said Dalton. “By summer 2019 there will be boats and there will be teams but we do not currently have anywhere to put them. We have not yet started on a host city agreement host city agreement can start to be approved.”

The defenders will sail in pre-regattas but will not then be involved until the America’s Cup finals and carry no points forward.

In order to try to limit costs there will be no wind tunnel or tank testing. The boat will also have some one-design components. The entry period for challengers begins January 1, 2018 and there will be a return to upwind starts, plus there will be longer start sequences with races lasting around 45 minutes.


The New York Yacht Club Joins The Party!

After a decade and a half away from sailing’s flagship competition, the NYYC, represented by Bella Mente Quantum Racing Association, will challenge for the 36th America’s Cup. The New York Yacht Club held the ornate silver trophy from 1851, when it was won by the yacht America and through 1983, a run often known as the longest winning streak in sports.

The Club regularly challenged for the trophy in the years that followed the historic loss to Australia 2 off the coast of Newport 34 years ago but had remained on the sidelines since its last challenge with Team Dennis Conner for the 2003 America’s Cup.

Accidents beset both challenges by the club in 2000 and 2003. Young America partially split in half and almost sank in choppy conditions in 1999 during a race. The team hastily fitted its second boat to no avail. In 2003, Stars & Stripes which was challenging under the NNYC burgee ran aground while training in Long Beach, California and almost sank. The team led by DC, never really recovered.

The challenging syndicate will be led by two of the most successful American yachtsmen of the last decade, John J. “Hap” Fauth (Naples, Fla.) and Doug DeVos (Grand Rapids, Mich.).

Since 2005, at the helm of three successive yachts named Bella Mente, Fauth and his team have reached the top of the podium in numerous distance and buoy races at venues in North America, Europe and the Caribbean. Fauth is a three-time world champion in the Maxi72 class.

DeVos and the Quantum Racing program have set the standard for excellence on the 52 Super Series circuit, and its predecessor, the MedCup, with overall series wins in 2008, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2016.

One common link between the two teams is Bella Mente Quantum Racing Association Skipper and CEO Terry Hutchinson, a two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and veteran America’s Cup competitor. Hutchinson, like Fauth, is a long-time New York Yacht Club member.

“The America’s Cup has always remained close to the heart of the NYYC, even in the years where we didn’t participate as a challenger or defender,” said Commodore Philip A. Lotz. “For this cycle, a lot of elements have come together in the correct way for the Club to enter another challenge. First and foremost is the desire of two great American sailors and businessmen, Hap Fauth and Doug DeVos, to take aim at sailing’s ultimate competition. We know they will mount a competitive effort that is respectful of the Club’s long history with the Cup and the competition itself.”

Fauth started sailing on Long Island’s Great South Bay as a young boy. He sailed through his graduation from Georgetown University, where he was captain of the sailing team, but put the sport on pause while he built a career and raised his family. He returned to the ocean in earnest in 2003 and bought his first large race boat in 2005. Much of his sailing over the past decade has been in the very competitive and technically demanding Mini Maxi/Maxi72 class.

“The America’s Cup is sailing’s most complex challenge,” said Fauth. “Winning takes a complete team effort, and I’ve always found tremendous satisfaction in bringing together a group of individuals in pursuit of one goal. With a return to a more traditional style of yacht and the windward-leeward courses with which the vast majority of racing sailors are intimately familiar, the 36th America’s Cup represents a unique opportunity to re-engage the grass roots of the sport and re-energize American sailing. A lot of what we’ve built with the Bella Mente program, and what Doug and his team have created with Quantum Racing, will go into the foundation of this campaign. But there’s still a tremendous amount of work to do over the next three-plus years. I’m excited to get started.”

For Doug DeVos, sailing is a family tradition that started with his father, Richard DeVos the co-founder of Amway, and his older brother Dick. He is the current president of Amway, and his siblings grew up sailing the Great Lakes on their father’s boats.

These days, he can often be found sailing with his son and daughters, passing along the passion and skill he absorbed from his father. He’s also an industry stakeholder as an owner of Quantum Sails, one of the world’s leading sail manufacturers.

The Quantum Racing program has acted as a test bed for sail design and construction technology with Doug DeVos and son Dalton DeVos serving among the team’s stable of helmsmen. An America’s Cup challenge is a natural evolution for the program. It’s also a return to the competition for the DeVos family. Richard DeVos was the chairman of the NYYC’s America 2 syndicate.

“Building Quantum Racing from scratch into a program synonymous with hard work, team spirit and success has been tremendously satisfying, and I’m eager to take everything we’ve learned there and apply it toward sailing’s ultimate test,” said DeVos. “Between Hap, Terry and myself, we have the nucleus of a successful campaign, both on the water and off. We’re honored to represent the New York Yacht Club in this historic competition.”

Even though entries won’t officially open until January 1, 2018, and the class rule for the AC75 won’t be finalized until early spring, there are many pivotal decisions ahead for this team. The return to monohulls will enable the team to pool the technological resources of two elite sailing programs and get a jump on the competition.

In an exclusive interview in 2013 I talked with Dick DeVos on why his family wasn’t involved with the current edition of the America’s Cup.

“The event (America’s Cup) feels very different,” remarked DeVos. “We’re not cat sailors, we are monohull sailors. We loved the technology and development that was part of the America’s Cup when it was held in 12-Meters. There was a beauty and majesty that those boats had. We appreciate the technological gains that have been made with the AC72’s, but a lot has changed with this new vision of the America’s Cup,” said DeVos. “It hasn’t really captured our imagination. Any corporate contact from the ACEA (at the time) never received any consideration at my level or our companies,” said DeVos.

The family continues to campaign the “big blue” Windquest, which is an 86-ft. Reichel/Pugh Maxi boat annually in the Mackinac Races.

“The decisions we make over the next six months will play a significant role in determining the ultimate success of our campaign,” said Hutchinson, who makes his home in the SF Bay Area. He sailed as tactician for ETNZ in the 2007 America’s Cup match, the last to be contested in monohulls and was the original skipper of Artemis in 2011. “The early support of Hap, Doug and the NYYC puts us in a very strong position. But we can’t take anything for granted. The race for the 36th America’s Cup has already begun.”

Bella Mente Quantum Racing (BMQR) is pleased to announce it has signed an exclusive agreement with Botin Partners Naval Architecture to design the yacht it will sail in the 36th America’s Cup competition.

Botin Partners is one of the world’s most reputable yacht design firms, with an unparalleled track record of success across many classes, particularly large mono-hulls.

“Botin Partners has been the premiere monohull designer for the last decade,” said Hutchinson. “We have had a great relationship with the Botin design office through five TP52s, and it just feels like a natural fit.”

BMQR is the combination of two successful American keelboat programs, Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente Maxi72 program and Doug DeVos’ Quantum Racing team. Over the past decade, Quantum Racing has sailed Botin Partners’ designs to five world championships in the TP52 class. Locking in the design team early allows BMQR the opportunity to begin development of its AC75.

“Any good team needs to learn how to communicate and understand each other,” said Hutchinson. “This takes time. The ability to start assembling this team now is critical as we have ground to make up against the established teams.”

Marcelino Botin, the founder and president of Botin Partners, has extensive experience in the America’s Cup having been the principle designer for ETNZ from 2004 to 2011, including the 32nd America’s Cup when ETNZ won the Louis Vuitton Cup and narrowly missed defeating Alinghi in the America’s Cup match.

“Our ambition is to win the America’s Cup, and BMQR, with the NYYC as challenging club, has in our view the best chance to achieve this goal,” said Botin. “We have enjoyed a long relationship with many of the members of this team and feel very comfortable working with a group that has proven over the years to be extremely competitive.”

With just a rough outline of the rule currently available, Botin said his immediate focus is on finalizing his design team. The bulk of the design parameters for the AC75 monohull will be released at the end of November with the rule finalized by March 31, 2018. Botin is hopeful the new Defender/Trustee creates an America’s Cup class that balances performance with maneuverability.

“One important factor is proximity,” said Botin. “The boats need to have similar speeds and be capable of engaging in typical match-race maneuvers. A fast boat is desirable, but it should also be reactive at lower speeds. We would like to see upwind starts with all the pre-start strategy that goes with it. A light displacement monohull would be the perfect platform for these situations.”

Dean Barker sailed with SoftBank Team Japan that has been tapped by the team and will take the helm of the Quantum Racing’s TP52 Super Series next year. He sailed with Hutchinson during the 2007 America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain.

As far as American sailors go, our shelves are stocked. We have great young talent. OTUSA set our (youth AC) programs back, by not developing and taking advantage of the RBYAC opportunities with our young sailors here in America.

Look at what the Kiwis did with their 2013 winning team of Burling and Tuke. We need an American America’s Cup effort to focus on the amazing talent we have here and I’m not being nationalistic or political about this.

The NYYC and the Amway (“American Way”) can be instrumental in organizing for this. I like Barker and I’m sure he will do a great job driving the TP52 next summer and should ultimately serve as a sailing coach. He has a depth of talent, but we have amazing young sailors here that can do the job too!

Dan Bernasconi, Technical Director of ETNZ, has turned his hand from leading the team charged with developing the quickest America’s Cup multihull on the planet to performing a similar feat with a monohull.

First step in the process is coming up with a concept boat, and then writing a class rule to accommodate that type. The 75-foot monohull has been given various monikers, but the reality is that several design concepts are still under evaluation.

“We started at about three, then it grew to around ten, but now we have narrowed it down again,” said Bernasconi. “It is really exciting for the small group of designers that we have to be able to start with a clean sheet. It is a weird process for us. We are so used to pushing hard against a rule and trying to make the boat faster. It feels strange when you don’t have a rule to work to as we usually try to work the edges to make the boat faster and faster.

“We want to have a boat that is really good for match racing, while still being a really high-performance boat. But there is a lot of other criteria as well,” said Bernasconi. “We have been looking at trying to super-charge a conventional displacement boat, as well as looking at semi-foiling boats and also to see whether it is possible to develop a fully foiling boat that will be suitable for the America’s Cup.”

Land Rover BAR has announced that Grant Simmer will be joining the team as CEO. He has been with OTUSA as the team’s General Manager since 2011. He was the navigator aboard Australia 2 in 1983 and has been with 4 winning teams since including Alinghi in 2007.

“Grant’s experience and achievements in the America’s Cup are second to none,” said Team Principle Ben Ainslie. “He is the right person to help Land Rover BAR achieve the goal to bring the Cup home to Britain.”

Land Rover BAR was a huge disappointment in Bermuda. With all their resources and experience they underperformed with their foil designs losing to eventual champions ETNZ 5-2 in the challenger semi-finals.

“It feels like the right time to be joining the team at Land Rover BAR with the new class of boat due to be revealed this month by the Defender,” said Simmer, who brings his own disappointment with him as OTUSA also underperformed in Bermuda. “We can move forward to further develop and strengthen our design strategy. I’ve been really impressed by what Ben, Martin and the team have created from a standing start in just four years. After a period of consolidation and reflection since the last Cup concluded in Bermuda, I see a team that have laid the foundations of a strong organization, ready to take on the sporting challenge that lies ahead.”

Simmer will take responsibility for the sporting and performance side of the team alongside Ainslie, with the focus on winning the America’s Cup. Martin Whitmarsh will continue as an advisor to the team and CEO of BAR Technologies, formed to commercialize technologies developed through the America’s Cup team.

French insurance group Groupama confirmed the end of its sponsorship with Team France and Franck Cammas. Groupama, which has supported the French sailor since 1997, decided not to follow him in his new project for the 2021 America’s Cup after supporting his team for the 2017 edition in Bermuda.

Groupama in its statement, “For Groupama, the sporting and geographical framework that has just been announced and recently confirmed by the organizers of the Cup is now too far from its natural mutualist European and French bases. It is in this context that the group thinks and will soon announce the evolution of its sponsorship policy which will remain ambitious but in different sports and geographical territories.”

Rumors abound that Larry Ellison is poised to announce a “World Series of Sailing” event. It would kind of make sense with all the assets that are in place such as a fleet of 15 AC45’s, plus the modified AC45t’s as well as the AC 50’s that sailed in the LVAC event in Bermuda.

The proposed series is believed to have events at several venues around the world with a spectacular trophy on offer from French fashion house Louis Vuitton. It is possible that the United States, Japan, France and Sweden will field teams, though there is a “rogue” series provision in the new AC Protocol.

Honestly, it would be kind of a surprise for Ellison to throw much money in the event, considering he really dumbed down his investment with the America’s Cup last time having Bermuda pick up the tab for hosting the event and OTUSA getting completely crushed by a team that could barely afford to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Assets aside, this isn’t going to be the “freebee” deal that LV got last time and I don’t see much really happening.

Also on the “home” front Ellison’s investment firm is buying the Cal Neva Resort & Casino for $38.5 million. The faded resort, which sits atop the California-Nevada border on Lake Tahoe’s north shore, was undergoing an upgrade when it fell into bankruptcy in 2016. It has been closed since 2013.

It was the former Tahoe hangout of Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and the rest of the Rat Pack back in the early days of the “swinging” 60’s! The resort’s heyday came in the early 1960s when Sinatra owned a piece of the action and played host to many of the top celebrities of the time. He sold it a few years later after associations with organized crime cost Sinatra his gaming license.

Jimmy Spithill is selling his house in Bermuda, with an asking price of $8.5 million.

The skipper of OTUSA had bought the house at 62 Harbour Road, Warwick, after the team based itself on the island in 2015. The 9,863 square-foot house is known as Coral Harbour and is on the market.

Spithill, in a chat with one of his and Oracle’s sponsors, Red Bull, said there was a desire within the syndicate to avenge their loss.

“We will definitely be chasing this America’s Cup,” he told Spithill said Ellison would want to fully digest the latest protocol released by Team New Zealand. “But we want to go and get that Cup back. When you’ve been involved with a great group of people, especially a successful team, it is addictive. It does become an obsession. Once you get the taste of it, you want to taste it again,” he said, admitting he was now in a different position. “Being the defender, you have a target on your back. Every single one of those teams wants to take you down. And now we find ourselves in the position where we are one of the teams now, we are chasing the defender.”

Spithill said it had been a difficult time coming to terms with the loss in Bermuda. “Losing the America’s Cup is one of the toughest things I have ever experienced. It is hard to put it into words. It is a real empty feeling. For me, one of the worst things is letting people down, and that is how I left this America’s Cup. Feeling, that ultimately, I let all my team-mates down. I have got to embrace that. You have got to feel the pain somewhat and use that to motivate you and to learn the lessons. At the end of every America’s Cup campaign, regardless of whether you win or lose, there is always a period of somewhat depression,” continued Spithill. “You go from having a routine: you get up, go to training, go out on the water, all your meals are planned, you get used to operating right on the edge; then at the end of the campaign, it stops. You wake up and you don’t know what to do with yourself. You think; (well what do I do now?) It takes some time to be able to wind down and go back to normal family life. You want to learn from it and make sure you grow stronger from it so you can come back and have the chance to race again for it. I think what I have come back with is that [in our campaign] we were too conservative and I didn’t go with my instincts enough.”

Though later Spithill seemed to dial it down a bit by posting; “I’d like to correct an inaccurate report in a recent New Zealand publication. I never said Oracle Team USA would try and win back the next America’s Cup. What I did say in an interview with Red Bull was that as someone who doesn’t like losing, I naturally want to get back out on the field of play for another shot. Whether this will be in the next edition or in the future, I don’t know. Right now I’m keeping my options open until all the facts are known.

In reality, I have not heard from Larry on what his plans may or may not be relating to the future America’s Cup in New Zealand. Presumably Oracle would be waiting to review the AC rules, however I could equally imagine them having other plans.”

Anyway, send your letters our way at mark@yachtsman

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