Anticipation; Think Carly Simon!
Anticipation is mounting as the next generation of an America′s Cup class of yachts are ready to get wet. Never in the storied history of the event has such a radical boat been proposed and designed to race for; or defend the oldest trophy in sports.
The AC75 with its twin canting T-foils, was a risky bet from the get-go and no one quite knows what will happen when the boat takes flight with its zombie-like arms and foil blades. Never have sailors had to trust technology as much as in the concept of this design.
Mechanical delays have plagued the launch of the new class and cut into the testing time that all the teams have counted on. The first AC75 will splash down in late August in Cagliari, Italy, the home base of the Luna Rossa Pirelli team.
American Magic representing the New York Yacht Club is expected to launch their new boat sometime thereafter in Newport, Rhode Island.
The radical design which may approach dizzying speeds of 60 knots has fueled skepticism from top to bottom as even Luna Rossa′s boss Patrizio Bertelli who represent the Challenger of Record (CoR) cast doubt on the radicalism of the concept as one of the primary reasons so few teams are challenging for the Auld Mug this time.
Along with the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron who are the Defender/Trustee the hope was originally that maybe as many as ten teams would get onboard for the 36th version of the America′s Cup. Three teams challenged from the beginning of the entry period representing the United States, Great Britain and Italy.
Three additional teams qualified as late challengers, but two of those teams have dropped out much to the chagrin of the host nation and possibly the joy to others. The Stars&Stripes team representing the storied Long Beach Yacht Club remains, but seemingly on a shoestring and on life support with fund raising the paramount impediment from really becoming competitive.
By the July 1 deadline, the Stars&Stripes team confirmed their ongoing commitment in a press statement. The Long Beach Yacht Club Commodore, Camille Daniels said, “The Long Beach Yacht Club is committed to making the start line at the first America′s Cup World Series Event in Cagliari, Italy, our membership is excited and we are all working hard to achieve our goal of bringing the America′s Cup to Long Beach.”
Mike Buckley their Co-Founder and Skipper said, “We appreciate the continued support of LBYC and its membership, and the assistance of Emirates Team New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, over the past few months as we have reorganized our team. We continue to make progress with corporate partners and believe we will have what it takes to be competitive in Auckland.”
As part of their commitment Stars&Stripes Team USA will have to complete the entry fee payment process before they will be eligible to race. They have already paid their initial payment but as a late entry challenger under the Protocol they also have a liability to pay a U.S. $1 million late entry fee due in installments by October 1st.
But, with this Cup, with so many unknowns of the design and performance of the AC75 all bets are off as to who will hoist the trophy in Auckland, New Zealand in March of 2021. It could be a runaway by the Americans who have the money and resources, but possibly not the strongest sailing team or it could be the last man standing if break or splash downs allow the turtles to cross hares and finish first.
Remember Carly Simon′s sexy “Anticipation” as a backdrop for Heinz. It′s slow, but eventually drips out of the bottle. Well, so far it ain′t no genie popping out of this America′s Cup so far.
In the competitive world of sports, marketing and TV ratings, the 36th edition of this event has been a snoozer. It has now been two long or two, too long years since the Kiwis won in Bermuda. That is a lifetime for an event that only manages to create a blip on the horizon these days.
In 2013, after 6 years of litigation, deed drama and other tragic setbacks the America′s Cup finally lit a match with one of the greatest comebacks in sports history when Jimmy Spithill and OTUSA came back from oblivion down 8-1 to ETNZ and shocked the sailing world, along with an Oracle Open World audience by sending the Kiwis home with nothing but excuses by winning 8 straight races to pour Red Bull into the America′s Cup and keep it in San Francisco, whoops; I mean Bermuda!
At that moment in time, the America′s Cup had come back to its highest level of interest since Dennis Conner′s dazzling performance on the turquoise wind-swept waters off Fremantle, Western Australia almost 30 years before. It was a rating′s hit for ESPN at the time and to this day when you ask the average person about the America′s Cup, they all remember Dennis.
But, only days after OTUSA′s miraculous victory in San Francisco and a chance to turn the event into a cash cow, it slipped off the horizon and under the radar again as it took ACEA more than a year to announce a venue, Bermuda. Then almost two years before an event and an America′s Cup Class.
By then, it was long gone except for the most passionate (me) and the most rich (not me). The only action for the last year has been watching test prototypes zip along, alone on solitary stretches of ocean creating short bursts of interest and it won′t be until next April in Italy where we will see these foiling monohulls in fleet action against each other.
Meanwhile, in another part of town, on another coast the SailGP series, Russell and Larry′s runaway foiling circus continues to gain traction and momentum in spectacular fashion with a recently completed successful, (not so much for the sailors and crews) event on the Hudson River in New York City.
Needless to say, the Hudson isn′t the best sailing patch of water in the world, but it provides a great visual backdrop and it attracts more than flies as tens of thousands were able to enjoy the high-speed racing from shore; for free!
So, where does all this lead us with just 16 short months until the action starts for the Prada Cup and eventually the America′s Cup in Auckland? Keep reading.
America′s Cup Update
The Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, challenger and Challenger of Record for the 36th America′s Cup has announced that it will launch its first AC75 America′s Cup Class yacht on August 25.
No other America′s Cup team have yet announced a launch date for their first AC75.
The announcement came towards the end of a function at the Circolo della Vela Sicilia in Mondello, where the team was presented. The Mayor of Palermo Leoluca Orlando was present.
Following the introductory videos and welcome speeches, Agostino Randazzo, President of the Circolo della Vela Sicilia, and Patrizio Bertelli, President of the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, welcomed on stage Marco Tronchetti Provera, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President of Pirelli.
Mr. Tronchetti Provera described the values of the partnership between Luna Rossa and Pirelli, enhanced by a technical collaboration based on Pirelli′s considerable experience in R&D in many fields (science, technology, mechanical characterization of materials and mechanical simulation) as well as his personal involvement in the 2007 America′s Cup campaign in Valencia where he was a partner of Luna Rossa′s third challenge.
Representing the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli sailing team, together with Max Sirena, Team Director and Skipper, were Gilberto Nobili, Francesco Bruni and Vasco Vascotto, who in turn outlined the team′s programs for the next stages of the challenge.
James Spithill from OTUSA, Pietro Sibello, Francesco Mongelli, Michele Cannoni, Pierluigi De Felice, Davide Cannata, and Jacopo Plazzi also attended the presentation.
In his speech Max Sirena recounts, “The team facing this challenge has a new identity; there is a group of new generation sailors, training alongside a more experienced group. We are now full-on in our preparation and are training on a down-scale model. There is a lot of expectation and curiosity surrounding the brand new AC75 class, on which the design team has been working for over a year. But the commitment and concentration are very high in all areas of the team, whose focus is directed to a single, uppermost goal: to win! We also strive to achieve this goal to show our appreciation to all the partners who believe in us and support our effort in this challenge: the Circolo della Vela Sicilia yacht club, now challenging with us for the third time, and also the millions of fans who support the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team.”
Patrizio Bertelli, President of the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, declared, “As in all past editions, our goal is to win the America′s Cup and bring it to Italy. Since our first challenge, in 2000, we have learned a lot but also taught a lot and earned the respect of the international sailing community. In over twenty years of the team′s history, Luna Rossa has also been a school, providing opportunities for professional growth to sailors, designers and specialized technicians from all over the world.
“In May of 1999, when we launched ITA 45 in Punta Ala, my sons Lorenzo and Giulio were children; today, in different capacities, they are both involved in the team and in the challenge, symbolizing the generational shift introduced in this new challenge,” said Bertelli. “Our goal, therefore, is not only to win the Cup, but also preserve and pass on the spirit that has distinguished this team for over twenty years.”
Marco Tronchetti Provera, said, “The team presented today is truly excellent and I am very happy that Pirelli is in the front seat of this all-Italian challenge. It confirms our commitment to sports at the maximum levels, where we endeavor to contribute in the best way possible. This is what we are doing with Luna Rossa in this journey towards Auckland: our engineers are working side by side with the team in Cagliari to put together solutions that will make the AC75 fly even faster.”
Agostino Randazzo, declared, “We are very happy to be hosting today the presentation of the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team at the Circolo della Vela Sicilia and are proud to represent such a prestigious team that is so well-loved by the Italians. This is not only a challenge for our yacht club but also the challenge of a nation of Italy as a sailing nation, of the designers, the sailors and of all fans of this sport. For us this moment truly symbolizes the kick-off of the 36th America′s Cup.”
Following INEOS Team UK “T5” and NYYC American Magic′s the Mule, the Italians of Luna Rossa have also launched their first test boat and have started training on the waters of Cagliari (Sardinia), their home base.
In typical America′s Cup fashion, the Challenger of Record have been keeping a very low profile publicly and have not released much information. Still, from the first images published by Luna Rossa on social media, their test boat can fly consistently on the water with three sailors onboard and appears to be more similar in dimension to the T5 rather than The Mule.
The Mule is indeed the largest test boat launched so far as, being a modified McConaghy 38, is about 11.5m long whereas the T5 was originally a Quant 28 at8.5m. Regardless test boats must be smaller than 12m (39 feet) as per the protocol and teams are only permitted to launch two AC75 (22.8 m).
The images published by the American, British and Italian teams are showing a very different boat when it comes to hull and foil shapes, confirming that there is no sure path to follow to develop the fastest boat.
The AC75 is one of the most revolutionary monohull concepts, nothing like it has ever been designed so far, therefore no one can be sure of what could transpire. Differences in shape and speed might be substantial and with the first act of the America′s Cup World Series less than one year away, things are quickly coming to a head.
Progress is moving fast at the teams′ HQs, with three test boats on the water the Northern Hemisphere summer looks busy and exciting.
Bertelli, the team principal of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli has hit out at the AC75 class chosen for the 36th America′s Cup labelling the foiling 75-foot monohull as too difficult, too extreme.
Mr. Bertelli claims that the extreme sailing technology involved in the AC75 is enough to be an entry barrier for new teams/late challengers. A point which has not been mentioned by the teams themselves in several interviews with Sail-World over the past few months.
“The electronic part is especially complicated. We have been working on it for two years…” Mr. Bertelli explains.
His opinion is that there will only be four teams on the start line in Auckland for the 2021 America′s Cup. La Stampa′s Fabio Pozzo reported Mr. Bertelli′s comments after a team presentation in Palermo on June 21, 2019.
Pozzo, La Stampa′s America′s Cup correspondent, has been the source of many insights from Mr. Bertelli, including the leak that the class for the 36th America′s Cup would be in a foiling monohull.
Pozzo says, “It was Patrizio Bertelli himself who wanted the return of the monohull after the era of catamarans used in the America′s Cup in San Francisco and Bermuda. Yes, but I had suggested to the Kiwis to choose a less extreme boat than this one. A sort of modern VOR60 (the boat of the former Volvo Ocean Race) on which to develop two rudders with foils. Instead, they (ETNZ/RNZYS) wanted a hyper-technological solution.”
Pozzo sums up saying, “The New Zealanders have gone too far, they wanted to raise the bar too much, focusing on a completely new boat, but also very extreme, which requires great research and tuning to understand it and make it run. And to do this, we need knowledge, men, time.”
Helmsman, Francesco Bruni echoes Mr. Bertelli′s comments, “The AC75 is a harder boat than the catamarans. The latter rose on the water, resting on four points, didn′t they? The two rudders and the two foils.” In fact, the rules permitted the AC50 to sail on four foils only during tacks and gybes. In normal straight-line sailing mode, they used only three foils.
“These rest only on three, the two rudders and the arm-foil, with the other arm weighing one ton and protruding from the hull for five meters. Do you understand? It′s a question of balance. You must come up with a new way to navigate, and it′s not easy. We saw it after a year on the simulator and with the first outings at sea with the prototype,” said Bruni.
Despite the comments on the perceived degree of difficulty associated with sailing the AC75, Bruni describes the first sail Luna Rossa had on their recently launched prototype 3-crew foiling monohull as “a pleasure, one of the most beautiful sailing days of my life. It′s a question of speed and balance, you have to find the magic,” repeated Bruni.
A six-time challenger for the America′s Cup, Luna Rossa did not compete in the 2017 America′s Cup, and for the 2013 America′s Cup, they sailed an AC72 using a base design package purchased from Emirates Team New Zealand, with whom they also had a training arrangement. Both teams had foiling AC72′s a class which was not originally designed to foil and used very crude technology compared to the subsequent AC50.
The last time Luna Ross mounted a full, unpartnered America′s Cup Challenge was in 2007 in Valencia. Since that time various sizes of monohull have been promoted up to the AC90 proposed by Alinghi when they successfully defended in 2007.
The New York Yacht Club is also believed to have favored a smaller non-foiling monohull.
In a piece of bad news, not only for sailing rabid Netherlands, but also for the cash-strapped Kiwis and despite tireless sponsorship and fundraising efforts, the DutchSail team has not meet its financial objectives to participate in the 2021 America′s Cup race in Auckland, NZ.
Notwithstanding the many commitments from Government, R&D centres, the business community and many private individuals, the DutchSail foundation board concluded that it was financially unfeasible to continue the campaign.
As indicated in earlier phases, timelines played a key role in the board′s decision. Pressure to secure crucial sponsorships throughout the year were unfortunately not met on time. “Time′s up” was Eelco Blok announcement to Team New Zealand, the defender of the America′s Cup. But not without acknowledging the patience and cooperation brought by the organizers in Auckland to allow a late entry from the Netherlands.
DutchSail is humbled by the overwhelming support from home and abroad for the daring initiative. From Government to private individuals, from ambassadors to builders, from volunteers to the world′s top competitive Dutch sailors.
Simeon Tienpont, the driving force behind the initiative, remains militant, “We will continue. In recent months, a wonderful foundation has been built by DutchSail and participation in the America′s Cup. We will follow the 36th edition very closely and then be ready for the next edition. Then we have more time, more knowledge and more opportunity to further ignite the fire in the Netherlands. And in the meantime, we will take the necessary initiatives, all aimed at activating the ecosystem that has now been formed under DutchSail. We will keep going on foiling speed!”
Chairman of DutchSail Hans Huisin ‘t Veld said, “The scale and the dynamism of the ecosystem is unique; it is initiating research projects. Foiling America′s Cup vessels are appealing breakthroughs for zero-emission shipping, wind propulsion and other sustainability issues. More than ever, innovations in competitive sailing will be crucial in the maritime economy world. We will continue with DutchSail, that much is now clear.”
“Dreams never die and well let′s say this one got postponed for a while,” posted VOR Champaign and Dutch sailor Carolijn Brouwer. “It was always an ambitious plan and we had a good crack at it. Impressed by the amount of support in our little orange country but time was not on our side. Hopefully this has built enough momentum to come back strong for AC37!”
Stars&Stripes Still In
With just over 18 months left until the start of the 2021 America′s Cup, Stars&Stripes Team USA′s focus now is to lock in corporate and individual support to ensure that the team from Long Beach Yacht Club is more than competitive in Auckland.
“Is there an individual who wants to support a team based on diversity and inclusion and be competitive on the world stage? Is there a big American brand that is going to join in with Stars&Stripes Team USA and help us take on the big teams?” acting CEO Mike Buckley asks.
His push, along with co-founder and helmsman Taylor Canfield is to garner support to get a new team established in the America′s Cup, and for there to be five challengers instead of just the original three so-called Super Teams.
Stars&Stripes campaign will also give the West Coast of USA a team at the top level of the sport, and indeed in any international sport, lifting the profile of sailing both for existing fans, but also reaching deep into mainstream sport and business.
“We respect all the teams a great deal. Everybody involved in the AC is so smart with endless resources,” Buckley explains. “There′s no question that we are the underdog, and we′re ok with that. We have been the underdog in races in the past and that has turned out in our favor. Right now, it′s a question of who is going to step up and get a second team established for America, and show the world what American talent, technology, and hard work is all about. What American brand wants to be part of this team from start to finish? There is an incredible story to be told. There′s no doubt that the 36th America′s Cup will be better with more teams in it. We are confident someone will stand up and join our team to ensure we are competitive in Auckland.”
For Stars&Stripes Team USA, the deadline of July 1, 2019 to confirm their entry in the 2021 America′s Cup regatta is not a big issue.
“The deadline of July 1 is important,” says Buckley, “but for us it is a race to get the boat completed on time and getting the funding we need to be able to do that. That is the date that really affects us, and we hope that date comes sooner than July 1st.”
Buckley differentiates the West Coast USA challenger from the two other late entry teams (of which the Maltese challenge has been withdrawn).
“Sure, we submitted our Notice of Challenge just before the entry deadline, along with several other teams. But we have paid the $1million entry fee. We have paid our preliminary design fees. We′ve started building a boat. We′re very different from the other late entry teams. We support those teams, we want them there, the more the merrier.” Buckley told Sail-World speaking from Los Angeles.
Earlier in 2019 the team called a time-out, with some changes in management and team structure. Fortuitously a couple of other breaks came their way ensuring that no real time was lost as the Stars&Stripes team changed gears.
“We have re-organized a lot of our management, the founders of the team have re-taken control and have made sure that we stay moving in the direction that we originally set,” Buckley explains having retaken the reigns as acting CEO. His team co-founder, Taylor Canfield remains as helmsman.
Canfield has been cutting his teeth so to speak in SailGP on the USA team which undoubtably continues to sharpen his foiling skills at 50 knots!
“We have shifted our primary focus to individual fundraising as well as corporate partnerships. We think we are really close on the corporate side, and have some fascinating conversations taking place. One in particular could really give us a competitive advantage from a technology perspective, which we are really excited about. Obviously, there is still plenty of uncertainty, but as I said when we first launched, the hardest thing about an America′s Cup team is finding the money, and that has proven to be true, but we knew that from the get-go.”
A new group of around ten people, including some who have been involved all along, are on SSTUSA sponsorship and fundraising team. “That is what I am spending 100% of my time on, right now,” Buckley explains. “We are currently on a roadshow around the USA. One thing is clear is that people love our story, they love the culture we have created and love the vision of an inclusive team. We are getting women involved as well as having [racial] diversity. The big thing for us is to keep it All-American.”
Buckley says there is plenty of talent in the USA to be able to field a full US-national team and says that any competing country would like to be able to think the same of their America′s Cup team.
Boat construction in Holland, Michigan is well advanced. To date the Stars&Stripes AC75 is the only one of the five AC75′s under construction to have released images taken during the build process.
“The boat is about halfway through construction, at the construction phase that the hull is still upside down, while the deck is the right-side up,” he says. “We started our boat build in November last year, and the group worked through the holidays non-stop to get a jump-start. We had to do that to get our slot in the CNC [milling] machine. That was an epic effort on behalf of our group. We are now about halfway through the build, but slowed that because we have to make sure that we have the right title sponsor, and the right group of backers to get us to the finish line and to give us a shot to go and win this thing.” The ACWS postponement was a time bonus.
“We were in a bit of a difficult position coming in on the back end of the entry period, on November 30, but the ACWS postponement certainly worked again to our advantage. We have been following behind Emirates Team NZ in their build program, and they have certainly been very gracious with the help they give us. The other teams would probably have held up starting the build on their boats if they knew they didn′t have to be on the ACWS starting line until April 2020. The late arrival of the foil arms was also a gift,” adds Buckley, “as no-one is sailing right now and not expected to do so until August. The sailing we have been doing is on Foiling Moths and GC32′s.”
Buckley says about half the sailing crew have been recruited. “We have taken about 60 people through our training camps. They have come from different sports, and we haven′t restricted ourselves to just active racing sailors. “Our plan is to build our team slowly. I think it is a mistake to be choosing too many of your people for a race that is 18 months away. Obviously locking down a few key people is great, but we want to make sure we have the best athletes. Other teams have tried out some of the athletes that showed up to our trials. People who were completely unknown in the sailing space (before working with S&STUSA). That is pretty cool for us, as is women getting the opportunity to be part of our team. No-one knows quite how these boats are going to sail and what the roles will be. We have a good idea, but it is always a little different once you get sailing,” he adds.
“We certainly need more people to get behind what we are doing. We have also had amazing support from Long Beach Yacht Club, individuals in New York and the Mid-West, but we are definitely looking for more partners. We think we are close to finding some, but we′re always looking for more.”
If the team were able to go full ahead now, that would mean that SSTUSA would launch in late October/early November. “We know that we can be ready for the first ACWS event at the end of April 2020, In Cagliari. But we also know that time is of the essence. You can never get time back. You can make or raise more money, but you can never get time back. We are in a race against time,” he emphasizes.
“We think we have picked the right team in which to make that investment given that they wrote the Rule and won the last America′s Cup. Our design team is learning as much as they can from ETNZ, so that in the next Cup, AC37, we are running on our own. That is the beauty of the relationship with ETNZ promoting this event and trying to get more teams involved, doesn′t require us to have a 25-40-person design staff. That was never in our cards. Chris Groobey is our new Chief Operating Officer. He has become an amazing adviser of mine and to the team. He brings a great deal of corporate experience, his background is corporate law, and he happens to be an avid sailor. He is somebody who really believed in what we are doing and came on at the perfect time, we are lucky to have him. He was on board before we transitioned our management and stayed through.
“Maz McWilliams is our Creative Director, he is new to the team. We wanted him to work with the team for quite a while and he took over just over two months ago.
“He has done some very cool work on our social channels. He is a brilliant guy and is excited about the vision and understands how to get the messaging out.”
As part of the restructuring the team announced it was forming a Board. Buckley says about half come from Long Beach Yacht Club and the other four are from major businesses in USA.
“Look at what Dennis Conner did back in the day. He did that because he had an authentic American story and he had a huge following and that is still trickling down 30 years later. We want to be corporately facing and consumer facing which is how the original Stars& Stripes campaigns were run, and that is why they were so successful. Dennis treated his campaigns like a professional sports team. I do believe that is the fundamental point of difference with our team as that is how we intend to do things as well. We want to tell the story of a team that started from nothing and made America proud as we showcased American talent and technology in the oldest trophy in international sport. And we want to be able to tell that story for the next 20 years.”
See ya next month and send your letters to mark@yachts manmangazine.com H