Sunday, September 8, 2013

The America's Cup 2013; a guest post

Quintin Hogg is a regular visitor to Keeping Stock, and a semi-regular commenter. We've met him several times, and shared a couple of meals. And we know that when he leaves his office, he is a mad-keen sailor.

So we asked him for a yachtie's perspective of the America's Cup match series between Oracle and Emirates Team New Zealand. The syndicates go head-to-head in San Francisco tomorrow morning in the first race of the best-of-seventeen contest. Here's his guest post:

The Americas Cup Match September 2014

KS asked me to give my opinion as a sailor of the Americas Cup which starts NZ Time at 8.15 am on Sunday 9 September 2013.

I thought about waxing lyrical about the AC72’s, the teams (or lack of), the crews, the shenanigans, and the venue but the reality is that all that stuff is easily available online or in the print media so anything I say would only repeat what others have said more capably.

So what follows is, in brief, what I think about the event.  It is the opinion of a bloke with some modest experience as a sailor and as a race management volunteer including helping with the 2000 and 2003 defences.

I grew up with a sailing obsessed father. I grew up with the cup and NZ’s involvement.  Until the responsibilities of fatherhood landed on my shoulders I was sailing obsessed, going out on the water on average 3 times a week. 
The cup has for me been an emotional rollercoaster.  Despair in 1987.  Hope in 1992, Joy in 1995 and 2000.  Anger, later on, in 2000. Despair again in 2003 and 2007. And now hope again in 2013.

The most interesting feeling is dread.  I don’t know who is faster of the two boats that contest the Americas’ Cup on Sunday. 

We knew, sort of that NZL 32 was faster in 1995.  Again we were confident that we had the measure of Luna Rossa in 2000. The boats in 2003 had similar speed but the TNZ boat had frailties and in 2007 the word was that Alinghi had a boat that was a click faster, but even then TNZ only lost 5-2 (and one of those losses by 1 second if that). So we had an idea of the relative merits of each competitor.

I suspect that Grant Dalton is right when he says he doesn’t know. Oracle is said to be fast.  I know that Aotearoa is fast.  The telemetry data from their races is available online.  We will only know on Sunday who is faster.

Which bring me back to dread and I suppose anticipation.  If Oracle is faster then ETNZ have a problem.  Why? The course is short.  The races are completed within 45 minutes.  There are not that many passing lanes even if you can foil upwind at 30knots.  So I don’t know. No-one does.  We have to wait and see.

My hope is an evenly contested match with ETNZ beating Oracle on the water and leaving the shenanigans that have been recorded elsewhere behind.  And if ETNZ wins then "yahoo" for two or three days and then the hard work begins to build an event. 

If ETNZ are not successful well they deserve congratulations.  They have been innovative and creative. They have been an advertisement for NZ beyond anything we have previously had including the AB’s.

My heart says ETNZ will win.  My head would like to.

We thank Quintin Hogg for sharing his thoughts with us. In 24 hours time we will have an idea whose boat is faster, and where the next America's Cup regatta will be held. Here's hoping that it is in Auckland.


Carlos said...

"Anger, later on, in 2000."


Ciaron said...

Carlos, it was when the Russel & Brad show threw their toys about not getting a slice of the big pie.

Carlos said...

@Ciaron. You are one of many who feel that way. A well-known NewsTalkZB sports broadcaster conducted a high-profile campaign against the "villains", known as Blackheart, labelling them traitors. It became an ugly period in NZ's sporting history, and, as a result, I was not unhappy to see the Cup leave NZ. An interview on Saturday morning with Alan Sefton pretty much raked over those smouldering embers.

This is the scenario of that period as I understand it. Your view probably differs.

When Coutts, Butterworth and Co took over the Team New Zealand syndicate they were appalled to discover it was millions of dollars in debt. They were also of the opinion that the sailing wardrobe was insufficient to conduct a competitive campaign, so a twofold deficit from the outset. They were told that the current "tight five" sponsors were not prepared to provide additional funding to address either concerns. Coutts travelled to Europe to seek additional funding and found a billionaire who was prepared to become involved. Coutts brought him into a meeting with the Patriarch of Team New Zealand who told the billionaire that there was no room for gatecrashers on the sponsorship team and that he should **** *** and start his own syndicate.
He took that advice.
Coutts, Butterworth and Co were professional sailors. Team New Zealand is a syndicate name, not a New Zealand representative team. The name was chosen to dissuade other syndicates from starting up in NZ which would otherwise compete for the scant resources available for this level of competition.
Coutts, Butterworth and Co had the self belief that they could beat any team in the world if they could have access to the equipment that they felt was vital for competitive sailing. They were not prepared to sail ill-prepared because they had second-rate equipment.
The billionaire offered them a well resourced start-up syndicate that could compete against the best in the world if their sailing skills were up to it.
The Team New Zealand Patriarch had offered them a take-it-or-leave-it deal that was way behind the eight ball.
They made a decision to back themselves on the water.
I don't think so.

Ciaron said...

I concur with much of what you say; doubly so with your last statement, but probably for different reasons. I have personal experience working with cup teams, and it seems that kiwis really are slow creatures. They persist with this assumption that we are somehow engaging in a competition between nations, when the truth of the matter is it hasn't been thus since around 1992 (Chris Dickson sailing for Japan ect.)the Americas Cup has been a professional event for some time, we as a nation need to accept that.

however, one part of the story that seems to be missing relates to Coutts & Co. trying to negotiate a larger slice of the income via television ect. When told that this was simply not contractually possible, thier departure was solidified.

Now, I dont blame a professional for seeking alternative employment and commensurate remuneration, but what I think was unforgiveable was the way several people I know who had offers to join other teams being strung along by Coutts & Co. who already had alternative arrangements in their pockets. They delt in bad faith with TNZ members and that is the source of my condemnation.

Carlos said...

I have no sailing connections and know nothing of the matters you raise in your second and third paragraphs, nor do I dispute what you know from your closeness to the action. My earlier comment was based on my conversation with an impeccable source. The general public would know little of that and probably nothing of what you witnessed first hand.
I hope that whoever wins this regatta does so convincingly, so that the off-the-water issues have little or no bearing on the outcome.
If the regatta comes to Auckland this time I hope we can be more adult in our interest than the equivalent of NZ rugby followers booing Quade Cooper in the Rugby World Cup.