Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dickson Resigned, and I Got the T-Shirt

First things first:

The only reason I walked into la casa de la America's Cup was to doubledog confirm that they've taken down the pictures of Russell Coutts and Paul Cayard.

I've been walking past for a long time now, without being drawn in to look at a bank of black and white photographs of recent America's Cup figures. And I heard about the Coutts/Cayard disappearance a while ago, but events were on the move and I can't do everything first and you get the idea. But I was having lunch yesterday along with British scribe Tim Jeffery and Cayard (who would make a great yachting scribe but has a better thing going) and the subject came up and Paul said, "Yeah, they took us down because of the catamaran thing. I mean, they didn't call us up and tell us so, but that's what it's about."

Here is la casa de la America's Cup . . .

By "the catamaran thing" Paul meant the Coutts-Cayard plan to launch a grand prix circuit in big catamarans, presumably at the expense of anybody else's plans to keep growing the America's Cup as a "brand." Here is the main wall in la casa . . .

And there is something missing all right.

That's regatta director Dyer Jones, past commodore of New York Yacht Club, behind the reflecting glass in the image hung on the middle island. And if you look closely elsewhere you can see empty brackets for the hanging of other pictures. But on none of these walls do you find Russell Coutts, three time Cup winner and also the winner of more America's Cup races than anyone in history. For that matter, skipper of the team that won the Cup so that it could come to Valencia. On none of these walls do you find Paul Cayard, skipper of an Italian challenger in 1992, helmsman of an American defender in 1995, skipper of an American challenger in 2000, etc. Once they were here and now they're not.


I'm not alone in believing that the America's Cup is bigger than anybody's notion of possession and "branding." For all we know, the people making decisions about what goes up or down at Port America's Cup, Valencia, 2007 are fated to be mere footnotes in somebody's future history of the Cup, which is the history of the sport of yachting, which belongs to all of us. (And if Fish does another edition of An Absorbing Interest I wouldn't want to be the Valencia footnote under the heel of his boot.)

The America's Cup to me is an idea and a tradition as much as it is a piece of silver. It's not anything that could be threatened by a catamaran circuit, unless people manage to reduce it to that. Foolishness like this could be one tiny step in that direction.

Dickson Resigned and I Got the T-Shirt

BMW Oracle called a press conference today, apologizing for bringing us in on an off-day, but I imagine they felt compelled to say something. The gist of it was that CEO/skipper/helmsman Chris Dickson "today offered his resignation, and it was accepted," said the team's business director Russell Green.

The timing is the only part of that development that was ever in question. Dickson took this on as a top-to-bottom administrator, and the America's Cup is a stage upon which you go large or go home. Dickson did both.

The session meanwhile provided an opportunity for Russell Green and operations director Laurent Esquier to respond to rumors that keep popping up (not because of the internet, but the internet sure feeds the process) including:

Has Russell Coutts been at the team base this week? "No."

Is BMW going to sponsor the German team instead, for AC 33? "We have a relationship that goes back six years; BMW's executives were here last weekend, and like us, they are disappointed with the results, but the discussions were good."

Do plans continue for an ACC regatta in San Francisco Bay in September? "As we wind down here, our focus turns to planning for the September regatta. It will be sponsored by Oracle, and we're looking forward to it."

I accepted the freebie shirt they offered, so it's true. Dickson resigned, and I got the t-shirt—Kimball