Thursday, June 7, 2007

Where are the characters?

Where are the great characters that once stomped around the America's Cup stage? AWOL from Valencia, I can tell you that.

Dennis Conner may not be a made-for-TV personality, but you can't fault him as master of his own universe. Tom ("Dennis, I don't think you should have said that") Blackaller? A loose cannon, larger than life, and no favorite of The Dennis, but their rivalry made great grist for the likes of yours truly. The first time I ever laid eyeballs on those two, they were flipping a coin to decide who was the greatest sailor in the world, and of course the toss settled nothing.

Buddy Melges—what a guy for a quote: "I'm one guy who can sleep with the commodore and talk about it."

(When his wife was commodore of the Lake Geneva YC.)

But I'm not asking about the whereabouts of the late Tom, Super Buddy, or DC, who is racing his Cotton Blossom II in the classics season in the Med. I'm asking, where are the characters in America's Cup 32? And I'm afraid I know the answer. They're buried under the corporate layers of big-budget campaigns and expectations that are no different from working for any other corporation. Say the correct thing. No shocks, please.

Oh for just one Ted Turner crawling under a table to retrieve his Jack Daniels.

The one drama of special dimension here, so far, was the early demise of BMW Oracle. Meltdown in the cockpit. Shared responsibility, no doubt, but with all fingers pointing at CEO, skipper and helmsman Chris Dickson who exited with a clean, corporate face and might as well have left behind a statement saying that he "wants to spend more time with his family." Around that, the shades are still drawn. Had the same thing happened to Paul Cayard, he would have turned the press conference itself into high drama, with nary a dry eye in the house.

So it is what it is, America's Cup 32. Instead of a conquistador out to capture the silver con el alma en los dientes, with his soul between his teeth, now we have one after another high-paid player in the America's Cup industry watching out for the next contract.

I reckon the characters are just as large, but masked.

I understand, but it's a pity.

Twelve Pounders

That's what some people used to call the 12 Meters, for no particular reason except to have their own name for them. Now they've been revived as a classics class, and they will be racing in Valencia June 14-17. What you see below is a strangely quiet, empty New Zealand base in the foreground (not so strange, actually; twas the day after the night before) and a couple of Twelves being prepped to race.

Back in the day of the Twelves, there was much hand-wringing over the fact that faster boats existed, and shouldn't America's Cup racing have the fastest boats, countered by the argument that the class was healthy and worth preserving, and used boats were available to encourage new players, and you don't need the fastest-possible boats for match racing anyway and . . .

Does that sound familiar? I think so—Kimball