Sunday, December 9, 2007

Arounder and Arounder She Goes

It is no accident that the America's Cup is in crisis at more or less this moment.

If it hadn't been Ernesto Bertarelli's eensie-weensie, oh-so-minorly-adjusted, you are all my prisoners and trust me because I'm doing this for your own good, protocol of 2007, it would have been something else.

It's about the development of a viable professional racing scene, not under the table any more, with a broader market lying ready, especially in Europe. We've come a long way from the days of Newport, when the America's Cup was an industry that supported 400 people. And no, for those of us who are just sailors, this is not our problem. But it's a reality. Remember that Larry Ellison too has a different "vision" of what an America's Cup event can be, though it does not appear to involve the depth of change that Bertarelli proposes. And any change risks losing the dimension of grand nonsense that has kept the America's Cup above all else.

At the moment, the best reading on that subject comes from the man who wrote the recent book, An Absorbing Interest, a definitive history of the Cup. That would be one Bob Fisher. Click on the name for recommended reading, an eloquent defense of the way things are but may not remain.

As for what next, ask the people who, I am told, begin meeting in New York as of Monday. That includes the BMW Oracle reps who will go in wondering if visiting the New York YC to propose fundamental change was, somehow, another tactic laid down months ago by Bertarelli, just in case the whole world was right and he was going to lose in court. At the moment, the closest thing to solid dope is this . . .

Release from the New York Yacht Club:

Charles H. Townsend, commodore of the New York Yacht Club, said, "We were approached earlier in the year by Mr. Ernesto Bertarelli of Societe Nautique de Geneve (SNG), the current holder of the Cup. We concluded that given our club's founding association with the competition we can work impartially to assist in the development of initiatives to preserve and build competition for the oldest international trophy in sport, and ensure that it will endure as a premiere global sporting event for generations to come."

Commodore Townsend also announced that the Club would be represented in discussions with the Cup community by Trustee and Chairman of the Club's America's Cup Committee, George W. Carmany III. "In addition to Ernesto Bertarelli, we have received an expression of support for this initiative from Larry Ellison, owner of Golden Gate Yacht Club's (GGYC) America's Cup team," said Mr. Carmany. "We hope that our discussions will lead to agreements that will benefit all members of the broader America's Cup community."

“We do not want this initiative to interfere in any way with Golden Gate Yacht Club’s current America’s Cu.p challenge. While we do not wish to foreclose other options which either SNG or GGYC may wish to pursue regarding the conduct of the next America’s Cup match, we are available to participate in discussions that consider changes to the governing documents to facilitate the future conduct of regular and independently managed competitions at locations throughout the world,” concluded Mr. Carmany.

"While we understand that we are not contemplating a simple task, we are made confident in undertaking the effort by the support and encouragement of Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli," said Commodore Townsend. "We compliment both gentlemen on their foresight and willingness to participate in the discussions. We are hopeful that this initiative can be beneficial to all those who compete for the America’s Cup, and to the fans who enjoy it so much."

With Bertarelli now disavowing any preference for Amageddon in Catamarans, while suggesting that we alter the field of play, the next few weeks should prove "interesting." Ellison is focused on AC 33. I'd reckon that, as in poker, the card showing is not always what counts —Kimball