Sunday, May 20, 2007

America Defeated

So America is defeated. BMW Oracle is out of the America's Cup, beaten by the Italian Luna Rossa team without ever having led round a single mark of the course in any of the six races of their Louis Vuitton semi-final series. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time since Dennis Conner first lost the Cup that there will not even be an American team in the Challenger Finals.

What went wrong?

Edward in a comment to my last post on the Cup, bemoans the facts that the BMW Oracle team didn't have a single American flag on their base. Gee golly. Could that be the problem? Somehow I don't think so, as according to this article on BYM News there were actually only three American sailors on the BMW Oracle team. Much as Americans revere their flag, I don't think that the BMWO multinational crew from New Zealand, Australia, France, Denmark and god knows where else would have been inspired to do much better by a few pieces of cloth with stars and stripes on them wafting in the breeze back at the base.

Ah, perhaps that's the problem. Carol Anne in a comment on the same post questions whether it's possible to build the necessary team spirit in a multinational team. Hmmm. Maybe that is the issue. I do have some slight experience on this topic having spent the last ten years of my career building and running multinational teams in a corporate environment. Sure it's tough sometimes to overcome language issues and cultural differences. But Larry Ellison actually boasted of the international character of his team and compared it to his global team in his Oracle business. Surely if you take a group of guys and have them live together, work together, train together, travel together, race together and party together for several years -- and even fit them all out in the same snazzy uniforms -- you ought to be able to weld them together into a cohesive team with a will to win? Or maybe not judging by their dismal performance this week. What do you think?

But before we rush to downplay the chances of multinational teams, let's remember that the conqueror of the American team, Luna Rossa, has a Brazilian tactician and an Australian helmsman to mention only two of the many non-Italians on their crew.

So where does America go next? Geeze I'm starting to sound just like that guy Craig Hummer on the Versus channel with such an inane question. But seriously, what should the USA do if they ever want to win back the America's Cup? In the latest edition of Sailing World magazine, Gary Jobson picks his dream team of Americans for the next challenge, including by the way a fair sprinkling of Laser sailors. Smart guy our Gary. Is that the way to go? A red, white and blue challenge with a pure American team, with some suitably patriotic name like Stars and Stripes or Young America (no more German car company names please), and with plenty of American flags fluttering around the base camp?

Please let us know what you think. Somebody please come up with some ideas. America Needs You.


Fred said...

hmmm, I am not from America but your last paragraph says it all. About what to do. Some hot and hungry young guns should be put in place. Not PRO´s who know their game and how to survive on a good payrole from cycle to cycle and walk home with all the crew gear.

Besides this, it would be better to keep a low profile as LR does this time. But watch out for ETNZ. New sails and a portfolio of prestart tricks which have not been put in place yet. It could not be any better than James Spithill against Dean Barker and their prospective teams. They are the AC sailors of today! Karol will have his GO next time!

JSW225 said...

Why did BMW/Oracle lose? Because they are dumb. I only caught the first three races, but there was a recurring theme.

Every single upwind leg, B/O would pick the wrong side and lose so much ground. The REAL problem was that they weren't man enough to acknowledge that they weren't sailing well, and blamed the results on the boat.

They had ridiculous boat speed downwind. Be it tactics or just the boat itself. But every time they'd make up a huge deficit. They only win they did have was because they just barely eeked it out at the end.

But by race 3, like I said above, they weren't man enough to admit that they were sailing like novices, so they placed all the blame on the boat. They changed the wings on the keel to hopefully have better upwind boat speed.

However, Boat Speed means NOTHING if you don't sail it well. So not only did they not gain anything on the upwind legs, but they crippled any advantage they had downwind.

That's at least what I saw for the first 3 races, I wasn't able to catch any of the other races.

Anonymous said...

As an Italian, I feel rather proud, actually. This is a highly competitive sport after all. BMW/Oracle is a formidable boat. What I find strange is that there is virtually no media coverage here in the US about the Cup.

Anonymous said...

I wish it were National pride but sadly it didn't seem to get Shosholoza or China that far.

Lets face it, AC is not about national pride any more, it's more like F1 racing. It's about a professionally run team irrespective of nationality and above all it's about $.

In the end, they lost because Luna Rossa sailed better.

EVK4 said...


EVK4 said...

I'm not over this "bemoaning" thing. I pointed it out as an aside to Carol Anne's comment regarding multi-nationalism, I hardly blamed the lack of a flag for BMWO's ills.

I demand a retraction, sir.

Tillerman said...

Edward, I am happy to retract the portrait of you as a bemoaner. I do understand that your comment was more of an aside than a bemoan.

My only excuses are
a) I wrote that post late last night
b) I had drunk too much wine
c) I thought "bemoan" had a nice ring to it.

EVK4 said...

Accepted. In fact, in today's post, I, too, used bemoan. Sort of an homage to The Great Tillerman.

Ummm, what are we commenting on here? Go Luna Rossa! I just love that Red Prada stripe on the bow.

merrifie said...

Okay... on national pride I think the Kiwis or Aussies have it by virtue of the most people from the same country on any team!

As far as watching and enjoying the AC, I take it as I do most other sports. First, I like amateur competition the best (e.g. prefer college athletics over professional). And second, when it gets down to tournament time on any level, I cheer for underdogs and teams or people who haven't been there before and root against those that think by spending the most money they are entitled to win.

At this point, the AC has gone the way of many professional and corporate endeavors. These are global teams which makes it difficult (as you've already pointed out) to identify with a particular team.

Anonymous said...

Without descending to total 'old fartism' I find that I have not been engaged. In part it's the multinational teams, designers and suppliers. Too, the new boat designs don't do it like the 12s.

However given current parameters, it is still curious to consider that BMW/Oracle was defeated so resoundingly. Yes, they were out sailed, but they couldn't get off the mat and come back. Does this say more about the role of CEO Ellison. Was he the corrosive element that broke team esprit?

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of people forget that the sailors used to be hired from all over the place back in the day. American teams regularly hired Norwiegian crews to man their boats for the races. Sure the afterguards were usually from the country of origin, but at the end of the day it was a competition between yacht clubs. By almost all accounts, Chris Dickson is not the nicest guy to work for, and neither is big Larry. A friend of mine worked for Oracle the last time around, and he said that it was not a culture that promoted enthusiasm for the cause. It was then little surprise to me to see the team crumble against Luna Rossa, a group that clearly enjoys sailing together. DeAngelis prudently stepped down as skipper and CEO and installed the able Spithill as skipper. Dickson went in the oposite direction after going through practically every eligible skipper on the scene. I think this speaks volumes about the eventual outcome.

Anonymous said...

Think Eliboat got it right - the divisive influence of Dickson seemed to put paid to the two - otherwise very fast - Whitbread campaigns he skippered.

Possibly also having Farr as designer , the Americas Cup always seems to have been his bete noir and after the outcome of the last Volvo the farr office has seemed a bit off target...?

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