Monday, February 22, 2010
Slow down there all you Larry Ellison fans.
Before you start assuming that Larry and his BMW Oracle team are going to be defending the America's Cup for the USA there's one small matter to consider. The official holder of the Cup is not Lawrence James Ellison; it is the Golden Gate Yacht Club. And when an American yacht club has held the Cup in the past it has usually held a selection trial, sometimes known as a defender series, to decide which American syndicate and which American boat will have the honor of representing the USA and that club in the actual America's Cup.
Right from the early days of the Cup in the 19th century, when the Cup was held by the New York Yacht Club, selection trials were held to decide which boat would defend the Cup. More recently, in 1992 and 1995 there was even an official trophy for the American defender series, the Citizen Cup.
Even though Dennis Conner won the America's Cup for the San Diego Yacht Club in a Deed of Gift match in 1988, he still had to compete in the Citizen Cup against Bill Koch's America³ in 1992. And America³ won that defender series and went on to successfully defend the Cup against a challenge from Italy.
Then in 1995 things got really complicated in a three-way defender series between Dennis Conner's Stars and Stripes, John Marshall's Young America, and Bill Koch's all women (plus Dave Dellenbaugh) team Mighty Mary. This time Dennis Conner won the defender series but decided to use Young America's memorable "mermaid" boat in the actual America's Cup match.
The advantages of a defender series are obvious. No doubt there will be multiple challengers from many countries and they will be all honing their skills, refining their technology, and tuning their boats in a lengthy challenger series. If USA is to successfully defend the Cup then it is imperative to run a defender series to ensure that the fastest boat and the smartest sailors are selected to hold the Cup for America.
Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts know this and have both spoken in interviews in the last few days about the possibility of multiple American teams and a defender series.
Let's hope it happens. Larry Ellison won the Cup for the GGYC. Now he needs to win the right to defend it.
What do you think? Should Golden Gate Yacht Club hold a Defender Series? What other teams might mount a bid to defend the Cup? What American sailors would you like to see competing in the Defender Series? Could we even have another all women (plus or minus Dave) team again?