Monday, February 22, 2010

America's Cup 34 - Defender Series

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?


The O'Sheas said...

My fear around this whole AC 33 debacle was that this what the AC has become, a vanity-event for rich guys. It's always sorta leaned that way, but more in the way that pro sports operate: rich guy owns a team and buys a bunch of great athletes to try and win the big prize. My hope is that it'll dial back a bit on the boats and open up on the crew side.

Jack of all Trades said...

Anything that takes his ego down a peg is fine by me.

Dan said...

The America's Cup has always been a "friendly competition between countries". So, the defense should be the fastest boat that the country holding the AC cup can bring to the starting line. In the past, when the United States(or any country) had multiple defenders, their defender series could help the sailors improve their skills and boats performance to provide the best boat for the defense.

And as mentioned, the defense is via the GGYC, so I would imagine that all defenders must ultimatly be members of GGYC to be eligible to defend for the cup. Just like when the AC was sailed in Newport, all defending skippers represented New York Yacht Club. There were even West Coast defenders of the AC that won for NYYC.

Baydog said...

THAT is the wurst picture of Larry Ellison.

Yes, please. May we have a defender series, a challenger series, and an exciting America's Cup
final? Sail it in San Francisco! Never been there, but it always looks windy. And let's sail boats that can handle all types of wind. Let's go back to the way we used to do it. Again, if it ain't Brokaw, don't fix it.

P.S.- the mermaid boat is in a huge field at the Storm King Art Center just south of Newburgh, N.Y. You can see it from the N.Y. State Thruway. A definite double-take when you first notice it!

Tillerman said...

Perhaps I should run a competition to see who can find the Worst Picture Ever of Larry Ellison?

Baydog said...


Messing about said...

Very interesting point TMan.

It would be strangely ironic or incredibly noble (however you want to look at it) if after rightly taking on Bertarelli for trying to set up the original AC33 so that he would win it, if LE surrenders the entire decision on the format of AC34 to GGYC and then loses the challenger series.

Some how I don't see this happening. Call me cynical.

Tillerman said...

Two points Mr. Messing About....

1. I don't see Larry "surrendering" anything to GGYC either. He is talking and acting as if he is calling all the shots. I don't really understand the true relationship between GGYC and LE but it does seem that the club will do whatever their richest member wants. My second paragraph was written with tongue somewhat in cheek.

2. But both LE and Russell Coutts have mentioned the possibility of a defender series in interviews in the last few days, so I don't think they are opposed to it if other syndicates want to mount a challenge. Maybe LE's next ego trip is to go beyond being "the man who won the America's Cup back for the USA" and more in the direction of "the man who rescued the America's Cup as an event and restored its reputation as a hugely popular event and the #1 event in yachting." Maybe he even thinks he is "saving sailing". Who knows?

Joe said...

Pardon me, Greg. The AC has always been a rich guys race. It has only become more so over the last 20 years.

Larry went to the GGYC because he couldn't make the ST. Francis bend to his will.

Tillerman said...

Interesting Joe. So what was the issue with St. Francis YC? What weren't they prepared to concede to Larry?

After all when the fourth richest man comes knocking on your door and says, "I would like to spend several hundred million dollars to win the America's Cup for your yacht club," there must be a pretty serious reason to turn down an offer like that.

The O'Sheas said...

I recognize it's always been a rich-guys race. That's why they call it yaw-teen, I reckon. Pardon my use of the vernacular.

I could have spent more time unpacking the phrase 'vanity-event for rich guys,' but then I would have been spending more time in this peanut gallery and I've got an allergy, you know. My take on it the past couple of years was that the gentlemen aspect got lost and the nouveau-riche were going to turn it into a look-at-my-pedigree deal, versus the standard yachting that we all see everyday: rich guy owns boat(s) and buys the athletes, engineers, and tacticians who try and outmaneuver each other in the water, versus rich guys lawyers outmaneuvering each other in NY court system.

Ultimately, my shorthanded point was that this thing went from the stratosphere to the thermosphere, never having really ever been down here in the troposphere amongst pedestrians like myself.

Joe said...

I think it was about control, so your theory that Larry is calling the shots could very well be true. The GGYC was and is not a rich guys yacht club. It was the sad and neglected ugly sister of the St. Francis at the end of the road. Most of the members are normal working stiffs, so they were thrilled to be included in a world event.

Greg, I was busting your chops. I knew that's what you meant. :)

Tillerman said...

So what's wrong with St. Francis YC Joe? Why wouldn't they be "thrilled to be include in a world event"?

I happen to know that at least one member of St. Francis YC reads this blog. So please weigh in if you know more about what went down here than Joe Rouse.

Joe said...

I'm implying that they GGYC may have given up control of the decision making process in order to be included in the Cup. It's just conjecture on my part. I'm trying to fit your theory, that Larry is calling all the shots on where the next Cup will be held, into the shoe.

word verification: suing

Unknown said...

NYC held the cup for how many years?

The model is proven, defender series work.

Keep the cost down and we will see clubs from all over this great nation challenge to defend.

Pick a fun durable boat and lets sail this regatta... soon!

Unknown said...

Tillerman and Joe,

Most yacht club members are working people. No one gave Larry his success, he worked for it.
We are lucky he pursues our sport.

The common thread and the only thing that matters is.. we love to race sail boats and proud Americans.

StFYC chose not to be involved in AC 33. Since 1927 those same members have created the most active racing club in the world. Spending untold $'s to fulfill there mission statement.

Look up St.FYC's mission statement.

The club must and will support AC 34. It's in there nature,to lend benefit to our sport.

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