Wednesday, February 03, 2010

America's Cup: Poll

It looks as if we are finally going to see some real sailboat racing. After what seems like years of legal wrangling, the 33rd America's Cup match will be held next week in Valencia. Two giant bleeding-edge technology multihulls will battle it out on the water to decide whether Switzerland or the USA will have bragging rights as the leading yachting nation in the world. And then I expect the billionaire leaders of each team will go back to court to argue for a few more months about which one of them actually gets to keep the America's Cup.

So what do you think about all this?

Do you agree with the view I expounded last year in 7 Reasons Why a DoG Fight Will Be Good for the America's Cup? It will be terrifically exciting to watch these two massive super-fast racing machines battle it out for the premier trophy in yacht racing. It will generate huge positive press for our sport and will be the best thing to happen in sailing for years.

Or, on the other hand, do you agree with the sentiment expressed by Adam Turinas last week that what has been going on with AC33 is a fiasco, and that it's disastrous for the America's Cup and terrible for the image of sailing.

Or perhaps your views are more in line with my rant of last week, RIP America's Cup, in which I argued that the America's Cup is totally irrelevant to the real sport of sailing. As Zen so succinctly put it in a comment to that post, "Frankly my dear I don't give a damn."

Please vote in my on-line poll over there at the top of the sidebar. >>>>>>>>

Leave a comment too if you want to expand on the reason for your vote.


Ken Douglas said...

Well on one hand it's hard not to be impressed by the technology, or the skill of the teams sailing these wonders of modern material and design.

On the other - the vast sums of money, the posturing the legal battles, the hype all serve to distance sailing from the ordinary guy in the street!

Net, I believe that the latter point will have a bigger - and more negative - impact on sailing. I don't want the dominant public view of our sport and pastime to be one of elitism, ego and the far removed world of the super wealthy.

I'm sure I could bring far more happiness and good to the world if I could afford to buy a couple of new sailing dinghies to teach the kids in my area to sail, just messing around in the local lake. I'm guessing that would cost a heck of a lot less than even (literally) the peanuts they lay out for those attending the pre and post race parties.

EscapeVelocity said...

I daresay it'll be on some obscure cable channel? Court TV or something?

David said...

Yes, Yes, and Maybe. When I was a youngster, I made the trip to San Diego for the last Fiasco. I thought the cat and the "Big Boat" were the coolest things ever. After that, the AC took a more "rational" (boring?) tack--one that it would not likely have taken without shaking things up first. So, yes, AC33 is a fiasco, and yes it will inspire better things in the future.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that most people who are not involved with sailing really pick up on all the legal stuff, if they even pick up on the racing in general. So as far the pros and cons of what it gives us, I think in general it's a good thing.

Like NASA, the AC gives us new innovations that are probably not really needed but are cool and we all want them.

Also, beyond pumping money into lawyers and PR, it also pumps money into the boating industry, which I think is a bonus.

Most of all, I get to watch pretty boats battle it out on my tv. Truth is, what goes on in the courtroom is not what I remember about the Cup.

Joe said...

It's going to be exciting, from a yacht design point of view, to see these two high tech behemoths doing battle, but it's also a fiasco for the sport because it reinforces in the public mind that sailing is for guys with big wads of cash.

Pat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat said...

So, how many kids, women, handicapped folks, or novice sailors have Larry or Ernesto taken sailing for the first time?

How much time have they spent as merit badge counselors and spent helping kids learn points of sail, knot tying, etc.?

How much personal time have they spent helping disabled or special needs adults get out on a boat for the first time?

How much time do they spend organizing high school or college sailing events, getting kids to practices and regattas, chaperoning, and encouraging young people to excel?

Which community access sailing programs do they support and how much time do they spend fixing broken boats, re-bedding hardware, cleaning and mending sails, and checking that all equipment is whole and safe?

A few of the famous big shot sailors of the world at least do have foundations or clinics that do a modicum of good for sailing.

Considering the resources that these two boys have, and how precious little they've done that does any fundamental good for the sport, I think Ernesto and Larry are abject failures at supporting sailing in any meaningful or fundamental way. All that's being supported are a few sailing pros and technologists, a lot of attorneys, and a couple of VLCC- (supertanker) sized egos.

Technology is necessary, but it's not the heart of sailing.

Sailors are. And I don't see Ernesto or Larry doing much to nurture and recruit sailors into the sport. A little personal courage, color, charisma, or commitment to the foundations of the sport would be nice in place of all the me me me.

Quite likely there are many thousands of ordinary sailors who've done far more to grow sailing and make it healthy than the billionaire jerks.

Carol Anne said...

The AC has always been about rich guys in fancy boats, and so it has always encouraged the view of sailing as an elitist sort of sport.

However, Larry and Ernesto have elevated it far beyond the level it has been in the past. In addition, in the past, even though sailing was seen as elite, there were personalities that people liked -- Sir Thomas Lipton, Ted Turner, Dennis Connor, Paul Cayard, to name a few -- and so the general public was interested.

When I was working on the sports desk of our major regional newspaper, the AC was probably at its zenith with the general public. Even in the desert, people were interested in sailing. The entire sports desk groaned when the Australian boat broke in two and sank. At that time, I didn't even know that there was anybody in New Mexico who did sailboat racing, and neither did anybody else at the newspaper. But we found the sport gripping all the same. The human story was strong, and that drew us in.

Then a few years later, New Zealand was defending the cup. One day, there wasn't enough wind for the AC boats to go out and race. Instead, all the little kids in their P-class dinghies came out, and the world saw pictures of all of these little boats surrounding Black Magic, like so many baby ducklings -- utterly adorable.

Flash forward to last year, the Volvo Ocean Race. I found the television coverage of that event gripping, even though what I got was dubbed in Spanish, so I could get only bits and pieces of what was being said. There were human stories, of hardships and injuries, camaraderie and birthday parties. Really moving.

That's what's missing now: the human side.

Turinas said...

I don't believe that these viewpoints are mutually exclusive. It will be fun to watch and I will drag myself out of bed and half past oh my God in the morning to see it.

That said, it seems to be the majority view that the AC has at best lost its premiere position. I ran a poll back in November that reinforced the point. This was before the most recent shenanigans.

Yes, the race has had a history of being a battle between rich egomaniacs but back in the days of Lipton et al, there was not the same media coverage and awareness. In those days pleasure or competitive sailing was for the rich, period. What these Masters of The Universe got up to wasn't that big a deal.

In the last forty years, the sport has expanded to have much broader appeal. Sadly as we know it's in long-term decline. "Brand Sailing" needs an injection to attract new people to the sport and to keep up the passion.

My view is that the AC should be a major driver in creating a compelling image. The current fiasco (and yes it is a fiasco) is damaging "Brand Sailing". The fact that the only way you will get to see is online at 4:00 in the morning (EST) reinforces the point.

Tillerman said...

Adam, you are quite correct that it is possible to agree with both of the first two premises... to think that much of the hoopla around AC33 has been terrible for our sport and also believe (or hope) that the actual racing next week will be exciting. I think my poll does allow voters to choose more than one option.

I'm still not sure that high profile events such as the AC have much influence (for good or bad) on whether the average Joe will take up sailing. May write a post on this topic soon...

Turinas said...

That would be a very good debate.

Alex Mineev said...

How would the sport be any better without AC 33? Is AC a fundamental part of sailing sport? It's not. It's merely related because the guys fight using rigs with sails. Does AC run on money collected from members of sailing communities? Or our taxes? :) What's the cost of running an F1 team? I would think it's comparable to modern AC teams. Yet no one claims F1 spoils the corresponding sport. It's a beautiful show that has lots of positive side effects in design evolution. The guys have ambitions, vision and billions available. It is inevitable that they spend these billions satisfying their ambitions, one way or another. How come it is bad that they have chosen AC as a battle field?
Well, Ok, they could instead donate to junior programs. But why is it expected? It's their money and it's up to them how they apply them.

bonnie said...

Glad the poll allows for multiple answers. Fiascoes can be extremely exciting!

Carol Anne said...

I might also add that Pat and I took a vacation to San Diego during the build-up to the AC in the early 1990s, and we even happened to be in the right place at the right time to be invited for a VIP tour of the America3 compound, and we even got to greet the all-women team as they returned from a practice session. That may have planted the seeds in my mind of women's competitive sailing, although Pat and I didn't take up sailing until several years later, and it took a few more years for me to take up racing.

So, yes, the AC can inspire.

Meanwhile, I don't have satellite or cable television, and my Internet is dialup, so I'm not going to be watching. (We did have cable in 1986, and I did stay up until 3 in the morning to watch the AC -- it was about the last thing we got before the cable company cut us off because someone couldn't spell our last name correctly when we sent a payment check.)

Pat said...

Screw-ups at the top are worse for sailing than some other sports because we're already suffering from the "elitist" label that deters some would-be sailors. I suppose people feel more of a connection to something like Formula 1, however similar the programs' price tags are, because almost everybody thinks he or she can drive a car.

Anonymous said...

As a catamaran racer for over 40 years, it's good to see the big waterline-craft opting for the 21st century! Amazing to watch the videos of Larry Ellison and Company blazing away from all competitors in Valencia, Spain and we cat racers are amazed at the fantastic new technology used to re-capture the CUP!

Beautiful work from the French designers (who better?) and the American crew, could do nothing less than amaze their competition. Grow a pair Italy and New Zealand, maybe you too will evolve into a a viable competitor in the new Century of racing wings and fixed-airfoil crafts!

As for the poor media coverage in America, the America's Cup will never sell beer or Japanese automobiles like Nascar covreage does, and after all, who cares if it ever does? Sailing is not for the land-locked tailgators!!

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