Has the mood in the Cup camp changed?


The trophy takes pride of place in the foyer and the place mats leave you in no doubt as to the Societe Nautique de Geneve’s proudest haul, yet the meeting upstairs that we were waiting to report on as we tucked into lunch, could hold the key as to how long this prestigious Swiss club could retain its prestigious trophy.

Monday 15 December 1700 CET is the deadline for entries in the 33rd America’s Cup – at least, the version of the event that this Swiss yacht club and its overseas challengers are working on.

To announce that this will form the basis of the next America’s Cup would be premature as it is a team of Appeal Court Judges in New York that will declare whether the next Cup be a multi-challenger affair or the two team techno-fest in multihulls that BMW Oracle and the Golden Gate Yacht Club currently favour.

At present there are 15 Challengers that have paid up their entry fees, (including no less than five Italian teams), with another four possible and a further four who have expressed an interest in taking part.
While it highly unlikely that 24 teams compete for the next America’s Cup, it is difficult to ignore the genuine support for a new, revised, reworked and re-balanced protocol, the details of which look likely to be published within a week or so.

The assembled teams are hoping this show of strength, planning and self control will both help to influence the judges in their decision as well as providing the shortest route back to the kind of America’s Cup that excited so many in Valencia.

Among the details that have helped to level the playing field and convince the new teams, are the plans for a one boat campaign and a boat that is significantly cheaper than the AC90 that was announced shortly after the Swiss won the Cup in July 2008.

Behind the scenes the agreement of the appointment of ISAF umpires and officials, along with the modified means of arbitration are doubtless some of the details that have helped teams gain confidence in the next America’s Cup.

Over the last few days I’ve sat through hours of debate at the World Yacht Racing Forum, both during the day and well into the night, in which the BMW Oracle team appear to be considered the baddies.
But just as with many court cases, the arguments often seem clear cut depending on which one you just listened to, so the same could be said of the Cup.

There’s little doubt that Alinghi was forced to modify its original protocol, largely and initially by the efforts of the American Club, but if the inside chat over the last few days is correct, the original document that so many objected to has no been modified substantially to the point that it would appear much of the Cup world is now ready to start playing again.

Or maybe I have simply succumbed to the legendary power of the Cup, a trophy with a draw and effect similar to that of the famous ring in Tolkein’s books. Or is it simply a good lunch and great view that has altered my perspective?

Who knows and anyway, now BMW Oracle has said it will not back down, not drop its case and not enter Alinghi’s version of the event, it’ll be the judges who decide.

Alternatively, for something a little different, make sure you listen to this week’s podcast in which the man behind the Laser One talks about exciting new developments in the far East while Guy Swidells talks to key players on the eve of the start of leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Shoretalk – Friday 12 Dec