The British team share their disappointment and look to the future

Glum members of the British Admiral’s Cup team gathered at the Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hamble to tell of their disappointment over the cancellation of this year’s Admiral’s Cup regatta.

“In the last two Admiral’s Cups we had the top boat. This time we were hoping to have the top team,” said the Royal Yachting Association’s Keelboat Coach Bill Edgerton. “It was our best chance to win probably in this generation. We look forward to it coming back in 2003.”

The general feeling at the press conference was that the Brits had conjured up the most powerful team with Barlo Plastics sponsoring the IC45 big boat, United Airlines backing the Sydney 40 and eight owners soon to fight it out to get the Farr 40 spot. Adrian Stead skippering Barlo Plastics had already proved his form winning all three regattas in the Palma Spring series in this class, ably assisted by British Laser Gold medallist Ben Ainslie.

The Admiral’s Cup was also to have been a good indicator of the form of the British America’s Cup team. Crew from Peter Harrison’s GBR Challenge were to take key roles on board Barlo Plastics and Ian Walker and Andy Beadsworth’s Sydney 40. “We were looking forward to working together across the boats,” commented Walker “we were going to use it to motivate the crew. It was frustrating not to have won it last time. This time we wanted to win it and put it to bed.” While Stead will continue to campaign Barlo Plastics in the Red Funnel regatta at Easter, two additional class regattas in the Solent and in the One Ton Cup in Pwllheli,United Airlines will not continue their sponsorship of the Sydney 40.

Reasons why the event has raised so little support internationally – even the Dutch winners from 1999 are not returning to defend their title – still remains a hot topic for discussion. Part of the reason may be the lack of popularity for the Sydney 40. As one of the British team pointed out there is no class racing for this boat and if you were to sail it under handicap it rates worse than a Farr 40. It seems the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s valiant efforts to prevent their premier event from becoming a benefit for the Farr office seem to have returned to haunt them. The grand prix circuit has also changed. The Farr 40 class has good racing in the US and there are top regattas to be sailed in the Med such as the Copa del Rey in Palma. Why come to Cowes?

For sometime there has been a trend for making events shorter and maybe the Admiral’s Cup, running for almost two weeks, was just too long. “The kind of people who’ve got the money to do this are busy people,” commented Ian Walker. “They can’t afford to take two weeks off.” There is also the possibility that some owners, particularly from the US and Germany, were unhappy with there being no IMS class. The removal of the Fastnet Race, an event as legendary as the Admiral’s Cup itself and once upon a time considered its backbone, may too have been against some owner’s wishes.

So what to do for next time? Ian Walker says that if they want to get the maximum number of boats then the affordable Mumm 30 would have to be one class. In addition there should be an IMS class, possibly with level rating, plus another popular class, such as the Farr 40. But this would lead to smaller boats and this is perhaps unsuitable for the prestigious Admiral’s Cup.

Once again the RORC will have to weather a maelstrom of opinion from around the world over what to do with their premier event in order that it might be successful in 2003. This time we hope they have more luck with their choices.