Displacement

With the greatest respect to the venerable denizens of the New York Yacht Club and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, I disagree with their desire to put the AC boats back in the water. I think this kills the Cup stone-dead. It would take it from the pinnacle to ‘just another regatta’ on the circuit and despite their vision that the boats would be magnificent at 80-100 feet, again I just don’t see it.

Personally I think these AC75’s have the wow factor and now that we can see that they are not just master-blasters but boats that can actually race against each other, my view is that there is no going back. And more, I gauge engagement by the reactions of non-sailing friends and even family members who just marvel at these things. They are click-bait for the modern generation and do more than just fine for the purists.

©Emirates Team New Zealand

I want to see top level sport being something that requires professionals at the very peak of their athleticism. In sailing I want to see something that astounds me with speeds that I haven’t even hit in a motor boat. How many of us have actually been 50 knots? Downwind, downhill on the Col de Madone on my bike with my heart in my mouth maybe, but on water? That’s awesome. And the new sailing lexicon of aero over hydro is fascinating and it’s providing more intrigue than we have seen in the Cup since 1983. This Cup cycle is head and shoulders over any event of the last thirty years. Personally I haven’t been this excited since Stars & Stripes in 1987. It is a brilliant event in the perfect location at the perfect time in world sport. Please let’s not knock it and drag the event kicking and screaming back into the dark ages.

Pull up an old IACC race on YouTube or even a 12 Metre race from pre-Fremantle (that was extraordinary, okay I get it) and it looks like a snail race. Furniture racing. I can go and watch the J-Class and get that fix – and they are truly magnificent pieces of classic architecture. But they are not this. This is better than Formula 1. This is better than anything that the sporting calendar will show us in the next five years. Embrace the foiling generation and marvel at the boundaries of physics being pushed. I cannot name a single sport that will come anywhere close to the America’s Cup in New Zealand in 2021.

©Kos Picture Source Ltd www.kospictures.com

Sure, I would argue that costs need to be addressed and I’m on record as saying that I think grinding hydraulic oil is akin to North Korean-esque slave labour and should be replaced by battery power. Didn’t Ineos Team UK have electric winches during their Covid training period? I’d like to see this adopted. I’d argue that crew numbers need to be down to five per boat – helmsman, trimmers, flight control and tactics. That’s all we need. Build the narrative around superstars. I’d like to see even more one-design elements – perhaps even down to actual foil design – to cut down development costs. But I’d like to see an increase in electronics packages – fly by wire almost as this would keep deltas super tight and the racing even more electric. I get that $100m or $140m is not right for the times right now so cutting costs from the boats and the huge teams required to support every facet of the package is necessary and is perfectly achievable. But don’t put the boats back in the water. Please.

Sport at the very highest level ultimately rests on human interest – success and failure. The two imposters. It’s what drives the narrative and keeps the public coming back for more. Whilst we acknowledge that Mercedes is the stand out car in Formula 1, it’s Lewis Hamilton that gets the plaudits of being the driver of his generation. The America’s Cup is precisely in the same bracket. Team New Zealand may well win this event with the best design package but it will be Pete Burling on the wheel who will get the plaudits. Or if the New York Yacht Club win, it will be Dean Barker whose stock will rise the most. Sure there are plenty others in both teams that I could point to: Hutchinson, Goodison, Ashby, Tuke, Dalton but it’s the rockstars that take the glory in the eyes of the media. We have to acknowledge that as a sport.

© Sailing Energy / American Magic

Whilst it’s healthy to have the debate and it’s great that issues are raised by senior people in the game, I feel strongly that they are on the wrong path and are getting airtime because of who they are rather than what they are saying. Fine to review this after the event but the early data from the viewing stats and the global social media engagements would point to this being the most successful event perhaps of all time.

©Kos Picture Source Ltd www.kospictures.com

Going backwards now would set the Cup on a dangerous, potentially ruinous path and I would suggest that displacement boats at 100 feet would see costs escalate exponentially. Don’t do it. We have the most incredible platform in these AC75s right now and we have a white-hot competition in the most fabulous setting imaginable to enjoy. Save the conversation to a later date.

Displacement is not the way forward.

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13 thoughts on “Displacement

  1. Following the AC since 1983, with all the spectacle in between, like the first day out of DoGM, USA17 in Dago, the filming of the protest through the room window during Il Moro vs the NZL 20, and other sensations, I must say, you are damn right with this one. There is no way back.

    But I must admit a little dash of sadness which it brings with it. The gap between some „would like to take part nations/teams“ and this round of competitors is widening extremely. I do not see e.g. my country closing this gap both technically and being on equal terms as raising superstars to be able to sail these beasts competitively.

    And for your team, Í´d like to see them canting the bloody beast a little more to windward instead of the lee trim which is more akin to traditional sailing….

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  2. Well said Magnus and great to have you back in from the wilderness. There has been the argument that fast boats – and importantly that means flying AND non-flying – reduces the competitive nature of the racing, As you say the fledgling bouts between the AC75s has indicated this is unlikely to be the case. But it is easily forgotten that in Valencia there were still occasions when there were 5 minute deltas at the finish because one boat went the wrong way or one had a problem or even simply one was much slower. And that was in boats with almost 20 years of development behind them (how many years of development had the 12ms had before they raced in Freo?) Can you imagine what the racing would look like in 20 years time if the AC remained with AC75s? Or better still in AC50s or AC72s since the catamaran makes for an inherently better foiling platform. As to the future – I agree the foiling genie is out of the bottle. The kids are mildly engaged by it and while watching J Class yachts being thrown around like dinghies is truly breathtaking to watch, F1 is no longer raced in green label Bentleys.

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    1. Hi James – yes the genie is well and truly out of the bottle. I absolutely love these AC75s. As I say, I haven’t been this excited about Cup racing in years. It’s truly a magnificent spectacle. Thanks for getting in touch and yes it’s great to be back.

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  3. Hello Magnus.

    I completely agree with you. As a similar comparison, my son won the 29er Youth Worlds in San Fran in 2005. A couple of months later I went to the Club and the 470s were sailing their Worlds – in comparison it was like watching paint dry. I am not denigrating the sailors in the slightest, the technology was simply outdated and a poor spectator equivalent.

    Long live foiling monos!

    Great blog, by the way! Thanks

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  4. AMEN! I am sick and tired of every AC comments section for the past ten years being full of old people ranting about how they won’t be happy unless the next one is 12-Metres off Newport, probably with a dress code. (And we all know that if they got all of that, the same people would be complaining it wasn’t J-Classes!)

    You can still watch 12-Metres and J-Class race in their own respective series, but the AC-50s were great to watch and so are the AC-75s. I don’t expect the America’s Cup to be like sailing Lightnings at my local yacht club any more than I expect climbing on the rock wall at the gym to be like free-soloing El Capitan.

    I am American but I hope that the NYYC do not win in 2021, they seem to be an overly conservative institution who cannot be trusted to continue technological progress in the America’s Cup.

    I don’t suppose the manufacturers of those “Go The People’s Boats” for pro-ETNZ Americans in 2013 are selling them this year?

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  5. Agree, although I would like to see more onboard action, but totally realise that is impossible. As for where the wind is coming from (answer, always ahead) search me. It’s just speed, speed, speed and speed soon loses its ability to thrill. Reluctantly, however, it’s AC 75s for me. Electrifying! Which is perhaps the way forward, as some suggest. Ditch the grinders. What a thankless task.

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  6. For sailors the choice of boat is interesting, but for the general public it’s always been a race of personalities. My gut feel is that a general poll would show more people know that Larry Ellison won the Cup than (a) can name any sailor on any boat, and (b) know who the current holder is or where it’s taking place. For emotional attachment and long-term interest the AC should be sold as “clash of the billionaires” and the moneymen behind it should be squarely in the spotlight. Who cares if the gladiators use maces, spears, or swords? It’s the blood on the sand that matters.

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  7. These cutting edge AC36 boats and twin skin sails will change most big sailing boats.
    Bring on the next design challenge to take big boat sailing further.

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    1. That’s a really progressive point to make and I completely agree. If we don’t move forward with the AC then it becomes Sail GP and just another regatta on the circuit. The fact that it has always been such a technical and technological event is very much part of its allure. If they dumb it down to try and get new and more entries then they will lose the magic and the trickle down effect. I would like to see a focus on battery technology though. Grinding oil upwind and down to get hydraulic pressure seems to me like something from the dark ages.

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