I’m not a sailor. Not really. I’ve raced down the California coast a few times (thanks, Steve), and in the SF Bay a lot (thanks, Mike); but in my soul I’m ... a power-boater. I’ve turned to the dark side. So the whole America’s Cup “thing,” from the racer’s perspective, is nearly lost on me. But, the AC “thing,” from the “bend the envelope of racing boat design;” from the “bigger, better;” from “the best sailors on the fastest boats” – that, I get.
I’ve been fascinated by it. My wife-to-be describes it as obsessed. I’ve gone to the races in San Diego, and for both the August and October SF races, we’ve taken friends out to watch from the water (one kind of experience), and from shore (a whole other kind of experience). I’m a YouTube fan, and a Facebook friend and Stan Honey should be nominated for God for what he’s done to make the show hugely entertaining and watchable.
I was mesmerized by the Oracle AC72 capsize, and clicked, FB’d and YT’d (and even network news-ed) my way through the night waiting to see what would happen.
Then I read a post that said “they” should dump the 72s and stay with the 45s. The 45s are safer, cheaper. A one design that more could participate in, that more could afford and pass through the cost barrier of entry into the game.
But that’s not what the Cup is all about. (At least to me.)
The Cup has always been about looking traditional sailing in the eye, and giving it a spit. That’s why the America won in 1851. Stevens and his consortium sailed on over The Pond with a new fangled boat, and took it. That’s why the J boats were built. That’s why wings ("fins"?) on a 12 meter were so outlandish. That’s why Dennis Connor’s catamaran so riled the senses of “traditionalists” everywhere. And its why there are now “wings” and AC72s.
Wings, are the new “thing.” Wings beat the hell out of sails in terms of boat performance. I mean, my gods, they are foiling in a 72 foot cat! Try that with “traditional” sails. Not gonna happen.
Would AC45's be a “better” choice? After all, they ARE cuttng edge in their own right. There are 11 racing now, and only 3 viable AC72 racers. Would the spectacle of 15, or 25 AC45s, with truly “national” teams racing all over the Bay (any bay in the world, because you can ship the darn things in a container – anywhere) bring more verve to the Cup? Maybe.
But is the Cup just “any” race? I don’t think so.
Is it “traditional” - absolutely. But what’s that tradition?
I think (and, yes, everyone gets their own opinion, so you don’t have to agree with mine) that the Cup is about challenging - everything. It’s about challenging design, its about challenging other sailors, or other mega-egos. (Ellison, Conner, Turner, Vanderbilt, Lipton, Stevens ... come on, this has ALWAYS been a sport, a game filled with egos. That’s what makes it FUN.) So, while the AC45s are a challenge in themselves, and might be a nice, safe, fun to watch racing boat, they are not an AC72. They are not what we already know to be the most challenging boat to race. They are the penultimate. And that’s not what the Cup is about.
So, go pick up all the pieces (I really like the idea of selling the parts mounted in front of a picture of the capsize as souvenirs – can I get one if it’s ever done), and rebuild the thing. And get ready to race. Because THAT’s what The Cup is all about.
At least in my opinion.