Racing

Second Chance

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I see that various pundits are ruminating upon a course of sagacity, wisdom and compromise for our America's Cup antagonists, Misters Bertarelli and Ellison, urging them to come to terms and launch what both profess to be the goal, a match to match 2007.

Well and good. I'll believe it when I see it.

All Bertarelli had to do, at the end of the 32nd match for the America's Cup, was tell everybody to come back to Valencia in two years and do it again. (Didn't happen.)

Bertarelli's recent comments hint at a preference for Armageddon over compromise, High Noon at the Not-So-OK Corral, and maybe that's not the worst thing. I'm talking about a second chance at the Big Picture.

One of the ironies missing from most reflections upon the big boat-catamaran debacle of 1988 is that it could have been huge. If the USA had chosen to build a big boat to meet the Kiwi big boat—which was eminently beatable, a piece of junk—the match would have played as a spectacle. Press and hype beyond measure. The world was ready. The networks were ready. We're talking prime time. This, friends, could be our second chance.

No, it's not the way we ought to build the future of the America's Cup, but the operant word is "huge" and I don't mean the boats.

This is the state of play.

Be here now.

It takes a long memory to recall the send-up tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs that put women's tennis on the map and elevated all of pro tennis to new heights, but the gambit worked. Sometimes you gotta go whack.

And lest my pro-sailor friends think I've turned hostile to their futures, let me note that Alinghi pronouncements would have us believe they (we) were on track for a glorious multi-challenger match in 2010 with a list of (mostly, not all) nonentities posing as challengers in some kind of new boat we haven't seen yet and—

Forgive me if the following analysis is longwinded and technical, but it has to be said:

Duh.

Would a "traditional" AC match happen any sooner without a multihull match first? Not much sooner, though I admit a forced Deed of Gift match in multihulls prolongs the uncertainties.

The stress, for the partisans among us, is that a match in giant multihulls roars off the cliff before you can chart the odds. The DOG, which would govern such a face-off, specifies a best-of-three match over defined courses—with the sort of long, boring (or not) legs that schooners might have raced in the 19th century—but those courses, ironically, might prove as workable as anything for a pair of monsters manned by test pilots wearing flak jackets and helmets. In this game, Deuces are wild. So are Aces. The Jack of Hearts. And Sevens. Red Sixes. Whatever.

Once upon a time I helped make a movie called Wind about a fictitious America's Cup campaign. All of us who were involved had seen too many old movies where, say, a race-car driver is threatened by a bad guy who tries to sabotage his car and chop up his wire wheels. We weren't going to make anything like that. We didn't want to pump up a tale of bitter enemies because, mostly, America's Cup rivalries aren't embittered. But this one is.

Meanwhile making every character in Wind a nice guy sure made it hard to pump up the drama. Well, darlings, let me tell you. The last thing the Alinghi camp wanted was a new negotiation with BMW Oracle's Tom Ehman, Chairman of the Challenger Committee for 2007 and still known in his home camp as the Chairman. In Alinghi's post-victory debrief in Valencia, the Ehman name kept popping up. With an edge. Apparently, negotiating with their poodle (oops, I mean CNEV) was a cuddlier experience. I'm not sure the Russell Coutts thing has been quite smoothed over, either.

Larry and Ernesto once were buddies. Now they are locked and loaded forever in the history of America's Cup. With wisdom, sagacity and compromise? Maybe. But it looks more like a death embrace for one or the other. So I ask, how's your day going . . .


And while I was posting that, BMW Oracle Racing was releasing this, its first comment since the court ruling validating their challenge:

Valencia, Spain, 7 April 2009 -- The Golden Gate Yacht Club and its team, BMW ORACLE Racing, remain committed to negotiate with the Defender, Societe Nautique de Geneve/Alinghi, a conventional mutual consent protocol for the next America's Cup that would involve all teams.

This follows the April 2 decision of the New York State Court of Appeals confirming the Golden Gate Yacht Club as the Challenger of Record for the 33rd America's Cup.

BMW ORACLE Racing's owner, Larry Ellison, and the President of Alinghi, Ernesto Bertarelli, have communicated with each other since the court ruling.

At this stage the club believes it is best to keep communications between the parties private in the interests of reaching a successful conclusion as quickly as possible.

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