Written by Andrea Watson Friday, 05 March 2010 00:00
The America’s Cup is over and the United States has won back the Cup. BMW ORACLE Racing, the American challenger, from the Golden Gate Yacht Club in San Francisco, won the 33rd America’s Cup Match two weeks ago in Valencia, beating the Swiss defender, Alinghi, in a 2-0 victory.
This was an historic event for many reasons. One, it was raced in multihulls that were so fast and innovative that the window of opportunity to actually go out to race was rather limited. BMW ORACLE Racing sported a trimaran, USA, with the largest sail ever built, which dominated the racing and was the faster of the two boats. Alinghi raced a catamaran that just couldn’t keep up with USA.
For those readers who spent their day watching that other international sports event, the Olympics in Vancouver, below is a short synopsis of what happened. The first race was on Friday, Feb. 12, after two race days cancelled due to either too high wind or too little wind, or the seas were too rough on the Mediterranean. According to Scuttlebutt, the online daily sailing newsletter, racing started on Sunday after a long postponement on Sunday afternoon. Racing finally got started with just five minutes before the deadline to cancel racing for the day. The wind was 7-8 knots. So far things seem to be going somewhat normally (if you can call anything relating to this year’s Cup normal). But here comes Alinghi, entering the start box very late and on the wrong side. What gives? These are professional racers, not your local junior sailing kids testing their skills against other newbies. The Umpires were forced to give Alinghi a penalty for their infraction. More about this later… as nothing about this Cup race is normal. Or have I mentioned that before??
BMW had the speed at the start, but Alinghi hugged the right side of the race course where the wind shifted early on. Advantage to the Swiss with about 600 meters. But, with expert racing skills, BMW ORACLE Racing crew made a perfect layline call and at the cross of the two boats, with Alinghi still ahead, BMW ORACLE Racing took advantage of Alinghi ceding the inside position. The U.S. pounced on that mistake and led around the top mark by 28 seconds. There was no catching BMW ORACLE Racing and the U.S. crossed the finish line ahead by 5:26 minutes. Alinghi was flying a red protest flag, but the team confirmed after finishing that they would not protest. With this win, BMW ORACLE Racing is the first U.S. challenger to win the Cup since Dennis Conner won on Stars & Stripes in Fremantle, Australia in 1987. This win also marks the first win for an American team in 1992 when Bill Koch’s America3 defended the Cup in San Diego.
As for Alinghi… well, as they say, “you just can’t make this stuff up.” Contrary and ornery to the end, literally. The defense club, Société Nautique De Genève’s (SNG), had their Race Committee actually go on strike and refuse to start Sunday’s race ordered by ISAF approved PRO Harold Bennett. It seems they did not like the water conditions, claiming the waves were in excess of one meter, Alinghi’s sea state tolerance. When Bennett called for the AP flag lowered (meaning that the races could begin), the RC members refused. You can just imagine the scene on the RC boat. Finally, to begin the second race of the Match, Bennett was forced to draft Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) observer Tom Ehman and a Guardia Civil cop on board the RC boat and ordered them to run the flags as Bennett counted down himself. Let’s hope the ISAF reviews this abhorrent behavior on the part of SNG, who didn’t want to race in Sunday’s wind and water conditions. Again, Bertarelli and friends tried to control the outcome of the America’s Cup, but when the competition finally got on the water, the Swiss team just couldn’t produce the goods.
In what may bode well for the next America’s Cup, team owner Larry Ellison promised an independent organizing committee including an impartial jury and umpires for the next multi-challenge event, saying it was important that there was a level playing field for all competitors to bring sponsors and fans back to the Cup. How refreshing! Ellison continued, “We’re going to try and make decisions along with the rest of the America’s Cup community to do just that, so we can attract sponsorship and funding for all of the teams that want to participate, not only BMW Oracle and Alinghi, but also the Chinese team and the South African team and the Swedish team and the New Zealand team,” Ellison said, “If we do our job well and work closely with them, it should be the most popular America’s Cup, the 34th America’s Cup.” And Russell Coutts, BMW ORACLE Racing chief executive, confirmed a return to traditional nonohulls, with a boat able to plane. He said, “I think we should reach consensus with the rest of the America’s Cup world,” Coutts said. “It would be irresponsible for one party to try and make a decision on behalf of everyone else. You have to put a lot of thought into these types of decisions because this is a 159-year-old trophy and we must look after it.”
In another development that looks good for the next Cup, Golden Gate Yacht Club has received a challenge from Club Nautico di Roma and is pleased that the Italian club will be the Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup and commented that, “We look forward to working in close partnership with CNR and their challenging team - “Mascalzone Latino” owned by world champion sailor Vincenzo Onorato - to reinvigorate the America’s Cup. Mascalzone Latino competed as a challenger for both the 2003 and 2007 America’s Cup.
Where the next Cup will race is subject to much speculation, with a list that includes Newport, Valencia, San Diego and San Francisco. The date most likely will be in 2013 as 2011 is too soon to get ready for the big event and 2012 would clash with the London Olympics. How refreshing to have a logical thought process connected to the Cup again. Maybe, with a lot of hard work, the Cup can regain some of its old glory, bring back the crowds and the excitement and buzz.
Match racing in the U.S. is growing in interest and now we have the American’s Cup back home. All those who in years past have worked so hard for the glory of the Cup – the racers, owners, sponsors, Race Committees and syndicate managers – should be very happy that the Cup is past this two-year long nonsense and will compete in 2013 according to the Deed of Gift. What about bringing back national teams – or is that just a “way over the top” kind of question?
There is a buzz in the sailing community that match racing in the United States is the new next best thing. While some may wonder whether the U.S. will fully embrace match racing to the level of excitement in Europe and other foreign ports and many will argue that match racing is definitely not new, there is no question that the level of racing and match racing on Long Island has been ratcheted up a notch or two (and quite possibly more) in the last few months. Enter Dawn Riley, who packed up her car on New Years Day and drove east to Oyster Bay and the Oakcliff Sailing Center to start her new position as executive director of the center. With Dawn on board anything can happen… and will. You just “gotta” believe that really, really exciting things are going to start happening in Oyster Bay. That’s what happens when Dawn Riley starts a new adventure.
For those non-sailing readers who may not have heard of Dawn Riley, a little introduction may be in order: Dawn is one of the best-known sailors in the world. She was the first woman ever to manage an entire America’s Cup syndicate, the first American, man or woman, to sail in three America’s Cups and two Whitbread Round the World races and is one of the forerunners in providing community access into the sport of sailing. And, as if that is not enough, Dawn is also a past president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, serves on the board of US Sailing, and is an advisor to several public service organizations. She is a much sought after motivational speaker and her business interests include recreational environment design and development and product development consulting for the sports market. One might think that with all her accomplishments, Dawn would be somewhat unapproachable. Au contraire! If you ever get a chance to meet Dawn, who has changed the face of racing for women around the world, grab it, for you will be rewarded with intelligent conversation, laced with common sense and a large dose of humor.
The Oakcliff Sailing Center grew out of an idea that recognized that there was a gap in the growth path of sailors and the center had a huge opportunity to fill that gap. The founders decided the center should be dedicated to training sailors, boat workers, owners and teams in order to raise the level of sailors and sailing in the United States. According to their website, www.oakcliffsailing.org, it is in many ways easier to say what the center is not than what it is. The center is not a yacht club with restaurants and pools; it is not a junior sailing program or a community learn-to-sail program; and not an Olympic training center – those already exist. What the center is, in part, is a match racing training center because match racing is the best way to raise one’s game with a one-on-one fight to the finish.
The mission of the Oakcliff Sailing Center is to raise the level of sailors and sailing in the United States. Oyster Bay’s waters will be filled with sails as the center offers clinics and regattas for match racers, coaching for individuals and teams, and team building opportunities for companies and other organizations. Oakcliff executes its mission using its unique collection of boats: six Swedish Match 40s, six Shields, six Melges 24s, two Farr 40s, three IRC racing boats (one Ker 50 and two Ker 38s), three classic wooden yachts – Nautilus (1905), Dolphin (1914), and Anne Caie (1935).
The signature offering of the Oakcliff Sailing Center is the Acorn program. With scholarships offered to individuals between the age of 18 and 30, it is open to anyone who has shown potential as a racing sailor. Acorns are completely immersed in the world of competitive sailing: everything from the sponsorship and business side of sailing to high-level match racing skills, from proper wet sanding and team management to basics in budgeting and accounting. Graduating Acorns are fully prepared to manage race boats, sail in the America’s Cup, or start businesses. At Oakcliff we see Acorns as the people who will carry our mission forward, representing Oakcliff, its supporters, and America in the world of competitive sailing.
The schedule of racing at Oakcliff is impressive. The graceful classic boats will be out on the water in spring and fall on Saturdays for a pursuit format race midday and Thursday evenings. The modern boats, which have produced race winners from The Fastnet to Key West to the America’s Cup are the developmental boats that Acorns and sailors use to test their creativity in boat repair, design and set up. And the match racing boats are used on a regular basis for Tuesday night match racing drills and Saturday match racing regattas, as well as clinics and local, national and international regattas. For an up to the minute schedule, check the Oakcliff website: www.oakcliffsailing.org.
A program this extensive takes a lot of financial backing. According to the Oakcliff Board Chair, David Halliwill, “The committed philanthropic supporters behind Oakcliff have a long history of involvement in education and athletics in NYC. The Lawrence family’s substantial commitments to the center have made this vision possible, and they look forward to this next stage of growth.” But the center needs additional funding to support their programs. To encourage both financial and volunteer support, the center offers five levels of support and values volunteer days at $50/day, which can be pledged against a financial contribution (but can not be reduced past $200).
When the concept of Oakcliff was conceived, one simple question was asked: “Is it possible to train a new generation of great American sailors? Board Chair David Halliwill answered definitely, “With Dawn Riley joining the center, the answer is ‘Yes it is’”. No surprise there – Dawn Riley is the perfect choice to achieve the goals set for Oakcliff. Dawn’s typical leadership skills are evident when she made it very clear about her thoughts on growing the center, “We keep an open mind to new ideas about growing the center. So don’t be shy, talk to us.” Can’t get more approachable than that!
So why not check it out – Oakcliff is an America’s Cup-like campus, located at 2-4 South Street in Oyster Bay. For more information, call 802-0368 or visit www.oakcliffsailing.org.