Cutler delighted to be part of Audi MedCup

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The Independent Online

John Cutler is a professional sportsman. Born near Maine Road, he is still a Manchester City fan, he won an Olympic bronze medal for New Zealand in 1988, married a lady from Vancouver called Caroline, and lives in Aix-en-Provence when not in Auckland. His life, he says, is "kind of precarious."

Cutler is a straightforward, no nonsense man with a gravelly voice that carries traces of both northern England and Kiwi accents. He plies his trade as tactician on grand prix racing yachts, knows what he will be doing for the rest of the year, "but I have no idea how many days I will work next year. It could be anything between zero and 120 days," he says.

In a race village marquee full of brain and brawn champing at the bit to go racing in the five regattas which make up the Audi MedCup series, Cutler on the British boat Cristabella says: "It's been the only show in town for the last three or four years, and I am hoping to do another season."

British tactician Adrian Stead agrees. This is not, he says, about just turning up and picking up a pay cheque. This is about the best racing the best and they all want to win. Stead is on the 2008 championship winning Quantum, sponsored by the American sailmaker of that name, using the series in a determined challenge to its great rival, North Sails. The company president, Ed Reynolds, says nothing sharpens top teams better than a circuit like this. "It's so intense," he says. "We plan to be back."

But the tectonic plates which support grand prix yacht racing can be heard groaning and shifting in the heat of Mediterranean Spain. Change is in the wind and part of its future was revealed, after months of uncertainty, when the protocol for the next America's Cup was issued last week.

What is already certain is that the Audi MedCup will be back next year. To replace the GP42 class, which is moving on, there are two options for a one-design fleet of identical 40-footers.

The MedCup circuit is organised by World Sailing Management, which is a subsidiary of Santa Monica Sports, a major player in both Spanish and Argentinian football promotion, distribution and marketing. Nacho Postigo, who is technical director of the event, is also a director of WSM and he is very clear about a time of change.

"We had envisioned that next year would be a difficult year for two reasons," he says. "First is the continuing background of a difficult economic climate and second is because we have been a haven for some America's Cup teams as that event was being sorted out and re-organised.

"But there is a very positive side as some people who may have been a bit daunted because the level of competition is so high can now join more confidently. We expect the numbers to drop in 2011 but then to grow again in years two and three of this cycle".

"If it didn't exist," says Cutler, "someone would have to invent it."