Kiwis 'stunned' by America's Cup decision


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The Independent Online

A howl of complaint about the latest changes in the organisation of next year’s America’s Cup in San Francisco comes from Dean Barker, skipper of Emirates Team New Zealand.

“Today the event organisers dropped a bombshell on the America’s Cup competitors when they announced they will no longer be requiring the teams to be based on Piers 30 and 32,” he wrote. “More importantly, they will not be paying for any redevelopment of the piers as has been promised for the last 18 months.

“I am sitting here completely stunned,” he said. “We are a little over six months from relocating our base to San Fran to what we have been told would be a fully functioning base area complete with team hospitality spaces and full access for the public to watch the teams preparing and launching their boats.

“It is now going to be a concrete slab with absolutely nothing on it which will now require us to secure cranes, jetties, and all the services required to function. We have never budgeted for this and [for it] to be dropped on us now is quite unbelievable.

“I have to say we are a long, long way from the vision presented to us back in September 2010. Larry Ellison has done a lot for this AC and has put a lot of his own financial resource into making the Americas Cup next year a big event.

“However, I think in terms of a lot of decisions made along the way by different people, here we are with only three challengers and now no base facility to operate out of. This is a long way from the success of 2007 in Valencia no matter how you package it.

“The catamarans are great, but the AC72s are just way too expensive. Not only is the design and build of the new boats extreme, but then you need a small army just to launch and retrieve the boat each day let alone the work to maintain it.

“There is no question the AC72 racing next year will be spectacular. That is fortunate because the rest of the show looks to be well below expectations.”

A spokesman for the organisers said that the move merely gave the teams the chance to choose their own base locations and added that this could save money.

There has been growing scrutiny of the budget backed by Oracle boss Larry Ellison and there has been a series of cuts to personnel and activity. Pier 30/32 had been condemned by the city authorities and would have cost a fortune to fix.

All three challenging teams – four if Korea makes it - may be able to join Oracle at its Pier 80 facility, but that is way off the beaten track of the America’s Cup village and race course. Costs of setting up a base elsewhere will be high and, even then, could run into major permission problems from local boroughs in the bay area.

It is not known if the event’s own international jury can do anything about team complaints and any recourse to compensation lawyers could take longer than the Cup itself. The City has yet to comment, but America’s Cup Event Authority CEO Stephen Barclay said that both the city and the event partners approved of the change in plan.

He said that the lessons of a regatta in August had shown that the change would make the Louis Vuitton Cup elimination series due to start next July and the cup itself in September more fan-friendly and that teams could still base themselves at Pier30/32 if they wished.

Barker is in San Francisco for the second of two warm-up regattas, the America’s Cup World Series, in California for a 45-foot version of the wing-powered catamaran. He reported a good practice day ahead Tuesday’s official practice races.

The racing proper, which forms part of Fleet Week, starts Wednesday with three teams, one of them Ben Ainslie Racing, part of the Oracle line-up, two under Sweden’s Artemis banner, two from Italy’s Luna Rossa, and one each from France, whose boat had to be rescued when breaking its mooring  Korea, and China.

In Genoa, some last gasp tactical wizardry by Michel Desjoyeaux made sure he won the European Tour title overall in the MOD70 trimarans after coming second to Yann Guichard’s Spindrift in the final offshore leg from Marseille.

Stève Ravussin held on to his third overall in Race for Water, just two points ahead of Sidney Gavignet and Brian Thompson in Musandam-Oman Sail with Sébastien Josse fifth in Gitana.

Ian Williams and his Team GAC Pindar can afford to concentrate solely on winning the Argo Bermuda Gold Cup leg of the Alpari World Match Racing Tour, which began Tuesday, having won the French grand prix in Marseille last week.

The three time world champion knows that his main obstacle to a fourth world title, Sweden’s Bjorn Hansen, has not nominated the Bermuda event as one the five from seven to take him into the showdown of the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia in December.