Last week, as well as attending press conferences, in Valencia, BYM News visited the bases of teams that didn’t make the Louis Vuitton Cup semi-finals. All agreed that the 32nd America’s Cup has been great in every way; all want to be in the 33rd edition and all want that next Cup to be held in Europe. Seldom can rivals in any sporting event have been so unanimous in their views on where that event has been held, how it’s been organised and who will win it.
On Europe as a venue, the consensus was "Great" from every team, with no criticisms about anything. No-one cared that lack of wind, or too much wind, had caused postponements; they put it in different ways, but the message was "That's sailing for you, it's something you have to live with and it happens everywhere. Some people have selective memories and choose to forget the fact that, in the 2002/3 Auckland event, almost 40% of Louis Vuitton sailing days were lost because of weather."
Nobody wanted the next America's Cup to be held in New Zealand, but that had nothing to do with weather; it was largely down to the fact that they felt it would be harder to fund a campaign if the next Cup were to be held in such an isolated place, with such a small population. Sponsors, not just the big ones, but the smaller partners, are essential and those smaller partners are often companies that sell exclusively in Europe.
There was also a perception that an Emirates Team New Zealand winner would not build on what all the teams saw as advancements in the way the Cup has been organised this time round. Nobody actually said, if ETNZ wins, we wont be in the next Cup, but Shosholoza's Mark Sadler came close "If it goes to New Zealand we may not do it. We want it to stay in Europe."
Contrary to rumours that the Challengers had seen ACM as some kind of Alinghi stooge, out to arrange things so the Defender would win, everyone praised the way this edition of the America's Cup has been run. Victory Challenge's Magnus Holmberg said it had been "A huge step forward." Pierre Mas described it as "A big step up in terms of organisation and enhancing the image of the event."
The ACTS, the racing, the management, the exhibition races all got praise and everyone wanted to build on what they saw as great achievements. The consensus was that having a separate management had been a very good idea. Far from seeing ACM as benefiting Alinghi, it was felt that the existence of the management company had meant that the Defender had had less impact on this Cup than on any other.
The nationality stance was that it is important to have several sailors from the team's country in the crew, but nobody wants to go back to the days when all the crew had to be residents of that country. There were several reasons, the main one being that it would make it very difficult for a country with little experience in match racing to even start an America's Cup campaign. China Team would not have been able to be there, without the core of French sailors, Shosholoza would not have done so well if a nationality rule had meant no sailors from outside South Africa.
No skipper viewed the non-national crew members as being less partisan. Mascalzone Latino's Vasco Vascotto said "Of course, Italians love to see Italian sailors in the boat, but our non-nationals are now Italians. They speak better Triesti than I do and they eat pasta and drink red wine." Perhaps the biggest reason for not wanting a nationality clause back was that it is unenforceable. It is nothing for a top team to arrange for a top sailor to, officially, become a resident of a country; it just costs money and one thing all the losers are against is adding any rule that gives better off teams an advantage.
New rule? No thanks
At a press conference last week, the seven losers were asked whether the America's Cup rule needed changing, in favour of a different sort of boat. Six hands went up, in favour of keeping the present boat. The sole dissenter was Team Germany skipper Jesper Banks, who felt that a rule change would benefit new teams, who were finding it difficult to catch up with advancements in the big teams, which had extensive databases of knowledge of the existing boats.
The greatest division of views came over the timescale; should the Cup have a two or a four year cycle? +39 skipper Iain Percy, China Team's Pierre Mas and Germany's Jesper Banks felt that a 2 year cycle made it hard for smaller teams to raise money and could stop more new teams coming in.
Who will challenge for the America's Cup? No-one will make a forecast, because no-one sees any of the semi-finalists as standing out from the others, but where it comes to who will win the Cup it is a very different story! There are no doubts on that score; Alinghi is seen as being in a league of its own.