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Sail Magazine: A New, More Mobile America's Cup?  Nov 13, 12:39

MobileCupBy Kimball Livingston

If the sailors have their way, we could see a very different America's Cup in the future. First we have to get through America's Cup 32, next year in Valencia.

And then?

During the Allianz Cup, a World Match Racing Tour event sailed in October on San Francisco Bay, America's only America's Cup challenger, Larry Ellison, sat behind a microphone and went public with thoughts that are buzzing among all the Cup teams that will be racing in 2007. Power players at Alinghi and other camps too are thinking along the same lines as Ellison, who said that he'd like to see Cup racing, "follow more closely what they do in Formula 1; we’d have a regatta in Cup boats in San Francisco every year, one in Newport, one in Germany, one in Italy; regattas that people and sponsors could count on, to have some regularity."

Of course that's a merely-for-example list of venues. The goal would be to tame the monster unloosed in 1983, when Australia II broke the longest winning streak in sports history and removed the racing from its comfy cloister in Newport, Rhode Island. Each Cup cycle since has been an adventure. Remember the dramas of overhauling Fremantle, Australia to host the next match? Remember the traumas (too much to describe) of the 1988 races in San Diego? Each cycle has charted new waters and new shoals, while the teams have morphed into fulltime business ventures craving "regularity."

BMW Oracle employs about 150 people. The software company and the car company represent most of the cash backing, but let's think about the watch company logo'd on the boom. Did Girard-Perregaux pony up good money to put its name there for eyeballs? Not really. Eyeballs are a bonus to their relationship marketing, enabling their best customers and best employees (like BMW's and Oracle's) to visit the team and share the America's Cup experience. It's quite a ride, believe me. And that too is a lot like what goes on, in and around, Formula 1 (and the Volvo Ocean Race).

This business model is working for the first-ever generation of sports-hero professional sailors (no more money under the table, and they're far removed from those Swedish deckhands that heaved and hauled in the days of yore).

Full story on the Sail website

The AC "paddock" at LV Acts 8 and 9 in Trapani, Sciliy (ITA) last year. Most who were in Trapani felt it was a great set-up, and a blueprint for a new mobile America's Cup.

Closer up view of the Trapani paddock. It made for an exciting yet friendlier atmosphere for the sailors, media and spectators alike.

Pushing the Envelope  May 18, 07:57

On a warm and hazy Thursday morning in Valencia, and with the luxury of a half-day off between Acts 10 and 11, one can reflect for a moment on where we are in the big AC picture....

Before Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 10 our team's Executive Committee had set two clear goals, which were well articulated by CEO and Skipper Chris Dickson. I think everyone on the team understood them:

+ Learn as much as possible about ourselves, our new boat and the competition.
+ Stay on top of the Louis Vuitton Challenger Rankings.

This morning I think we can place a tick beside both.

Notice our mission was not, necessarily, to win Act 10. Whille winning is always an objective -- and nice when it happens -- it goes without saying (but never hurts to remind ourselves) that the overarching goal is to win the America's Cup.

If anything, winning Act 10 was yet another reminder for us, a wake up call perhaps for some of the other teams, about just how hard winning the Cup is in the first place, and how much harder it is going to be this time around given all that has been done to the AC 32 event format, class rule, and the racing itself to make it closer and more exciting for all concerned.

Act 10 also brings to mind the old saw, "You better be careful what you ask for -- you might get it!"

For sure this is no time to rest on our laurels. The Act 10 goals are unchanged for Act 11. Winning 11, too, would be nice. Far more important, however, is to stay focused, keep our collective shoulders to the wheel, learn all we can, innovate, and take calculated risks that expand the teamwork and technology envelopes.

It is said you learn more from failing; and failing to take risks and trying new things is a recipe for losing the Cup.

As any student of Cup history will tell you, innovation, taking carefully calculated risks, and striving for constant improvement is what usually wins:

+ 1983: Aus II's winged keel.
+ 1987: DC's last minute decision to build a third, more powerful hull.
+ 1988: DC's audacious catamaran when faced with no time to build a big monohull.
+ 1992: Bill Koch's last minute appendage swap which tested well in the tank and computer but with which they had little full-scale experience.
+ 1995: TNZ's brave new shapes above the water.
+ 2000: TNZ's brave new shapes below the water.
+ 2003: Alinghi's innovative new shapes above and below the water. (TNZ took calculated risks as well, but failed to take into account the structural impact of a windy AC final -- and large spectator fleet.

Likewise our team's mantra has to be innovation and constant improvement. Sure, at times we will take two steps forward and one backward. But make your mistakes in a hurry, learn from them, and fix them just as fast.

There is "no excuse for excellence" -- excellence is simply not good enough. Superiority in all critical success factors, which in this game means just about every department. The best teams are not those with the most money, but those with clear goals, the best strategy, the best people, and are best at judging and then acting on risk/reward and cost/benefit.

Each evening every one of us needs ask, "Did I do my job just a little better today than yesterday?" And in the morning you must look yourself in the mirror and ask, no matter how tired and beaten up you may be from the day before, "How can I do my job even better today?"

There is a good reason why these Cup endeavors are called "campaigns" not "seasons" or "championships." That's because doing the Cup is like a political campaign: first you have to have a party platform, raise the money, mold the candidate, win the primary election, then win the general election; if you win you get to govern; lose, well, as the Queen Victoria's aid supposedly said, "there is no second." Sometimes not even a second chance.

Or as Larry Ellison has said, "Sport has this finite, clear ending that is not present in business. That clarity between winning and losing is a dramatic difference. In business, there are more gray areas. In business, there are lots of winners. Being second is not so bad. In the America’s Cup, there is no second.”

And the AC is even harder than other sports -- lose in Formula One or the NFL, there's always next season.

Bottom line -- the America's Cup is the hardest game in the world, but the best game. Bring on Act 11, and once again let's see what we can learn and who pushes the envelope the hardest and farthest.


The Big Five?  May 13, 07:46

Today it gets a bit more interesting. We race NZL while Luna Rossa (ITA/LR) and Alinghi (SUI) go at it. The other match to keep an eye on will be Desafio Espanol (ESP) vs. Mascalzone Latino (ITA/ML). The Regatta Director's pairing list for Day Three is here.

More of the same weather-wise. Yesterday at times we had a knot or two more breeze than the 7-11 predicted. If the clouds clear away and it gets a bit warmer this afternoon, maybe the seabreeze will surprise us and assert more than expected.

Desafio Espanol (ESP) and the locals were rejoicing last night. Their day began with the christening of the new yacht ESP 88 in the presence of their majesties King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. Then Juan Carlos, a keen racing sailor in his own right (as are the royal kids), sailed with ESP as 18th man in their first race -- followed around by a gaggle of media. Is there a Spanish word for paparazzi?

But it was Desafio's second race against Luna Rossa (ITA/LR) that, as we had predicted here on the BOB yesterday morning, turned out to be the "match of the day". ESP managed to beat Luna Rossa even after copping a pre-start penalty. ¡Viva España!

This morning the media are in a lather about the "Big Four" now being the Big Five. Apparently Luna Rossa have been struggling a bit with their new ITA 86. In pre-Act informal racing with various teams the media have reported that 86 appeared a bit off the pace, as she looked again yesterday. So, at least for the moment, maybe it's actually the Big Three?

But don't count Luna Rossa out just yet. They are a sharp, highly-motivated team with heaps of experience. And so far we only have seen racing in the lightish 7-11 range. Let's see how everyone goes in 11-16, let alone the bumpier 17-23, yet to come (one hopes -- although Chris Bedford is saying this morning it could be light for the rest of Act 10).

All but lost in yesterday's ESP hoopla was Alinghi's narrow win over Mascalzone. The "Macaroni's" (we have a more or less endearing moniker for each of our opponents) led a good bit of that match. Apparently Alinghi pooched the start, but more importantly ITA 77 (Dennis Conner's boat from the 2003 campaign) was going like a bat out of hell downwind. Alinghi held them off at the finish by less than a boat length.

So maybe it's really the Big Six? Or are the Spanish and Mascalzone just light air pretenders, Luna Rossa seriously off the pace with their new boat, and Alinghi now starting to show signs of weakness with their multiple-skipper merry-go-round and an aging SUI 75? (Recall that 75 was none too swift in the light going at Trapani last autumn.)

If so, that would make the Kiwis and ourselves the standard bearers. The new Big Two??

Somehow I doubt it. Regardless, it's much too early to tell.

As we have been saying for many months, the "modernizations" that the Defender and Challenger of Record wrote into the rules for this 32nd edition of the Cup -- especially with the hope of providing, closer, more intense racing -- seem to be working. The "Big Four" are going to lose races to lower-ranked teams, especially in light air.

After a particularly heavy-air period a couple weeks back, we are now going through a light patch. And things will heat up -- literally and figuratively. As the temperatures rise with the approach of the Valencian summer, more new yachts will come on line (including, one suspects, Alinghi's new SUI-91), the seabreeze will ramp up, and the seas will get rougher. Only then will we begin to get a true feel for who's who in AC 32.

In the meantime, enjoy the early skirmishes. Especially in the light air, there's still a lot of damn to come over the water.

Modernizing the Cup, and
leveling the playing field?

Vamos a la Playa  May 7, 14:46

Today's upbeat post on the Challenger Commission Blog about the state of affairs here in Valencia, and future prospects, may be of interest to many members of our team, their families and friends.

Link me all over.

The DaSena Code  Apr 29, 07:44

We need a shorthand to refer to the Cup teams that makes sense: something simple, easy to remember, fairly obvious to the uninitiated, and meaningful to those involved.

With the DaVinci Code all the rage at the moment (including, apparently, the UK judge even writing a code into his recent court decision regarding Dan Brown's wildly popular book; maybe we had better start checking the Cup jury decisions in case Bryan Willis's wry sense of humour gets the better of him!), it seems appropriate that we call our new shorthand the "DaSena Code":


To the uninitiated (at least in the USA and Downunder), perhaps the only ones not obvious are RSA (Republic of South Africa) and SUI (Switzerland)? Most of you will recognize these from the three-letter country (Olympic) codes the yachts have been carring on their mainsails, and differentiating for ITA which, of course, has three teams. Therefore:

CHN = China Team
ESP = Desafio Espanol
FRA = Areva Challenge
GER = United Internet Team Germany
NZL = Emirates Team New Zealand
ITA/39 = +39
ITA/LR = Luna Rossa
ITA/ML = Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team
RSA = Shosholoza
SUI - Alinghi
SWE - Victory Challenge

Pending your comments (click on "add comment" below), going forward am thinking to use this "DaSena Code" when it is impractical to use a team's full name.

Dime. ¿Qué piensas?


The Season Begins  Mar 14, 11:07

Peter "Pedro" Isler (USA, Sailing Team - navigator) penned this report for today's Scuttlebutt, providing his insight on the events surrounding the build up toward the 2007 America's Cup....

March 13, 2006 -- Spring weather has arrived to Valencia and the sailing
conditions have quickly changed from frigid to delightful. Since I was
last here in October with BMW Oracle Racing, there has been a massive
amount of construction and development around the Port America's Cup.
Team Bases are being built out, but the biggest change is the new harbor
entrance... a 1/4 mile channel cut that enables teams to leave the dock
and be sailing on the race course in less than 15 minutes time (versus
the one-hour tow previously). It's part of a massive public works'
project that will greatly change the face of Valencia's shorefront.

Read the full report at

Sailing team member (navigator) Peter Isler, two time AC winner
('87 and '88). Pedro also has extensive media credentials as an
author of a number of popular sailing books as well as a TV
commentator for ESPN and OLN in the USA, to say nothing of
being a decent guitar and piano player.


Sign of the Times  Nov 22, 18:12

AC-related signage in European airports is notably on the rise. To say nothing of the display of USA-61 at MUC this summer and fall, the number of companies already displaying adverts is impressive. We have recently seen Cup ads at CPH (Copenhagen), FRA (Frankfurt), LHR (London Heathrow), MUC (Munich) and MXP (Milano Malpensa) -- more than 18 months before the end of AC 32! Good to see our sponsors promoting their brands, along with the Cup and our sport.

The great ad above has blanketed the departures-level dropoff area
at VLC all summer.

TEAM CULTURE II  Oct 24, 12:47

Thanks for the many nice comments on the post a week about team culture. Anytime we are able to post pictures that tell a story about the Cup, our team or a related event the feedback is immediate and gratifying, so we will try to keep those coming.

Speaking of team culture, team members reading this post will know there is a story behind the picture below....

Every AC team ends up, sooner or later, with a "team song." Once agreed, it gets used in audio/video presentations, is played the team docks out on a race day, etc. To some degree, the team songs reflect, indeed helps shape, the "team culture."

A good example of a current team song is the South African folksong "Shosholoza" after which their team is named. It means "go forward" -- persevere in the face of a challenge -- and seems particularly apropos for a start-up AC team.

Another was Team Dennis Conner's 1995 song, "Top Gun" (theme from the movie). Not only was the movie made in San Diego, but DC knew the team needed to shoot down some high flying rivals -- both other defenders and challengers -- if we were to win the Cup. Heavier thinkers might have said DC fancied himself as Tom Cruise, but somehow one doubts that.

The choice of song is often the source of friendly debate within the team -- both serious and not so. Our current dock-out song, popular with almost all concerned, is U2's "Vertigo."

One song that was suggested, and roundly rejected, is in this morning's headlines. ("Swedish pop group ABBA's catchy "Waterloo" hit that won the European Song Contest 31 years ago has been voted the best song in the event's history by viewers across the continent.")

While the tune may be catchy, no self-respecting AC team could possibly use a song whose reprise goes:

Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo - Promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo - Couldn't escape if I wanted to
Waterloo - Knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo - Finally facing my Waterloo

Not to mention that, in the meantime, the song has become, well, culturally iconic.

We will give the person who suggested it, a European whose formative years coincided with Abba's ascendency, and whose native language is not Englisch, the benefit of the doubt and assume he did not know the lyrics. Needless to say, he has come in for a heap of good-natured ribbing.

Lately "Waterloo" has become almost the team's anti-song -- played when someone receives one of Mark Bradford's light-hearted and hilariously funny "FITH" (don't ask) awards for making a notable bone-headed play in some aspect of his or her work for the team.

All in good fun, and always kulturally korrekt.

Not exactly the Beatles, or U2
for that matter.

TEAM CULTURE  Oct 16, 11:06

While most teams were taking a well-deserved post-Trapani break, BMWOR barely paused to catch our collective breath. Most of those at Trapani flew back to VLC on Monday, and by Tuesday morning joined our colleagues who stayed in Valencia (or had flown in from elsewhere) for an intensive week of meetings to debrief Trapani and 2005, and to confirm plans for 2006 and 2007.

Throw in photo shoots, match race practice (Dicko is heading a team at the upcoming Bermuda Gold Cup, while Bert, Eric Doyle and others will also be hitting the match racing road over the next few months), preparations for the upcoming yacht club tour in the USA in late October and early November, plus normal day-to-day admin -- whatta week. But a highly productive and fruitful one.

We end our 2005 European season on a high note, with successes on the water and off, a good team spirit, and more than a bit of excitement about and anticipation for the coming 18 months.

While we were away at Malmo and Trapani the progress in the Darsena ("Port America's Cup") has been remarkable, let alone the all the work that Grant "Guthrie" Davidson and co. achieved on our soon-to-be-completed team base. (See the Valencia Sailing website for a nice photo essay on the various team bases.)

Last evening there were rather different functions at three of the team bases.

Alinghi had a formal christening of their new base replete with spotlights, red carpets and high government officials giving speeches and signing protocols on furthering cooperation between Switzerland and the Valencian Community.

At Shosholoza a dozen of their support team gathered for a quiet beer. When the yachts and containers arrive back from Trapani this week, the much improved Shosho will be begin several weeks of training and testing here (as will Alinghi and one or two of the other teams) in the increasingly chilly and fickle winds of el otoño Valenciano -- the Valencian autumn.

Meanwhile, our team had a lively yet relaxing barbecue with our families and friends. Long after the lights were out at Alinghi the fun was continuining at our base, loud rock music and not a single speech!

Yet another photo shoot this week. A cooperative, professional
attitude within the team about such things makes the marketing dept's
life a lot easier, to say nothing of some very happy sponsors.

The car buffs checking out the stunning new BMW 6 series convertible
coupe. Truth is, LOL, John "Z" Ziskind was trying to figure out how to turn
off the traction control.

Match race practice in our SM40s in the Darsena, replicating the
conditions the guys will find at the Gold Cup in Bermuda. That event
takes place next week and is run in the confines of Hamilton Harbour,
just off the Royal Bermuda YC breakwater.

Meetings galore, but productive and fruitful. The team now scatters
to the four corners of the globe (aside from the increasingly large
contingent now living fulltime here in VLC) for the next 90 days or so.
We made clear and convincing progress in 2005, and our work is well
organized -- indeed, cut out for us -- in 2006. Nice, too, to end the year
at the top of the all-important Louis Vuitton Challenger Rankings.

Last night's family and friends BBQ at our nearly-completed base,
in what will be the rig shop. The kids were invited to paint the west wall,
and paint they did...

...with spray cans...

...paint brushes...

...even rollers.

Aliens, or budding carbonologists? Boys will be boys.

Even the big kids got into the act. Data whiz Asim Khan (PAK).

By the end of the evening, Asim's work had, LOL, been
worked over.

Seeing red: an impressionist interpretation of a match race
start between China Team and Mascalzone?

"Mugs, wouldn't it be great to have another?"

Pedro making a point with Bert looking on. Our new, buttoned-
down afterguard with Dicko has been a winning combo.

This should be a caption contest -- how about "Tacticians really
are just a lotta hot air?" or "Such strong lungpower -- he must not
smoke?" or "Is that what Alinghi meant by a bovine appendage?"

Like father like son? Rodrigo Azcueta (ARG), the conspicuously neat
and tidy member of our design team, with his somewhat less-so son.

"My Dad is one of the team's electrons; and he said I could paint the
electrical box." Uh-huh.

Alinghi base dedication, also last evening.

Meanwhile, back at our base Guthrie (whose very well-received idea
it was to let the kids do the wall) with his colony of budding graffitists

A sunny end to the 2005 season.

NEW ERA  Oct 15, 08:03

From an ACM release summing up the Trapani Acts:

Put simply, the enthusiasm and response in Italy to the 32nd America's Cup was overwhelming. Nearly 500,000 people poured into the America's Cup Park, including visitor number 1,000,000 to the Louis Vuitton Acts. Hundreds of spectator boats crowded the race course, and the teams responded in kind with some incredible racing. Act 8, the match racing event, concluded with the top four teams equal on points atop the leaderboard. One race was decided by just three seconds.

When it appeared nothing could top that, the fleet racing went down to the final race. The final race would not be decided until the last run. And the photo finish featured two boats crossing the finishing line at the same time! It was a wonderful sports event, but more than that, the Trapani Louis Vuitton Acts were proof positive that a new era has dawned in the America's Cup, and millions are enjoying the ride.

The two leaders nearing the photo-finish of the final race of Act 9. The
RC scored the finishing time difference ("delta") as 0 seconds -- the first-
ever "zero delta" in America's Cup racing. Photo by Gilles Martin-Raget;
more at