Luna Rossa, THE CHALLENGER OF RECORD announces it’s withdrawal from the America’s Cup.10426134_562183907250351_8964944746336218143_n

Team Luna Rossa Challenge announces its withdrawal from the 35th America’s Cup

(April 2, 2015) – The result of the vote proposed by the America’s Cup Event Authority with the agreement of the Defender of the 35th America’s Cup has overturned, with a majority vote, the America’s Cup Class Rule for the boat with which this edition will be held; this happened notwithstanding the fact that such rule had been previously adopted unanimously by the teams and was in force since June 2014.

Following a careful evaluation of the serious implications of this unprecedented initiative, Team Luna Rossa confirms that it will withdraw from the 35th America’s Cup.

Team Luna Rossa indeed considers illegitimate the procedure adopted and founded on an evident abuse of process by surreptitious use of procedures to modify the Protocol in order to overturn the Class Rule, which instead requires the unanimity of the teams entered.

This is an attempt to introduce boats that are substantially monotypes and in total contrast with the ultra-centennial tradition of the America’s Cup, not to mention a two-month extension period to introduce further modifications to the rules, decided by the majority.

All of the above contributes to a lack of credibility and uncertain technical grounds for what should instead be the most sophisticated sailing competition in the world.

This radical change also implies a waste of important resources already invested based on the rules that were sanctioned in June last year. This means that the claim to reduce costs reveals itself as a pure pretext aimed to annihilate research and development achievements of some teams, and to favor instead preconceived technical and sporting positions by means of changing the most important element in the competition, the boat.

As a confirmation of this, it is important to underline the fact that Luna Rossa frequently advanced proposals aimed at containing costs that however would not have changed the nature of the boats, but these proposals have systematically been rejected by the Defender.

Team Luna Rossa has also taken into consideration the possibility to protest through the Arbitration Panel as foreseen by the Protocol; it has however noted that, ten months after signing the Protocol, the Defender is only now initiating the first formal procedures to compose this important body. This fact contributes to making the entire governance of the Event even less credible and reliable.

Team Luna Rossa regrets the repercussions that this difficult decision will have on the members of the Team – although it will honor all of its contractual obligations – and on the sailing event planned to take place in Cagliari next June and obviously understands the disappointment of the many fans who have supported Luna Rossa during the last four editions of the America’s Cup.

(Editor’s note: The AC World Series was to have four events in 2015, with the first event to be June 4-7 in Cagliari, Italy. That event is now cancelled.)

Patrizio Bertelli declared: “I want to thank the whole team for its hard work during this past year; regretfully this effort has been frustrated by this manoeuvre that is unprecedented in the history of the America’s Cup.

“However, in sports, as in life, one cannot always go for compromise, after compromise, after compromise; sometimes it is necessary to make decisions that are painful but must be clear cut, as only these can make everybody aware of the drifts of the system and therefore set the basis for the future: respect of legality and sportsmanship”.




Pete Melvin: Writing the new America’s Cup Rule

Pete Melvin, a partner in Morrelli & Melvin Design and Engineering, was involved in writing the AC72 rule used in the 2013 America’s Cup, and in writing the AC62 rule that was released June 2014 for the 2017 America’s Cup.

But with the increasing concern about rising team budgets, Melvin was called up again to help downscale the boat further for. After a week of work, Melvin and his design committee members put forth a plan that was approved on March 31.

Melvin shares with Scuttlebutt the process for the change…

There was a desire to reduce costs of the boats, and after Oracle and Artemis sailed their AC45 Turbos test boats on San Francisco Bay in February, they found them to be good boats which would provide good racing. They came to realize that a boat of that size could reduce budgets, which would help those teams in need of funding, without reducing performance.

The new Class has a length of 48-feet, which we got to as a result of a couple factors. The Deed of Gift requires a load waterline of not less than 44-feet, and we wanted to stretch the boat somewhat to aid its performance in light air.

While I have not seen the performance numbers that were generated during their testing in San Francisco, my understanding is they were in the 45-knot range, and that the time to complete the race course used during the 2013 America’s Cup wouldn’t be much different than what was achieved with the AC72.

What we found in our work when developing the AC62 rule was that their projected performance of that boat was not much different than the AC72 either. With these foiling boats, speed is not derived through waterline length in the same manner as a boat that displaces water.

Additional advantages with the 48-foot size is in logistics. They require less manpower both on and off the water. For transport, all the parts, including the hull, will fit inside a 40-foot container. Like the AC45, this boat will have a removable section so that you can break it down to fit.

Performance wise, we are continuing to analyze what it is capable of this 48-foot Class. The task of getting to where we are now is just a week old, but based on the observations from Oracle and Artemis from their 45s, they seem confident that it will be a nice boat for the event.

This new Class rule is fairly similar to the A62 rule. There have been a few tweaks but essentially the concepts are unchanged.

The hull will be a new design specific for this boat, but the rule tolerances will be tightly constrained similar to a one design class. Each team will build their own hulls, with the hulls built in their country of origin, but the hulls each team builds must fit within tight margins. These tightly constrained tolerances will also be applied to the cross structures and the wing.

The area of open design options will be the foils, the rudders and daggerboards. There will be some rule limits, such as foil location and length of extension, but determining shapes and designs will be open. Also, the control systems for the rudders and daggerboards is open. Each team will determine how best to control their foils. There are some limits in how the system operates, such as manual or power, but the rest will be unique to each team.

There is still a lot of work to do. The shapes for the hull, cross-structure, and wing have yet to be finalized. We are now working with the teams as quickly as possible to define the geometry for those items of the boat. The final documentation for those items is due by the end of May.


America’s Cup: Luna Rossa threatens withdrawal over boat change
by Richard Gladwell, NZL Mar 26, 2015, 15:58:00 (EDT)

Luna Rossa Swordfish and Luna Rossa Piranha both on the water. The future is foiling – AC45s to be modified; America’s Cup World Series to continue into 2018
Guilain Grenier

The Challenger of Record, long time America’s Cup competitor, Luna Rossa have threatened to withdraw from the America’s Cup if the mooted Protocol change to a smaller boat is implemented.

Emirates Team NZ, via social media, say they have supported the Italian stand against the boat change. ‘Emirates Team New Zealand agrees with Luna Rossa Challenge . It would be unfair to change the rules at this stage unless all America’s Cup teams agree to do so.’ says a statement on their Facebook page, today.

The previous day the Team wrote:’ the idea of boat size reduction is not new. Emirates Team New Zealand suggested this last year. Since then time has passed with teams well advanced in their design process now and any ideas around change will need the full consultation and support of all the teams.’

The latest Kiwi stance pits the two longest standing teams in the America’s Cup against two first time teams, plus Artemis Racing and the Defender.

Contrary to other media comment the Protocol Amendment is for a new class of boat – in the 47 to 54ft range, and not a foiling AC45 as has been suggested.

The initiative for the change is believed to have come from Larry Ellison as part of a move to make the America’s Cup more sustainable and for the class to be adopted by the teams for future America’s Cups and avoid the boat changing that has marked the more recent editions.

Initially both Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand backed a move to a smaller boat (AC54) after the AC62 had been announced, and the discussion has been ongoing at the last two or three Competitor Meetings for the 35th America’s Cup.

The new AC5X rule is being drafted by the same group that produced the AC62 rule and is expected to be just a scaling of that rule.

At this stage there is no indication of how the Nationality rule will be applied, which requires two of the eight crew to be either Nationals of the country of the club of the team, or have passports for that country. The minimum number was initially set at 25% of the crew which neatly transposed to two crew members when the AC62 had eight crew. It is expected that the crew size will reduce to six, but that the Nationality requirement will remain at two nationals.

Earlier today Luna Rossa issued a media release stating:

Team Luna Rossa Challenge is distinctly opposed to the proposal – announced today on the official web site of the America’s Cup – to change the Class Rule for the 35th America’s Cup and therefore the boat that was previously accepted by all challengers on June 5th 2014.

Luna Rossa does not believe that a sporting event should be disputed in a courtroom and does not intend to initiate a lengthy litigation process that would only bring prejudice to the event.

If the principle of unanimity of all challengers required to change the Class Rule were not to be respected Luna Rossa will be obliged to withdraw from the 35th America’s Cup.

Team Luna Rossa trusts that the Defender will quickly announce a public clarification, also to avoid jeopardizing the organization of the America’s Cup World Series – Cagliari – Sardinia event planned to take place from June 4 to June 7, 2015.

Contrary to statements issued by one team, Changes to the Protocol only require the consent of the majority of the teams together with the Defender, Golden Gate Yacht Club or their commercial arm America’s Cup Events Committee.

After the withdrawal of the initial Challenger of Record, Hamilton Island Yacht Club, Luna Rossa stepped into the role as the next to challenge.

Patrizio Bertelli spells out his view of the 2013 America’s Cup in Auckland in October 2012

The Italians magnanimously waived their effective right of veto of change under the Protocol, instead ceding that right to the majority decision of the Challengers, of which there are currently five.

Given that three of the Challengers – two of which are first time Challengers – have indicated their support for the move, it could be a done deal, unless cooler heads prevail.

Had the Italians not given away their effective right of veto, they would have had the ability to stop this move dead in its tracks, now they are locked into the decision of the majority – two of which are first time challengers. Artemis Racing sailed just four races in the Challenger Rounds for the 34th America’s Cup.

The first of the America’s Cup World Series events scheduled for Cagliari, Italy for early June would probably not proceed without the support of Luna Rossa.

In a further legal complication the mooted change may also fail on other grounds in the Protocol, which required the Defender to publish the AC62 Class Rule prior to the opening of the Entry Period, and having published this Rule, and met this deadline, it would require regatta organisers to re-write history to give effect to the proposed change in boat.

A clarification of the matter is expected by the end of March, with a further Competitor Meeting being held on Tuesday.

The dispute cannot be resolved by the Arbitration Panel for the 35th America’s Cup, as none has been appointed. The issues between Cup organisers and the International Sailing Federation also appear to be unresolved.

The 35th America’s Cup is due to be sailed in just 27 months, with the first event in the America’s Cup World Series scheduled to take place in just three months. The date and venue pf the Qualifier series, which in turn triggers the launch date for the AC62’s has not been formally announced.


This is a story that I have followed with interest. I have always felt that the punishment handed out to Team Oracle during the America’s Cup was very strange.  A punishment handed out for something that occurred in a series that actually had nothing whatsoever to do with the America’s Cup event.

I also have trouble believing that Dirk de Ridder could have approved changes to a boat without higher authority approval. I am pleased for Dirk de Ridder.


Dirk De Ridder Suspension Reduced To 18 Months By The CAS
Lausanne, Switzerland: The Dutch sailor and former member of Oracle Team USA, Dirk de Ridder, has had his three-year suspension reduced to 18 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Mr de Ridder filed an appeal at the CAS in June 2014 against the decisions taken by the Disciplinary Commission (DC) of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and the ISAF Review Board in relation to the sailor’s alleged involvement in the manipulation of the weight distribution of AC45 yachts used in the inaugural America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) and the 2013 America’s Cup. The ISAF DC found that he had committed a gross breach of the rule which requires boats to comply with class rules, as well as of good sportsmanship, had brought the sport into disrepute and was therefore open to sanction. The ISAF Review board concurred and imposed a period of ineligibility of three years.

In appealing to the CAS, Mr de Ridder sought to overturn such decisions on the grounds that they were based on insufficient evidence, that the imposed sanction was disproportionate and that the ISAF lacked jurisdiction.

The CAS Panel found that the ISAF had jurisdiction to issue its decisions, and also found, to its comfortable satisfaction, that Mr de Ridder gave instructions, express or implied, to add weight to the forward king post of boat 4 at the Newport Regatta, part of the ACWS competition, held in June/July 2012. However, with respect to the sanction, the Panel found that a period of ineligibility of 3 years was disproportionate in light of the circumstances of the case and compared to previous sanctions imposed by the sailing federation in similar matters.


BY BERNIE WILSON, Associated Press
Americas Cup Suspension SailingFILE – In this Feb. 11, 2010 file photo, BMW Oracle Racing wing sail trimmer Dirk de Ridder from The Netherlands, attends a press conference in Valencia’s, Spain. Dirk de Ridder is suspended for five years by sailing’s governing body, the AP is told. He was part of the Oracle Team USA crew and disqualified from the 2013 America’s Cup for illegally altering boats in warmup regattas. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza, File)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — America’s Cup sailor Dirk de Ridder has been suspended from sanctioned events for five years by sailing’s international governing body, two people with knowledge of the decision said Tuesday.

The people spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the suspension is being appealed.

Unless a review board or the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturns the suspension, it effectively ends de Ridder’s sailing career. Not only is the 41-year-old de Ridder banned from the 2017 America’s Cup, but he’s unable to accept a $500,000 contract to sail in the Volvo Ocean Race, which begins later this year.

Word of the suspension came less than a week after two New Zealand attorneys criticized the international jury that punished members of America’s Cup champion Oracle Team USA, including de Ridder, after investigating the illegal modification of boats used in warmup regattas.

De Ridder said via email from his home in the Netherlands that he couldn’t comment on his case. He was banished from the 2013 America’s Cup and Oracle Team USA was docked two points by the international jury four days before the opening races of the regatta in September on San Francisco Bay. Oracle twice trailed Emirates Team New Zealand by seven points before staging one of the greatest comebacks in sports by winning the final eight races to retain the Auld Mug.

Jerome Pels, secretary general of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), said via email that he couldn’t comment on either de Ridder’s case or on the report that was issued last week on behalf of Yachting New Zealand, in which two independent attorneys criticized the America’s Cup International Jury for “significant” procedural shortcomings and raised numerous concerns about evidence and the jury’s reasoning.

In that report, which was based on transcripts of the jury’s investigation last summer, the attorneys said two Kiwis on Oracle Team USA — grinder Matt Mitchell and shore crew member Andrew Walker — shouldn’t face further discipline by Yachting New Zealand. The international jury had barred Mitchell from the first four races of the America’s Cup match and expelled Walker.

Likewise, de Ridder had been cleared of further punishment by his national governing body before the ISAF Disciplinary Commission issued the five-year suspension.

Russell Coutts, CEO of Oracle Team USA, declined comment on de Ridder’s case.

However, Coutts said on his Facebook page last week that “The ISAF jury appeared to be on a crusade to ‘save the America’s Cup’ and I believe they may have allowed that belief to cloud their judgment.”

Paul Henderson, a former ISAF president and former International Olympic Committee member, told the AP by phone from his Toronto home on Tuesday that he’d never heard of such a harsh penalty, and that the case raises serious questions of whether de Ridder and others received due process.

“If you’re Ben Johnson and you won a gold medal and then got caught doping and were only banned for two years, and A-Rod is only out for a year, and then there’s somebody that it’s questionable whether he had anything to do with it, I don’t understand,” Henderson said.

Henderson said the New Zealand attorneys wrote “an excellent report. You read it and say, ‘Oooh. I’m not sure due process was done.”

Henderson said de Ridder’s case needs to be heard by the CAS.

On Aug. 27, after the America’s Cup International Jury had begun its hearing, the ISAF Disciplinary Commission approved rules of procedure that, among other things, allowed hearsay evidence.

Henderson said another problem is that the jury “has become a very incestuous group.” Some of the members of the America’s Cup International Jury are included in pools used to form review boards and disciplinary commissions. “It’s a lot of conflict,” Henderson said.

Pels said in an email that no one would sit on a panel if they were involved in an original decision.

Besides raising questions about the jury’s procedures, the two New Zealand attorneys wrote that they were “troubled” that the jury didn’t include an allegation of gross misconduct against Oracle’s Simeon Tienpont, who, according to the report, signed an interview record sheet stating that he helped Mitchell modify a 45-foot catamaran that was skippered by British sailing star Ben Ainslie, who was a key member of Oracle’s sailing team.

Tienpont sailed in the America’s Cup.

Coincidentally, Ainslie is Pels’ brother-in-law. In 2012, ISAF declined to further punish Ainslie after he grappled with a TV cameraman during the 2011 world championships and was disqualified from two races. That allowed Ainslie to sail in the Olympics, where he won his fourth straight gold medal and fifth games medal overall.


Against the Wind

One of the Greatest Comebacks in Sports History


Photo: Getty Images; Animation: The Wall Street Journal

The winds on San Francisco Bay started kicking up in the late morning. Before long, they were blowing more than 20 miles an hour.

Jimmy Spithill and his 10 teammates put on their crash helmets and flotation vests and climbed aboard the AC72, a menacing, 13-story black catamaran capable of near-highway speeds. As a powerboat pulled them into the bay for Race 5 of the 2013 America’s Cup, Mr. Spithill shot a glance at the Golden Gate Bridge. It was shrouded in fog.

Jimmy Spithill in front of San Francisco Bay on Feb. 3, 2014. Drew Kelly for The Wall Street Journal

An unfamiliar, uncomfortable feeling was tugging at him. Mr. Spithill, skipper of Oracle Team USA, the richest and possibly most prohibitively favored team in the history of the world’s most famous yacht competition, had lost three of the first four races. Something was wrong with the way the Oracle boat was performing. Now he was facing the unthinkable: His team might lose.

The America’s Cup, first held in 1851, is believed to award the world’s oldest international sporting trophy. The contest also is one of the least professionalized. There is no permanent organization, commission or governing body. The winner gets to pick where and when the next race is held—typically every three to five years—and what type of boat is used. All that tends to make the racing rather lopsided. In most cases, the faster of the two boats in the finals wins every match—and the faster boat is usually the defending champion.

The 2013 Cup wasn’t supposed to be any different. But a competition that was expected to be humdrum turned into one of the most remarkable ever. This account of how that happened was pieced together through extensive interviews with the sailors, engineers and other team leaders.


Largely because of team owner Larry Ellison, the founder of software giant Oracle Corp. and one of the world’s richest men, Oracle had all the advantages conferred upon the incumbent, plus some.

The 11 sailors were a collection of international superstars. The engineers who designed the yacht and the programmers who built the software used to plot strategy had no peer. Oracle’s computer simulations suggested the AC72—which cost at least $10 million to build—wasn’t just the better boat in the final, it was the fastest sailboat ever to compete for the Cup, capable of 48 knots, or about 55 mph.

Mr. Spithill wasn’t sure why Emirates Team New Zealand, Oracle’s opponent in the final, had been faster so far. The prevailing theory among Oracle’s sailors was that they were just rusty. As the defending Cup champions, they hadn’t had to race in the preliminaries.

As the AC72 dropped its towline on Sept. 10 and headed for the starting line, Mr. Spithill hoped that in Race 5, the Oracle crew would get its act together.

The start of an America’s Cup race is an exercise in pinpoint execution. The two boats can’t cross the starting line until a countdown timer hits zero. On this day, both boats hit the line simultaneously.

The five legs of the racecourse sent the boats from near the Golden Gate Bridge to the downtown San Francisco waterfront and took anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to complete, depending on wind. Through the first two legs, Oracle was in total control, building up an eight-second lead.


The upwind third leg was the one that had been keeping Mr. Spithill awake at night. Sailors have known since ancient times that sailing against the wind requires plotting a zigzag course—called tacking—steering the boat back and forth at a roughly 45-degree angle to the wind. Oracle’s aura of invincibility had crumbled on this upwind leg. If New Zealand was behind at the upwind turn, it would take the lead. If the Kiwis already had the lead, they would turn the race into a rout.

Tacking involves an elaborately choreographed routine. To initiate the turn, eight sailors crank winches resembling hand-operated bicycle pedals, powering the system that moves the sail. Two sailors pull ropes to adjust the angles of the enormous mainsail and the smaller jib. At precisely the right moment, the skipper—Mr. Spithill—spins the helm. Then all 11 sailors scurry from one hull, across a patch of trampoline-like netting, to the other side.

If everything goes right, the boat loses little speed. A small misstep or two, however, can cause the boat to bog down—or in extreme cases, to capsize.

As the upwind leg began, New Zealand headed out toward the San Francisco waterfront while Oracle vectored toward Alcatraz Island. Mr. Spithill looked over his shoulder and saw he was ahead of New Zealand by 2½ boat lengths. But the Kiwis edged closer with every turn. Within three minutes, New Zealand’s red yacht crossed in front of Oracle. Mr. Spithill had blown another lead.

By the time the boats reached the fourth leg, the gap was too large for Oracle to recover. New Zealand won by more than a minute. In racing terms, that might as well have been a week. New Zealand was now nearly halfway to the nine wins it needed to secure the Cup—and the time gap between the boats was only getting larger.

Even the Kiwis were surprised. After the race, Team New Zealand’s managing director, Grant Dalton, passed one of his sailors in the hallway and said: “I can’t believe we just won.”

As the AC72 skulked back to its berth, Mr. Spithill heard the voice of Russell Coutts, the New Zealand-born chief executive of the Oracle team, on his walkie-talkie: “Have you thought about using the postponement card?”

A postponement card is the America’s Cup equivalent of a timeout, envisioned as a way for teams to fix problems like broken equipment. By using it, Oracle would be able to delay the afternoon’s second race to the next race day, 48 hours later.

“We’re going to play it now,” Mr. Spithill told Mr. Coutts.

At the postrace news conference, the grim-faced skipper said: “We feel like we need to regroup, really take a good look at the boat.”

The following day, his team practiced in the bay and considered modifications to the boat, while the programmers ran simulations. In addition, the team’s tactician, who advises Mr. Spithill on wind, current and strategy, was replaced.

Mr. Spithill thought the break, and the small modifications they had made, might have done the trick.

The answer came quickly in Race 6. After getting blown out again on the upwind leg, Oracle lost by a margin of 47 seconds, and later that day, lost Race 7 by 66 seconds, its worst finish yet. New Zealand now needed just three more wins—and it had 12 chances to get them.

Already, the fans who gathered on the waterfront to watch the races had started cheering for the Kiwis. Unless Mr. Spithill figured out how to sail faster upwind, the affable sailor would forever be remembered as the engineer of his sport’s greatest flop.

Jimmy Spithill grew up in the tiny Australian town of Elvina Bay, just north of Sydney. He learned to sail in a leaky wooden dinghy that a neighbor had planned to throw away.

Being a sailor of modest means isn’t easy. Even as Mr. Spithill showed prodigious talent as a teenager, his parents—his father was an engineer, his mother a medical receptionist—struggled to send him to international competitions. Mr. Spithill exhibited an aggressive streak and a blue-collar mentality. Once, a week before the national high-school sailing championship, he broke his wrist playing rugby. He won the sailing contest in a cast.

In 1999, when he was 20, the Young Australia team made him the youngest skipper in America’s Cup history. The team lost, but he proved talented enough to get recruited to the U.S. team OneWorld in 2003. He lost again in preliminaries, to Mr. Ellison’s Oracle team, which went on to lose in the finals.

He returned in 2007 as helmsman for the Italian team Luna Rossa. During the semifinals of the challengers’ heats, he got his first glimpse of Mr. Ellison’s lavishly funded new Oracle team, with a budget that ran into the tens of millions. He routinely outwitted Oracle at the starting line and won the series, 5-1, before losing in the next round.

Mr. Coutts, the Oracle team’s CEO, was suitably impressed. When the Cup was over, he made Mr. Spithill one of his newest hires.

For the next Cup, team Oracle tricked out its three-hulled trimaran with a revolutionary carbon-fiber sail that looked like an upright airplane wing. Joseph Ozanne, then a 30-year-old engineer with a degree from a prestigious French aeronautics-engineering program, was responsible for designing the sail, which contained movable flaps like on an airplane.

Mr. Ozanne was in charge of a computer program, the Velocity Performance Predictor, that calculated optimal wing angles and projected speeds. But the sailors ignored his advice. “You did your job, now let us sail the boat,” Mr. Ozanne recalls being told.

Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison spent at least $10 million to build the AC72, the most technically sophisticated sailboat ever to compete for the America’s Cup.

After the sailors struggled for two days, Mr. Ozanne sat them down for a PowerPoint presentation. “You need to forget everything you’ve done on the conventional sail,” he said. When the sailors eventually heeded his suggestions, the boat began performing as advertised.

At the 2010 Cup, held in Valencia, Spain, Mr. Spithill led Oracle into the final. It was a cake walk, with BMW Oracle winning the first two races in the short best-of-three format. At age 30, he was the youngest winning skipper in the competition’s history.

For the 2013 Cup defense, Mr. Ellison decided to commission a new kind of boat, a decision that would turn the sport into something akin to Formula One on water. Picture two canoes, each one 72 feet long and made of carbon fiber, connected by a raft, with a 13-story wing, also made of carbon fiber, pinned to the middle. The software tycoon’s $10 million investment created a vessel that could do more than 50 mph.

The boat was so strange and powerful it was hard to handle. During training in October 2012, problems setting the sails and steering the boat caused the bows to nose-dive and the boat to pitch forward until the sail slammed into the water, leaving the sailors clinging to the yacht. The experience spooked everyone.

In May 2013, during practice for the Cup races, the Swedish team, Artemis Racing, had a similar mishap. One of the sailors got trapped underneath the boat and drowned.

Coming into the final, Mr. Spithill and his crew felt they were ready for the speed. And they had reason to be supremely confident. According to the computer, the AC72, with its skinnier hulls and drag-reducing dug-out cockpits, was superior to New Zealand’s boat.

If anyone had predicted that New Zealand would win six of the first seven races, they might have been thrown overboard. But that is exactly what had happened.

After his Race 7 drubbing, Mr. Spithill emerged from his shower to find that the team’s sailors, engineers, designers and computer scientists had started a meeting without him. All the chairs were taken.

Mr. Spithill sat on a desk and sipped a Red Bull as the 30 people took turns suggesting changes to the boat.

As mandated by America’s Cup rules, all the teams had to create boats of the same basic design—in this case a 72-foot catamaran. All of them had L-shaped boards under their hulls called “foils,” which stick down below the waterline like little feet. When the boats hit a certain speed, the hulls rise out of the water and ride on the surfboard-size foils, creating the illusion that the boats are actually flying.

Both Oracle and New Zealand had been foiling downwind. But New Zealand’s boat was getting partially up on its foils on the upwind leg, too.

Oracle had experimented with upwind foiling five weeks before the race at the insistence of Tom Slingsby, a redheaded Australian team member who had just won a sailing gold medal at the London Olympics. Mr. Slingsby had seen the Kiwis doing it in practice and the preliminary rounds, and to his eyes, they were sailing much faster than Oracle. Before the final, he had emailed Messrs. Spithill and Coutts, telling them it could be a “game changer” and they needed to try it.

For two weeks, they had—but for only a few minutes a day. Nearly every time they tried, Oracle’s hulls would fall off the foils and the bows would nose-dive into the water. There also was a bigger problem cutting into Mr. Spithill’s practice time. Cup officials were investigating a modification Oracle had made on its boat—one ultimately ruled a violation of the rules. Oracle was slapped with a two-race penalty before the competition even began.

There was little time to experiment with the new technique, and Mr. Ozanne’s software indicated Oracle would easily outsail New Zealand upwind even without foiling.

Now, with the Cup under way and New Zealand using the technique to smoke Oracle on the upwind leg, the topic was back on the table.

The engineers weren’t sure it was possible because modifications made before and during the race had created balance problems. When the AC72 was foiling, not enough of its load was borne by the rudders in the rear. That made the boat hard to control—sort of like an airplane with too much weight on its nose.

Oracle’s boat designers suggested redistributing the load, mainly by increasing the twist in the top of the sail and decreasing it down below. The shore crew worked through the night. Mr. Spithill went home to his apartment in San Francisco’s posh Marina District.

Each night, he would act out the farce of going to bed at 11—only to lie awake worrying. Before the races had begun, a confident Mr. Spithill had flirted with the idea of flying to Las Vegas during the middle of the competition to see a Floyd Mayweather Jr. boxing match. That never happened. Unable to sleep, he would eventually grab his laptop and dial up video of the losing races.

Each time, he jumped to the beginning of the upwind leg. Sailing upwind involves a trade-off between speed and distance—the tighter the angle to the wind, the shorter the total travel distance but the slower the boat moves. Mr. Ozanne’s computer program had given a target: Sail into the wind at a relatively tight angle of about 42 degrees, which would produce the optimal mix of speed and travel distance.

Looking at the video, Mr. Spithill could see that the Kiwis had come to a different conclusion. They were sailing at much wider angles to the wind—about 50 degrees, on average. They were covering more water but reaching higher speeds—more than enough to offset the greater distance traveled. Foiling appeared to be the key. Oracle’s computers hadn’t anticipated such speeds.

Nobody had expected this. Had team Oracle placed too much faith in the technology? Had its enormous budget lulled the team into overconfidence? Had Mr. Spithill gotten away from the lessons he had learned in Elvina Bay?

What especially galled him was the New Zealand team’s apparent contempt for Oracle’s approach. The managing director of the New Zealand team, Mr. Dalton, was openly disdainful of the costly, high-tech catamaran Oracle had chosen. The Kiwi boat had a similar, but more rugged, design. Dean Barker, the opposing skipper, was the son of New Zealand businessman Ray Barker, who had founded the menswear company Barkers.

Mr. Spithill didn’t relish losing the Cup to a team who could say, rightfully, that their win represented a triumph for the craft of sailing. With his team’s prospects getting dimmer by the hour, Mr. Spithill decided it was time to stop obeying the computers and start thinking like sailors.

The next morning, a scheduled off day, Oracle’s sailors made upwind foiling the focus of their practice. Rather than sailing 42 degrees off the wind, what the team called their “high and slow” mode. Mr. Slingsby suggested trying 55 degrees, which he called “low and fast.” When the boat got moving fast enough to get up on its foils, the crew made another discovery. It was able to tack more quickly—13 mph rather than 10 mph.

The mood began to lighten. But after three years of training, the America’s Cup might just come down to how well he and his crew executed a maneuver they had practiced for just one day.

In Race 8, New Zealand jumped out to an early lead. But after the boats turned upwind, Oracle was moving faster than ever. The difference was Oracle was now foiling, too.

The race was dead even until near the end of the upwind leg, when Oracle pulled off a quick turn and began heading into the path of the Kiwi yacht. In sailboat racing, the boat on “starboard tack”—when the wind is blowing from the vessel’s right side—has the right of way over a boat on the opposite tack, with the wind coming from its left side. Oracle’s turn gave it the right of way. The Kiwis would have to either slow down and turn or go behind Oracle.

New Zealand tried to turn quickly, but miscues caused the wind to catch the sail the wrong way. Its right hull lurched into the air and the giant yacht began tipping. Oracle was headed directly into the underbelly of the Kiwi yacht, which was teetering at a 45-degree angle to the water.


“Starboard!” Mr. Spithill yelled into his radio to alert race officials the Kiwis weren’t yielding the right of way. As he yanked the helm to turn away, the New Zealand boat stopped tipping and slammed back into the water. The near capsizing completely sapped its speed.

Oracle won the race by 52 seconds. The sailors pumped their fists. Despite their six-race deficit, they had clearly caught New Zealand by surprise. “We rattled them,” Mr. Spithill told his team.

Back at the Oracle base, Mr. Ozanne said he had found the flaw in the computer model. To get going fast enough upwind to get on the foils, the yacht initially had to sail at an angle that would force it to cover more water—something the computer wasn’t programmed to allow. When Mr. Ozanne input the wider angles into the software, the computer had recalculated the speed and showed the boat could sail faster that way, confirming what the sailors had found.

Six days later, early in the morning of Sept. 20, Jimmy Spithill drove through the empty streets of San Francisco to the Oracle base for what he thought could be the team’s final race.

While Oracle had figured out to how to match New Zealand’s speed upwind, it hadn’t yet mastered the technique. The Kiwis had rallied to win two of the next three races, giving them an 8-1 advantage—thanks to the two-race penalty meted out to Oracle at the beginning—then Oracle had taken a race. Still, one more loss for Oracle and it was done.

Instead of turning on the car radio, Mr. Spithill plugged in his iPod and played one of his favorite songs, Rage Against the Machine’s “Take the Power Back.”

It was another foggy afternoon and the winds were unusually light. At the start, New Zealand took an early lead. As Oracle fell behind, the team continued making mistakes. The Kiwis sailed away through the fog. Their lead grew to nearly a mile. It was, for all intents and purposes, the end.

The Kiwis had one thing going against them. Under Cup rules, the winning team had to complete the course within 40 minutes or the race would be abandoned. The winds were so light, and the pace so slow, Mr. Spithill didn’t think the Kiwis could do it. But he wasn’t sure.

At exactly 2 p.m., Mr. Spithill heard the voice of a race official in the radio. “This is the race committee,” he said. “The time limit has expired.”

The Kiwis, about three minutes from the finish, had run out of time. “It just wasn’t meant to be,” says Mr. Dalton, the Kiwi team’s managing director.

The day wasn’t over yet. About 30 minutes later, the winds had picked up and the two boats entered the starting area to try again.

The Kiwis beat Oracle at the starting line. But by the time Oracle got to the upwind leg, it had a 20-second lead. It won by a commanding 84 seconds. The score was now 8-3.

On the next day of racing, Oracle took an early lead and held on to win by 23 seconds. In the day’s second race, it did the same, winning by 37 seconds.

It was now 8-5. Oracle now was foiling faster upwind than the Kiwis. But Mr. Spithill was well aware that with one misstep, it would be over. Still, the America’s Cup would be a race after all.

In the next race, Oracle outmaneuvered New Zealand off the starting line and led wire-to-wire. The score was 8-6.

The crowds were growing. Spectators who had earlier cheered for the underdogs from New Zealand had begun to cheer for the Americans.

On Sept. 24, Oracle took an early lead in the first race that it never relinquished. In the day’s second race, it took the lead on the upwind leg and won by 54 seconds. The score was 8-8.

Now it was the turn of Mr. Dalton, the New Zealand team’s managing director, to fear the worst: that the Oracle team might pull off the greatest comeback in Cup history.

The next day, Sept. 25, was the day of the decisive 19th race. During his drive to the base, Mr. Spithill listened to Pearl Jam’s live rendition of “Immortality.”

As a powerboat towed the Oracle yacht past the Kiwi base, Oracle’s sailors waved at their opponents in what had become a daily test: How many New Zealand team members would wave back? This time, nearly all of them did.

Mr. Dalton, New Zealand’s managing director, now saw his team’s prospects as bleak. “We knew we were going to lose the last race unless we sailed a perfect race,” he said.

About 45 minutes before the start, Mr. Spithill heard a loud bang. A critical piece of the sail—a part attaching some of the flaps to the wing—had sheared off. The wing wouldn’t curve properly without it.

Two powerboats sped over and the maintenance guys climbed up onto the wing and started shooting hot glue everywhere. They finished the job about five minutes before the boat had to enter the starting area. Mr. Spithill and his tactician looked at each other and laughed.

On the San Francisco shore, the Oracle supporters were back in full force, waving American flags. Just after the boats crossed the starting line, Oracle caught a gust of wind that sent its bows submarining into the water, costing it precious seconds.

Mr. Spithill had decided to sail conservatively. He wouldn’t get tangled with the Kiwis on the downwind leg, lest they crash or capsize. His goal was to keep it close until the upwind section, where he knew his boat now was faster.


When Oracle hit that leg, it trailed New Zealand by only three seconds. On every tack, it edged closer. Not far from the San Francisco waterfront, Oracle took a lead. When the upwind leg was done, Oracle was up by 26 seconds. The race was all but over.

As Oracle approached the finish line, Mr. Spithill glanced at one of his teammates, Kyle Langford, who was working in front of him. Mr. Langford, a 24-year-old last-minute addition to the crew, was in charge of adjusting the angle of the 13-story sail with a thick rope he held in his hands. There was nothing high-tech about this job, but it was absolutely crucial. If Mr. Langford dropped the rope, the yacht would quickly lose momentum and possibly capsize.

About three minutes from the finish line, the rope slipped out of Mr. Langford’s hands. He lunged and caught a piece of it with his left hand—just barely—and held on. Mr. Spithill laughed and said, “Nice catch, mate.”

Oracle crossed the finish line 44 seconds ahead of New Zealand. The sailors hugged.

A powerboat pulled up five minutes later. On it was Oracle founder Larry Ellison. He stepped aboard the yacht and said, “Do you guys know what you just did? You just won the America’s Cup!”


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The America’s Cup 34 will be remembered for many reasons. Perhaps the most significant is that it has defined sailing going forward. It will be the historical reference of the change from what was and what will be. Indeed the fulfillment of Russell Coutts prediction of the Flintstone generation and the Facebook generation.

I have stated before and will state again, the next Olympics, not the upcoming event, there will be at least one foiling class if not two.


ORACLE TEAM USA, Boeing to Recycle Composites in America’s Cup-Class Yacht
San Francisco, Monday, October 14, 2013
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7,000 lbs. of composites to be recycled using techniques created for 787 Dreamliner | Use and recycling of composites reduces environmental footprint of aircraft, yachts
ORACLE TEAM USA, winner of the 34th America’s Cup, and Boeing [NYSE: BA] are collaborating to recycle 7,000 pounds (about 3,175 kilograms) of carbon fiber of USA-71, a yacht built for the America’s Cup campaign in 2003. The hull and mast of the racing yacht will be processed and repurposed, a first-of-its-kind effort for what will likely be the largest carbon structure ever recycled.

ORACLE TEAM USA and Boeing, working with research partners, will utilize a technique developed to recycle composite materials from Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, which is 50 percent composite by weight and 20 percent more fuel-efficient than similarly sized aircraft. Composite materials allow a lighter, simpler structure, which increases efficiency, and do not fatigue or corrode. In yachts, composite construction also provides the ability to develop a lighter vessel that is stronger and stiffer at the same time.

“The introduction of composites in yacht construction was a major step in our sport. The materials and processes have continued to evolve, allowing us to build the high-tech, high-speed AC72 catamarans raced in this year’s America’s Cup,” said Chris Sitzenstock, ORACLE TEAM USA logistics. “Now, we have the ability to work with Boeing to take the next steps in composite recycling, and to help reduce our environmental footprint. We will also look to recycle carbon components remaining from the build of our yachts.”

“Boeing leads the commercial aviation industry in increasing the use and recycling of composites to improve aircraft fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Billy Glover, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of market strategy. “We are very pleased now to work with ORACLE TEAM USA, which transformed the science of sailing to win the America’s Cup, to advance sustainability and the science of composite recycling.”

Boeing and ORACLE TEAM USA will work with the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom and MIT-RCF, a South Carolina company focused on repurposing carbon fiber components. USA-71’s hull will be cut into 4-foot sections and the mast will be chopped into manageable pieces before it is processed; about 75 percent of the recycled composites will come from the hull and the remaining 25 percent from the mast.

Through these processes, Boeing and ORACLE TEAM USA expect to gather data about the mechanical properties, costs and time flows to recycle sailing-grade composite materials in comparison to aerospace-grade and automobile-grade composites. The companies have not determined the post-recycling use of the yacht’s carbon fiber, but potential end uses include consumer and industrial products.

USA-71 facts:

  • Launched in June 2002
  • First America’s Cup Class yacht built by ORACLE TEAM USA for training during the 2003 campaign
  • Boat was a corporate symbol in front of Oracle Corp. headquarters for 6 years
  • Total hull weight: 2.5 tons
  • Weight of composites to be recycled: 7,000 lbs. (about 3,175 kg)
  • Length: 25 meters (120 feet)
  • Width: 3.8 meters (12 feet)
  • Height of the mast: 32 meters (105 feet)
  • Weight of the bulb: 19 tons
  • Sail surface area: 325 m² upwind, 750 m² downwind