MORE CLAIMS OF CREDIT

Flying Dutchmen who won America’s Cup with a keel

  • THE AUSTRALIAN

Australia II, which won the 1983 America’s Cup with its secret weapon – the winged-keel. Picture: Tom R Ragland

Australia II at Newport, Rhode Island, after winning the 1983 America’s Cup.

Australia II, which won the 1983 America’s Cup with its secret weapon – the winged-keel. Picture: Tom R Ragland
Australia II at Newport, Rhode Island, after winning the 1983 America’s Cup

The longest winning streak in organised sporting history was broken on September 26, 1983, when Alan Bond’s Australia II broke the New York Yacht Club’s 132-year hold on the America’s Cup.

The revolutionary winged-keel was the key and all credit was given to Ben Lexcen, an immensely congenial, self-taught Sydney yacht designer.

That was what Australia believes. It was also what Bond had to convince the New York Yacht Club to believe because in 1983 it was against the America’s Cup rules to employ a designer who was not a national of the challenging club’s country.

But it was not true.

Suspicions were rife from the beginning that Lexcen was not the originator of the groundbreaking keel design. In 2009 Dutchman Piet van Oossanen claimed responsibility for the original design of the keel’s winglets and admitted accepting $25,000 in what he believed was hush money from Bond to keep the secret.

Now his claim has to be qualified. The man who kept the secret of the keel’s origin longest and who has best claim to be its designer has now come completely out of the shadow.

He is another Dutchman, Johannes “Joop” Slooff, a retired fluid dynamicist with a degree in aeronautical engineering, who has laid out his case in his book Australia II and the America’s Cup: The Untold, Inside Story of the Keel.

The evidence he presents to support his role as the keel designer seems irrefutable.

In 1981, Oossanen was the representative of The Netherlands Ship Model Basin, also known as MARIN (MAritime Research Institute of the Netherlands), contracted by Bond to conduct tank testing for the Cup challenge, and Slooff had been recruited by Oos­sanen from the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory.

Slooff, whom I met with his wife, Lia, in Newport while covering the historic 1983 America’s Cup for The Australian, spoke with me from his home in Uithoorn after the release of his book this week.

“Ben Lexcen wanted to test variations on a conventional keel when he came to Holland in May 1981 at the NSMB’s Wageningen test tank,” he told me.

“He may not have been aware I had been asked to join Piet for the keel design when he arrived.

“He wanted to benchmark test the Australia model with a couple of other conventional types of keel with thicker sections that can accommodate more ballast.

“I had by then been thinking about the winged keel for two or three weeks but as my real work was with aircraft I told him of my thoughts.”

For those two or three weeks, Slooff had been talking with van Oossanen about the keel shapes to be investigated through fluid dynamic computations at his department at NLR.

When Lexcen arrived, he put forward the proposal for the upside-down keel and the winglets, and included from his computations the relative dimensions, twist, taper, cant angle, section shapes and such.

“I had been arguing for years that an upside-down keel should suffer less from loss of side force through free water surface effects than ordinary tapered keels. My department at NLR had done research on winglets for aircraft around 1979-1980 and I realised that they would also be very effective in reducing the resistance due to side force of a sailing yacht when sailing upwind,” he said.

Slooff stresses that he and his co-worker Harm Sytsma had been studying the aerodynamic characteristics and performance improvement aspects of winglets for aircraft wings for the Fokker aircraft company.

“I argued that they should also work on sailing yacht keels and, probably, even better, because of the smaller span and the associated larger drag-due-to-lift of a keel as compared to an aircraft wing. In other words, they could improve the performance of a sailing yacht through a reduction of the underwater resistance when sailing upwind.

“Besides, winglets could accommodate additional low-positioned ballast that would improve the yacht’s stability and upwind performance further.”

Well aware of Lexcen’s status as one of Australia’s greatest sporting heroes with a legendary status akin to that of Phar Lap and approaching that of Donald Bradman, Slooff stresses that “nothing of what I have said or written changes the fact that Ben Lexcen had full design responsibility and was free to adopt or reject whatever was proposed to him.

“Ben and the Australian syndicate management had the courage to adopt something radical that had not (yet) proven its superiority. For this reason, the success of Australia II, in my opinion, is and remains an Australian success.”

Those who have followed this saga across the past three decades will doubtless hark back to the stories of Lexcen fixing endplates — like little wings — to the rudder of his 18-footer Taipan nearly 20 years before Australia II, but his biographer Bruce Stannard wrote: “Ben told me he had tried the winged keel idea before but was unsure whether it would work.”

Lexcen said to Stannard: “I had tried fins or wings on 5.5s and dinghies and they never worked or if they did I couldn’t tell the difference.”

Slooff says: “If he played with winglets in the 1960s, then why didn’t he put them on Southern Cross in 1974 and on Australia (I) in 1977 or 1980? And what about inverse taper (of the keel)?

“With three of the main players — Lexcen, (Warren) Jones and Bond — no longer among us, I will probably never know the answers to these questions.

“What is certain, however, is that Ben Lexcen never told me about his 1960s winglets.”

There is no one left from that triumvirate at the innermost core of the victorious 1983 campaign to speak for Lexcen who died in 1988 from a heart attack, aged 52.

Jones, executive director of Bond’s challenge and the tough no-nonsense end of the victorious 1983 campaign, died aged 65 after a massive stroke in 2002, and Bond died during heart surgery last June, aged 77.

John Longley, the project manager, who also sailed aboard Australia II, said it was difficult to say who had been responsible for what part of the enterprise when so many people had been involved.

“You have to remember that Benny was alone, surrounded by Dutch technocrats, there were plenty of ideas flying around and I know he was twitchy about the whole deal later because he told me.”

I was aware Slooff had played an important role in the keel development when I met him, but when I asked Lexcen about Slooff’s role when we were together in Newport after the series had ended he was uncharacteristically evasive.

“He’s a very friendly guy,” isn’t he, Lexcen said, and gave me one of his crew “boxing kangaroo” ties, which I still keep as a treasured memento of that Cup.

Australia II skipper John Bertrand, now president of Swimming Australia and busily preparing his charges for the Olympic trials, visited the test tank in The Netherlands with Bond and Jones on a lay day during the 1981 Admiral’s Cup series where he was racing Bond’s Apollo V with many of the sailors who would crew Australia II.

He says only someone of Lexcen’s eclectic mindset could have brought the whole boat together successfully.

“That was his genius,” Bertrand told me. “He had a dynamism, an extraordinary ability to accept what was different and see the merits. A great lateral thinker.”

Bertrand recalls Bond and Jones were at war with the New York Yacht Club which was constantly trying to nail them on the rules.

“They even wanted us to stop using Microsoft Windows because the software wasn’t created in Australia,” he said, citing a challenge that was quickly dismissed.

Bertrand also pointed out that the rule that barred competitors from using designers from countries other than their own has now gone — but that even in 1983 was constantly being bent with yet another Dutchman, Johan Valentijn, adopting Australian citizenship to work on Bond’s 1977 challenger Australia, taking up French citizenship to design for the French in 1980 before pledging allegiance to the US and signing up with Dennis Conner for 1983.

Yachting veteran James Hardy says he spoke with Lexcen at Lexcen’s home in Clontarf, Sydney, and the designer told him he had seen “some blokes testing end plates for aeroplanes in the test tank and had asked them ‘couldn’t you do something with those on a boat?’ ”

But how can we ever know, says Hardy, musing on the elements that combined to bring about historic victory, how can we ever know exactly which piece of coal makes the whistle blow?

GLEN ASHBY, NEW NEW ZEALAND SKIPPER

Glenn Ashby says culturally, Team NZ is the strongest team in the America's Cup. Photo / Ricardo Paolo
Glenn Ashby says culturally, Team NZ is the strongest team in the America’s Cup. Photo / Ricardo Paolo

With a minimum of fanfare, Team New Zealand recently appointed just the third skipper in their 20-year existence.

The fact Glenn Ashby is not a New Zealander and not even a helmsman has created no ripples. Probably it is because the manner of his predecessor’s departure captured all the headlines; possibly it is because he’s such a driver of the team culture that he is viewed among his teammates as an honorary Kiwi.

“I’m honoured to have the team put me in this position,” the 37-year-old Victorian, who is also director of sailing, said. “I really feel as a group we’re in a really strong position going forward and that’s one of the reasons I rejoined Emirates Team New Zealand.”

It wouldn’t have been because of money. Ashby’s multihull pedigree – he was an Olympic silver medallist in the Tornado and the owner of eight consecutive A-Class world championships – and form meant he was a hot commodity after the last America’s Cup.

He could have signed for a lot more with other teams, but eventually chose to stay because, well, he liked the place.

“Having come from Oracle in the [Valencia] campaign, the Team New Zealand culture suits me very well.

“The work ethic, the culture of the team where everyone has everybody’s back and we crossover [between design, build, shore and sailing] to make sure no stone is unturned in any department is something I really enjoyed.

“It was a big influence for me re-signing. While things have been tough over the past 12 months, I [believe] that the people who are really important to the team are still with the team. It gives us the opportunity to step forward and make some big gains.

“Culturally, Team New Zealand is the strongest team in the America’s Cup at the moment.”

That might be surprising to hear given that there has been a big, black cloud hovering over Halsey St that has proved difficult to shift. The threat of closure if more Government money wasn’t forthcoming did not play out well and the departure of popular skipper Dean Barker was messier than mealtime at a daycare centre, but Ashby’s optimism remains undimmed.

After the first week of racing in the America’s Cup World Series, which saw Team NZ finish a creditable second at Portsmouth, his belief has increased. This was his first regatta as skipper and wunderkind Peter Burling’s first time at the helm and he liked what he saw.

“I recognised three or four years ago that continuing to raise the bar right through our sailing programme was really important. He [Burling] was recognised not just by myself, but a lot of the other team members as well. Peter and Blair Tuke were the sort of guys with the attributes we were looking for going forward.

“They were certainly identified as huge talents … . They’re at the top end of their [49er] Olympic sailing programme and in the high-performance world of yachting that we’re now in, this type of sailing really suits those younger guys.”

Ashby said that as a wing trimmer, he had no aspirations to be skipper. Certainly the move has caught some by surprise, though its logic is hard to fault. While it is normal for the helmsman to be skipper, Team NZ bosses feel there is already enough pressure on Burling, 24, without him having to deal with the peripheral issues.

Finally getting back on the water made the elevation feel more real, Ashby said.

“Absolutely. For me, being a yachtsman, the racing side of things for me is the thing that makes me tick.

“The last America’s Cup, that was tough how it ended, and the past 18 months have been tough, but that’s sport, that’s life, and I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge.”

Glenn Ashby

• Just Team NZ’s third skipper.
• Hails from inland Bendigo, Victoria.
• Lives at the Mornington Peninsula, Australia, and Pt Chevalier, Auckland.
• Silver medal at the 2008 Olympics with Darren Bundock.
• Multiple multihull world champion.

ANOTHER MAN’S OPINION

Counterpoint

Time and distance tend to impart a rosy glow, so before you guys turn the recently departed Alan Bond into some kind of sailing saint, please pause to learn some of the more pertinent realities of the man who headed Australia’s successful challenge for the America’s Cup in 1983. Here goes:

Bond was not Australian born. He emigrated here from the UK aged 11. He had a criminal record as a 14-year-old in Perth for petty theft, and fell foul of the law again at 18 for attempted burglary. Throughout his life he lied about his school record and achievements. From his early 20s he had set a pattern of not paying his business debts and borrowing beyond his capacity to pay.

Bond is still the biggest corporate criminal in Australian history. When his empire collapsed in 1991 he left the banks, financiers and shareholders around $6 billion out of pocket. He ruined thousands of lives through deliberate bankruptcies that left his mum & dad shareholders with nothing.

Bond was convicted three times for different frauds. In 1997 he was sentenced to seven years in prison for siphoning off $1.2 billion in shareholder funds for his own use. In an attempt to avoid a jail term Bond feigned mental illness. His daughter died of a suspected drug overdose and his second wife committed suicide.

As for his contribution to sailing, his America’s Cup campaigns were principally exercises in self promotion and largely financed by borrowed money. Bond was a notoriously hopeless yachtsman himself, and did little to encourage or support sailing in Australia beyond the very narrow and exclusive circle of the 12 metre scene.

THE MAN WHO CHANGED HISTORY

DRINKING SUCCESS
DRINKING SUCCESS
AMERICA'S CUP HALL OF FAME
AMERICA’S CUP HALL OF FAME
BEN LEXAN AND THE KEEL
BEN LEXAN AND THE KEEL
SOUTHERN CROSS
SOUTHERN CROSS
UNBOLTING THE CUP
UNBOLTING THE CUP

 

Alan Bond, the controversial business tycoon who backed Australia’s ultimately successful bid for the America’s Cup yacht race, has died aged 77. He was just 12 years old when he stepped ashore in Australia for the first time. His parents, Frank and Kathleen, like many thousands of Britons in the aftermath of the second world war, had taken the momentous decision to emigrate from the grey austerity of northern Europe to the sun-kissed southern hemisphere.

Young Alan, born in Hammersmith, west London, was plucked from Perivale school in Ealing and on arrival in Australia attended Fremantle boys’ school near Perth. He took a job as a signwriter on leaving school, but quickly realised that his future lay in business. Such was his talent and determination that before he reached his 40s, his name was known throughout Australia and beyond. In 1978 he was named Australian of the year.

His fortune was derived initially from property development, an activity which he started soon after leaving school. In 1959 he set up Bond Corporation, one of the first true “conglomerates” (corporate entities which own other, quite disparate, businesses), a form of entrepreneurship that came to dominate the stock markets internationally during the 1970s and continues to this day.

Outside the business world, however, Bond achieved fame and honour for his dedicated pursuit of the America’s Cup, the world’s most prestigious yacht racing trophy. He financed the first America’s Cup challenge in 1974, but it took a further three attempts before, in 1983, the 12-metre yacht Australia II brought the Auld Mug to the Royal Perth Yacht Club. It was the first time the trophy had been wrested from the New York Yacht Club since the competition was set up in 1851. Bond had bankrolled all four attempts, and his status as a national hero was confirmed.

Bond was big of build and charismatic of nature, and his status and personality undoubtedly contributed to an extraordinary run of successes in business. His Bond Corporation expanded from property into brewing, oil and gas, television, mineral exploitation and even airships. His personal fortune mounted up until he could be counted as one of the richest men in Australia, worth billions of dollars.

“Bondy”, as he was universally known, and his first wife, Eileen (nee Hughes), were seldom out of the society columns. He moved between Australia and London, where his business interests were also developing. Four years after the America’s Cup triumph, Bond paid US$53.9m for Van Gogh’s Irises, at the time the largest sum ever paid for a single painting.

Earlier in 1987, Bond purchased the Australian television network Channel Nine from Kerry Packer, a fellow Australian tycoon, for A$1.2bn, a deal that was to be the high-water mark of Bond’s success. In October that year, stock markets around the world crashed, an event that proved catastrophic for Bond and many other entrepreneurs.

As he struggled to keep his empire afloat, his personal life also suffered. In 1990, his marriage of 35 years was dissolved. Under pressure from the banks, that year he stepped down as chairman of Bond Corporation, which was collapsing under a mountain of debt. He began to believe that those who once feted him had been working to bring him down.

A year later, Bond Corporation finally went under, with Bond’s personal and corporate businesses inextricably entwined. He always insisted, however, that there was “no dishonesty” in the group or in the interlocking finances.

In 1992, he was declared personally bankrupt over a loan guarantee. He was accused of secreting away money and real assets such as diamonds and art treasures in overseas locations, places where neither the authorities nor his creditors could touch them. He claimed to have personally lost A$900m.

Nevertheless, he was jailed for dishonesty in relation to an Australian merchant bank, Rothwells, that had collapsed. He spent three months in prison but was later released and acquitted. Meanwhile, despite having other charges hanging over him, which led to two more convictions and prison sentences in 1995 and 1997, Bond was already beginning to lay down the foundations of a second life and a second career. He spent a total of four years in jail.

In 1995, he was released from bankruptcy. He married for the second time, and once again Bond and his new wife, Diana Bliss, began to appear in society. She was a former Qantas flight attendant whom Bond had met when she was working in public relations. Banned from holding directorships in Australia, Bond moved his centre of business overseas. He acquired interests in diamonds and oil, mostly in Africa. He lived in London but based his business interests elsewhere.

While his wealth steadily accumulated, much to the chagrin of investors who had lost money in the earlier Bond ventures, his personal life was more difficult. One of his daughters, Susanne, an equestrian show jumper, died in 2000 from a suspected accidental overdose of prescription medicine. Diana, who had carved a successful career as a theatre director, took her own life in 2012.

Bond was knocked back by these tragedies but found solace in Farm Street, the Jesuit church in Mayfair, London. His own health, however, was deteriorating. He had undergone open heart surgery in the 1990s, and in the week of his death returned to Perth for further surgery. His first wife, Eileen, travelled to Australia to be by his side.

He is survived by her, and by his sons, John and Craig, and daughter Jody.

 Alan Bond, businessman, born 22 April 1938; died 5 June 2015

 This article was amended on 5 June. A reference to Alan Bond’s second wife, Diana, being given the nickname “Big Red” by gossip columnists was deleted: it was his first wife, Eileen, whom they had given the nickname to.

MEANWHILE IN BERMUDA

 

America’s Cup designer Loick Peyron says changes to boat sizes have been ‘brutal’

Sailing great Loick Peyron admits changes were needed but wonders whether America's Cup bosses have gone too far.

Reuters

Sailing great Loick Peyron admits changes were needed but wonders whether America’s Cup bosses have gone too far.

A yacht racing and design guru has described the America’s Cup changes as “brutal” and wondered if the radical revamp has gone “too far”.

Frenchman Loick Peyron is part of Artemis Racing’s design “dream team”, providing an ability to transfer his long and successful racing career into performance gains with the radical foiling catamarans.

America’s Cup bosses caused controversy with their recent decision to reduce the boats from 62-feet to 48-feet and include several one-design elements to cut costs mid-cycle on the way to Bermuda 2017.

Swedish syndicate Artemis were part of the majority that backed that move along with cup holders Oracle and fellow challengers Team France and Ben Ainslie Racing (Britain). Team New Zealand were against the moves.

But Peyron, who sailed in Alinghi’s failed cup defence in 2010 and was part of Artemis’ troubled challenge in 2013, has admitted some personal concerns.

Asked by Yacht Racing Forum how he welcomed the news, Peyron responded: “It has been a bit brutal, although we were kind of expecting it. We had done a lot of work on our 62′ which will, hopefully, not be useless. Under the leadership of Iain Percy, we were working on our systems, in order to manage our appendages and our wing, and we’ll keep doing this, just at a smaller scale.”

Peyron said the changes meant the America’s Cup had lost the “big sailing team” aspect that set it apart in the sport.

“All you need now is a helmsman, a wing-trimmer and a group of hamsters to pump your hydraulics … maybe it’s gone a bit too far: too much muscle and not enough brain, we’ll see. But luckily for the white hairs, this game, like many others, needs experience,” he said.

Peyron suggested this was a transition period that would “favour participation”. Already Japan have re-emerged with a late challenge under the adjusted format and Team France have described the changes as a lifeline to their struggling budget.

“I would personally prefer bigger boats, where the choreography and other unique skills are really important. Hopefully foiling boat speed and “spectacle quality” are not linked to the size,” Peyron said before acknowledging the inevitability of progress through downscaling.

“These changes in the cup had to be done, even if some of them seem painful. We want to offer the best sport show ever, and it will be the case again.”

Peyron is a long-distance specialist who holds the record for the fastest circumnavigation of the world and has become a multihull specialist.

OUTRAGE AT EVERY QUARTER ABOUT THE AMERICA’S CUP

Even Bob Fisher, who as a journalist has always loved being an iconoclast is disturbed by the events leading up to the next America’s Cup to be held in Bermuda in 2017. Below are the words he penned for scuttlebutt:

2015-04-11_8-19-46
Bob Fisher: Disgracing the America’s Cup
Published on April 11, 2015 |
by Editor

Bob Fisher knows the America’s Cup, perhaps better than anyone. His books and articles have covered the event since 1851, and he considers the event unmatched in its history and intrigue. But what Bob sees now occurring for the 2017 edition gives him grave concern. Here are his words to the current trustee, Golden Gate Yacht Club…

I cannot escape notice of what you are doing to the America’s Cup – it has been nothing short of a disgrace to the premier event in the sport of Sailing. You have abused it, misused it and reduced it to no more than an average regatta, losing on the way its prestige and at the same time driven away the most serious competitors.

In the last America’s Cup event, held on the waters of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, for whom you act in a management role, the two challengers that came up to the mark were those from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and the Circolo della Vela Sicilia – Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) and Luna Rossa. In the course of the past week you have made it virtually impossible for ETNZ to raise the necessary funds to continue by removing any chance of a major regatta in Auckland, and, by a huge change in the size of boat, caused the Italian team to withdraw. Is this what you really want?

Gone is all semblance of stability and adherence to rules unanimously agreed at the outset and in their place an undercurrent of commercial misunderstanding and constantly changing rules without the unanimity of the challengers as initially agreed. Both of these are a disgrace to the Cup and to yourselves.

It was brought to my notice by you, in Auckland, that it was important for a part of the Challenger Final Selection Series to be held in the City of Sails in order to generate publicity for the America’s Cup in Asia and the reason for that was a Japanese team would shortly emerge, and that this would encourage television networks to purchase the rights.

Subsequently, the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) has made it clear that ALL Challenger Selection races will be held in Bermuda, effectively slapping ETNZ in the face and reducing the Kiwis’ chances of Government sponsorship (which hung on a major AC regatta in Auckland), possibly even eliminating this team from AC35

It is unnecessary for the America’s Cup to have a television audience. For many years there was no television coverage, and later only inserts into News programmes. Televising the event began in 1983 and was carried to a new height by ESPN in 1987 in Fremantle. Even then it didn’t need catamarans on hydrofoils sailing at 40 knots to be attractive – just 12-Metre yachts in boisterous conditions with some live sound from the boats.

Now, thanks to the wizardry of Stan Honey and his colleagues, full details of the speed and direction of each of the competitors is overlaid on the live pictures of the racing. The technology of other sports has improved television for even the non-sailor, but this does not drive the America’s Cup. Money does. And there will certainly not be enough from television rights to pay for the somewhat unnecessary regattas that take place using the name of the event that has, over 164 years, taken place only 34 times.

The America’s Cup is a one-off event. It does not need promoting with pseudo regattas in the intervening years, which use its name. The Challenger Selection Trials, together with the long lost Defender Selection Trials, are adequate and the responsibility for their expense is down to the individual teams. Now there is a state of affairs in which the Defender trials have been eliminated. In the Protocol, Item 17 clearly states:

“Defender means GGYC and the sailing team that represents GGYC in AC35;”

You have excluded any chance of another US Yacht Club from competing for the Cup, maybe even giving GGYC the type of competition it needs to retain the Cup. Not even the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) felt sufficiently confident to resort to that.

Neither did the NYYC resort to changing the boats at a late date – the move from the AC-62 to the AC-48 has been very last minute and particularly hard on the teams that had set up their design groups well in advance to produce the smaller AC-62, as announced soon after the last AC match. It is hardly surprising that you have put Patrizio Bertelli’s feelings in disarray to the extent he has withdrawn Luna Rossa from AC35. His team had been working since early January 2014 at its headquarters in Cagliari with a Design Office of 40, all working on the design of a 62-footer. I suppose your comment will be: “Silly him,” but you have lost one of the biggest commercial sponsors of the Cup – just look where the Prada advertisements for Luna Rossa appear.

To throw fat on the fire, you are offering to give design and financial support to the French team, which has made little progress, and what is worse attempting to justify this with the terms of the Deed of Gift, where it indicates that the event is to be: “a friendly competition between foreign nations.” But you may well counter this with the quote from the judge of the New York Court of Appeals in the case between the Mercury Bay Boating Club and San Diego Yacht Club, who queried: “Where in the Deed of Gift does it say the America’s Cup is supposed to be fair?”

The loss of Louis Vuitton, after 30 years, is another huge loss of commercial sponsorship, but the writing for that was on the wall in San Francisco.

Everything this time around has been late, and bringing in new entries at this stage is another breach of the Protocol. I implore you to get your act together, remember the event with which you are dealing, with its glorious past, and begin to act in a proper manner.

BRUNO TROUBLE SPEAKS OUT

BRUNO TOUBLE IN 1978
BRUNO TOUBLE IN 1978

Bruno Troublé: This is definitely NOT the America’s Cup

from scuttlebutt.

Bruno Troublé, a 2007 inductee to the America’s Cup Hall of Fame, has immense passion for the event.

After skippering two French challenges in 1977 and 1980, Bruno identified the opportunity to enhance the importance of the challenger selection series of the Cup. In 1983, he worked to create the Louis Vuitton Cup series, which continued until 2007, to select the Cup challenger.

But shifting sands has seen the Louis Vuitton brand lose interest, and while Bruno continued to work tirelessly to maintain the magic and tradition of the America’s Cup, he no longer recognizes what it has become. Here he comments…


I am away on my boat in Venice, enjoying spring in La Serenissima, far from the boiling controversy of the America’s Cup. All those witches and sorcerers trying to do good to the America’s Cup are instead slowly killing her. There have been so many mistakes over the last couple years!

Golden Gate Yacht Club, and their Oracle Team USA, are great sailors but hopeless guards of the Myth. They managed to kill the style and elegance which prevailed for decades, those unique aspects of the America’s Cup for which was our main aim at Louis Vuitton for 30 years.

They have discouraged the high level partners and put an end to the exclusive positioning of THE Cup. They have betrayed the long saga of incredible personalities who made the Cup so special. And they are now organizing a one design catamaran contest with no style and anonymous people beyond the sailing circles.

What we have now is a vulgar beach event smelling of sunscreen and french fries. This is definitely

LUNA ROSSA DROPS THE OTHER SHOE

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”.

AMERICA’S CUP: 48 FOOT CATS

 

PETEMELVIN

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.