America's Cup - December 2012

Russell Coutts said early on in this Cup cycle that his new vision for the event was designed to “meet the expectations of the Facebook generation, not the Flintstone generation”. However, the Flintstones generation of America’s Cup sailors - Russell Coutts included - have not stepped aside willingly. There are plenty of 40- and 50-somethings on the sailing crews of Oracle Team USA, and to a less extent on Emirates Team New Zealand and Artemis Racing.

However December was a bad month for the Flintstones, with the 44-year-old skipper of Artemis, Terry Hutchinson, forced to stand aside for the younger members of the afterguard on the Swedish team. The 36-year-old triple Olympic medallist Iain Percy has been appointed sailing team director and it seems highly likely that recent recruit Nathan Outteridge, the 26-year-old 49er Olympic Champion from Australia, will become take Hutchinson’s job at the wheel of the team’s AC72 catamaran.

Even if Outteridge’s nascent talent for making a high-performance boat go fast makes him the more obvious candidate for steering an unknown beast like the AC72, it’s surprising that the dedicated American has had to quit the team altogether. His departure from Artemis marks a great loss of America’s Cup experience for the Swedish team.

Hutchinson was diplomatic when pushed for his reaction: "I am very proud of my tenure as the skipper and helmsman of Artemis Racing. On the water I experienced an aspect of our sport that was new, exciting and this challenge culminated in the 2012 ACWS match racing championship. Ashore, I had the opportunity to work with some incredibly smart and talented people. I wish nothing but success for Artemis Racing and I thank Torbjorn Tornqvist for this opportunity."

Hutchinson was one of very few high profile Americans in any of the four teams that will contest the Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup in San Francisco next year. The only others that come to mind are the team boss of Artemis, Paul Cayard, and Oracle’s tactician John Kostecki who finds himself drowning in a sea of Antipodeans in the American team. One can’t imagine that will play particularly well with the home crowd in San Francisco. So at least the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup will be a largely American affair. Recent weeks in San Francisco have seen six young crews from around the USA come to try their hand at AC45 sailing under the tutelage of Oracle’s coaching staff. The best of them will go forward to contest the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup next September, as a hor’s d’oeuvre before the main event, the America’s Cup proper.

While the senior team at Oracle wait to get their broken 72-foot toy back after that ignominious capsize, all the hard yards are being made in Auckland by Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa, the Kiwis and Italians at this early stage looking well ahead of the Americans and Swedish in the arms race. As the defender waits to receive a replacement wing for the one that was obliterated in October, the Kiwis are just weeks from launching their second and final AC72.






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