America's Cup - May 2011

At the beginning of May the Challenger of Record, Mascalzone Latino, said it was withdrawing from the America's Cup. 

Team boss Vincenzo Onorato's valedictory letter implies that he had expected to see a significant part of the Cup circus feature in Italian waters. Perhaps he'd even been hoping for the Cup itself, although we'll never know. "Larry [Ellison, head of Oracle] deeply loves Italy and he was excited about this idea. The Cup in Italy would have been the greatest worldwide promotion for our beautiful coasts. There have been some very high level and important meetings that made us believing in this dream, but the things went in a different way." Without an Italian stage, Onorato must have been struggling to convince his two Italian sponsors to sign on the dotted line.

Onorato continues: "As Challenger of Record, we have worked with humility next to Oracle and I am satisfied of the result we have reached: a new Cup, spectacular, with new boats, the catamarans, that will launch on the international scene a new generation of sailors." The idea of a Challenger of Record working "with humility next to" the Defender will stick in the craw with Cup traditionalists. While there is much in the new direction of the America's Cup to get excited about, surely the role of the Challenger of Record is to challenge, not to become a co-signatory to, the Defender's plans.

This all sounds very reminiscent of the aftermath of the 2007 America's Cup, when a day after retaining the Cup, Alinghi published a protocol endorsed by a brand new yacht club from Spain, the Club Nautico Español de Vela (CNEV), Alinghi's Challenger of Record. The CNEV signed up to a protocol that was widely judged to be one of the most one-sided documents we have seen in the America's Cup.

The subsequent discrediting of the CNEV's status as a bone fide yacht club in the New York Supreme Court, and now Mascalzone Latino's failure to even make it past first base of this America's Cup cycle, raises interesting questions for the future of the Cup. Does the failure of the two most recent Challengers of Record point to the need for a ‘health check' of future aspirants to the role?

While it is not yet officially confirmed, the rules of the America's Cup state the Challenger of Record role is then moved on to the next team to have entered. In this case, the next entrant is Artemis, the Swedish challenged headed up by Paul Cayard.

Just over four years ago, Russell Coutts and Paul Cayard announced the launch of a new professional racing circuit, called the World Sailing League. The competition would take place in 70-foot, state-of-the-art catamarans. It was a grand and exciting vision, but when nothing of substance followed from that announcement, Coutts and Cayard were dismissed as being out of their league, and that they should stick to the sailing. But now it looks like the World Sailing League's happening after all, just that it's changed its name to the America's Cup.


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