Bråk i Americas Cup

Curres blogg:

Team New Zealand och Russel Coutts i bråk

Förra veckan publicerade New Zealand Herald en artikel där försvararna i America´s Cup anklagades för att ha ändrat reglerna till sin fördel, vilket reportern Dana Johannsen chef för sportredaktionen, konstaterade missgynnade det nya zeeländska laget.

I helgen kontrade Russel Coutts, femfaldig vinnare av pokalen och numera ansvarig för hela eventet påståendena. Därmed trappades den psykologiska kampen inför seglingarna upp ett steg till, och som i tidigare omgånga påminner intrigerandet om en dokusåpa.

Här återges båda parternas påståenden, men viss olust infinner sig när en enskild reporter anklagas för partiskhet och för att fara med osanning. Om Coutts kunde mer om tidningar hade han vetat att de har en ansvarig utgivare och att hon eller han, står bakom allt som publiceras. Det är alltså tidningen, inte en person/reporter, som ska stå till svars.

Dana Johannsen, New Zealand Herald:
America's Cup competitors have forced through another retrospective rule change, granting teams the ability to size up one another on the water, before official racing starts in May.
The protocol amendment, which was posted on the official noticeboard earlier this week, allows teams to race in an organised fashion at the Cup venue in Bermuda during nominated windows over the next two months.
The first window opened today, and Oracle Team USA and close allies Ben Ainslie Racing wasted little time in taking advantage of the rule change engineered by their own leaders. The two teams lined up against one another on Bermuda's Great Sound earlier today.
The original protocol stated competitors could only sail their America's Cup Class (ACC) yachts in a co-ordinated manner with another team during periods specified by the commercial director.
The rules stipulated the dates must be published no later than one year prior to the first scheduled race. However, America's Cup organisers dropped the ball and neglected to publish any dates last year.
Emirates Team New Zealand gleefully pointed out the oversight in a press release late last year.
"The effect of all of this for the fans is positive," the release state. "The unknown performance between teams will only add to the intrigue of how each team compares to each other on the first reach of each match up together."
The failure to publish the dates proved only a small hurdle for Oracle Team USA and the Bermuda-based competitors, however, with the rule change forced through by majority decision.

 

The protocol amendment was signed by all competitors, with the exception of Emirates Team New Zealand.

The specific rule change, in itself, is not especially troubling. Clearly, the original intent of the rule was to allow formal practice racing to take place.
The issue facing the America's Cup Events Authority now, however, is one of credibility of the competition. If Oracle and their allies are able to band together to force through self-serving rule changes two months out from the start of the competition, what is to stop them doing so two weeks out? Or two days out?
Team NZ, upset at having the qualifying regatta hosting rights stripped off them by Cup bosses through legally dubious means, have persistently kept outside the tight circle of their rivals, who have rewritten the rules book to allow changes by majority consent.
Discomfort over the close working relationship between Oracle and the four other challengers intensified earlier this year, when the five syndicates signed an agreement setting out the framework for the next two editions of the Cup, regardless of the victor in Bermuda.
The agreement raised concerns in the Kiwi camp that the teams will continue to work together to preserve their framework agreement.
Team NZ would not discuss the latest rule change, citing strict rules that prevent them from criticising the event. Syndicate head Grant Dalton has previously expressed his fears over the cosy arrangement between Oracle and the other challengers.
"We are very much the lone wolf," Dalton told the New York Times last month.
"The danger of being a lone wolf, of course, is that there's a lot of people, not just Oracle, that don't want us to win this time."

Russel Coutts replikerar:
It appears the silly season has once again arrived, driven by a select few in the media who seem to find it difficult to separate fact from fiction, or research a balanced story, for the benefit of their readers.
In particular, the so called reporting from Dana Johannsen of the NZ Herald often lacks both accuracy and balance and it’s for this reason that many people usually dismiss her articles (Mar. 22 and Mar. 23).
However, this week Dana Johannsen wrote of “naked self-interest” and “self-serving rules changes” in an attempt to explain why ORACLE TEAM USA would be racing in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, so I feel compelled in this instance to respond and point out at least some of the follies in her story telling.
Dana seems to have forgotten that Emirates Team New Zealand actually wanted the same Qualifiers racing in New Zealand where ORACLE TEAM USA would have raced against all other teams, just as they are doing in Bermuda!
In reality, history would in fact suggest that it’s very difficult to accurately predict who this joint racing might eventually benefit, and it certainly isn’t a new feature that the Defender could race or practice against a Challenger.
In 1987, Kiwi Magic trained against the Defender, Kookaburra, just prior to the America’s Cup finals. The Defender would go on to lose. However, in 1992 the Defender refused to sail against the Challengers and successfully defended the Cup. Then in 1995, the Defender adopted the same strategy and lost.
In 2000, as a New Zealand Defender, we were open to sailing against the Challengers but only the Nippon Challenge accepted our offer. In hindsight the Challengers may have benefitted more from racing us than we did from racing them, because the result ended 5-0 in favour of Team New Zealand.
Then, prior to the 2003 America’s Cup, Team New Zealand refused to sail against all Challengers, believing they were faster with their ‘hula’. Of course, history proved otherwise when Alinghi then won 5-0. So, prior to the 2007 final races, Emirates Team New Zealand did in fact race against Alinghi and the result was closer, although they still lost the final match 5-2.
It would therefore seem to be somewhat ridiculous, and perhaps bordering on arrogant, to assume that racing against the defending champion would somehow favour the Defender. The reality is that it might and it equally might not.
Now let’s explore the real reason why the new rules were written to mandate that all teams must race against each other, and if Dana had done even a small amount of research or made a few calls to other teams to actually fact check her story, she might have drawn a more reasonable and logical conclusion.
In past America’s Cups, we’ve seen both Challengers and the Defender build two boats capable of in-house racing and for the most part train in isolation for years, resulting in an arms race that was expensive, inefficient and provided almost no commercial benefit to the team sponsors during those training periods.
In particular, the Defender would typically gear up with two fully fledged sailing teams, which they had to fund for 3-4 years.
This time, to avoid that arms race and to provide more commercial exposure and value for all teams and their sponsors, it was decided to involve all teams in racing.
After all, the current Defender is from the USA, which of course is a market of major promotional interest to almost all sponsors involved in the America’s Cup. So this year, all teams get to race against the US Defender in two televised races each, and benefit from the media coverage generated.
In the past, only one of the top challengers would have raced against the Defender (in the final races) and the media return for almost all other teams, apart from the eventual Challenger, provided poor results. Sponsors received poor value and walked away from the Cup.
It also works for the Defender, in that the sponsors of ORACLE TEAM USA will also gain valuable additional exposure in countries like France, Japan, Sweden, the UK and New Zealand.
Most of the teams seem to want that, whether they are a Challenger or Defender in the future, and I am pretty sure that should New Zealand win this edition, its sponsors, including the New Zealand government, would likely wish for the same!
This new format has saved every team a lot of unnecessary cost and will provide a greater exposure for all.
All teams have built only one boat, even ORACLE TEAM USA, the team that Dana Johannsen says is acting out of self-interest. All teams have fewer staff and therefore less cost as a result of the new rules. It is a win – win for everyone. For example, ORACLE TEAM USA has reduced its staff by approximately a third, compared with AC 34. ETNZ, despite promoting themselves as an underfunded, small team, actually has one of the largest and best resourced outfits, currently with a listed staff of 96. Even this is still considerably less than the numbers they had in San Francisco.
And while Team New Zealand complains about the rules being decided by majority vote, I would suggest that such a democratic process is far better than the old system where the Defender and its elected Challenger of Record decided all the rules.
To be clear, New Zealand has actually voted in favor of the majority of the rules changes in this current campaign, although they are not shy in criticizing the same process that has served their self interest well, on the few occasions when the democratic vote has gone against them.
This America’s Cup also marks the very first time in over 166 years of history, where the regatta management is truly independent. America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM) is wholly-owned and equally funded by each of the teams. ACRM is responsible for everything that happens on the field of play, for all regatta officials, umpires, and race committee decisions.
The commercial arm of the America’s Cup, ACEA, is however controlled by the Defender who also has to underwrite the risk. Some of those event commercial rights were shared with other teams that hosted venues and yes, like all other teams, ETNZ was offered the chance to host an America’s Cup World Series event in New Zealand which they declined.
When I compare the current structure, with an independent ACRM, led by the respected Iain Murray, controlling all competitive aspects, to when the America’s Cup was last in New Zealand, it was a very different scenario.
The race committee for the 2003 Match was from the defending club, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. That race committee decided when to race and when not to race whereas ACRM have a fully automated wind measuring system and the rules mandate racing must be when the wind is between 6 and 25 knots.
It is also worth noting that in many of the past America’s Cups, even the international jury was elected by the host club!
This new arrangement, where the teams have equal voting power and equally fund the race management operations, is a massive step forward for the America’s Cup in terms of good governance, even if the vote occasionally goes against the wishes of one team.
In that respect, it’s clear from Team New Zealand’s recent social media posts that they are determined to forge a lonely path against the consensus of the rest of the America’s Cup community, which includes the teams and all current event sponsors.
Five teams have laid out a framework for the future, which has been developed by consensus, widely supported by all current event sponsors, built from expert advice from all over the world, from some of the most respected, experienced individuals from business as well as sport.
This framework aims to lay a solid commercial and sporting foundation for what happens next. Continuity, consistency and clarity are important features to all stakeholders. Creating a commercially sustainable America’s Cup is a must for the benefit of the many, and the sport as a whole, not just the few.
While it’s certainly the right of Team New Zealand to have an alternative view, I have to ask, “What is it?”, because they certainly haven’t shared it with any of the current teams and despite being given every opportunity to do so on multiple occasions, they have refused to even engage with the process.
Do they favour a return to a format where most of the teams don’t return enough value to their sponsors? Do they prefer a format where there is only racing at the final venue? Do they have a vision at all?
If so, and if they successfully win this Cup, how do they propose to make that work commercially for visiting teams, because it certainly didn’t work when the America’s Cup was previously hosted in New Zealand?
Surely this constant bickering isn’t the way forward, or at least that’s the view of five of the other current teams and investors and let’s face it, most of them have a relatively successful track record of running sustainable businesses!
While the plucky underdog story is a powerful marketing tool for Team New Zealand in its home market, we’d like to believe it could be deployed without pulling down the reputation of the other competitors and the event.
The reality is that not only are Emirates Team New Zealand backed by multiple billionaires, but they continue to receive millions of dollars of NZ Government funding. In addition to the $5 million of taxpayer funds paid to the team by the NZ Government in late 2013, the team can draw down up to $15 million of further government funding under the Callaghan Innovation scheme.
Whilst I will always promote strong competition on the water, there is nothing wrong with competitors cooperating commercially off it, to ensure the event gets on a better commercial footing for the future.
We continue to remain hopeful that whilst Emirates Team New Zealand may have different views on many aspects, they will nevertheless embrace the America’s Cup with a positive attitude, for what promises to be a compelling, competitive and memorable event starting on May 26th in Bermuda.

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