SCUTTLEBUTT 1274 - February 28, 2003
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AMERICA'S CUP XXXI
In very difficult, blustery, conditions, Team New Zealand dismasted in Race
Four of the America's Cup - to many seasoned Cup observers, its chances of
a successful defense in the XXXIst Match appeared to tumble down with the rig.
It was a tough fourth race of the series, with rain squalls bringing strong
gusts and sharp, choppy seas to the Hauraki Gulf. On the second beat, after
a strong squall had passed over the two boats, Team New Zealand appeared to
pound through three particularly big waves. As the bow came down off the
third wave, the mast snapped between the first and second spreader after
what appeared to be a shroud or spreader failure. None of the crew members
"It's possible it's the top of the V2 (shroud), which is the main,
load-bearing outside rigging element, but until we get a chance to really
look at the damage, we'd just be guessing," said syndicate head Tom
Schnackenberg moments after the disaster. "When the boat pitches forward
that increases the shock loading and the boat was definitely bouncing over
a couple of waves there and that was obviously the thing that pushed it."
The Swiss Alinghi Team had been leading for the entire race, after skipper
Russell Coutts executed a perfect time on distance start to hit the
starting line just as the gun fired. Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker
started slightly behind and to weather, and at the first cross, five
minutes up the beat, Alinghi was able to tack ahead in a strong lee bow
Alinghi lead by eight seconds at the first mark and by 17 seconds a the
leeward mark. First signs of drama came on the downwind run as Team New
Zealand, driving through the quarter wave of Alinghi, took a lot of water
over the bow and down the forward hatch. For most of the second beat, Team
New Zealand appeared to struggle to control its sailplan, with much of its
mainsail backwinding, on a heavily pre-bent mast.
Up the second beat Team New Zealand ploughed into three large waves. As the
bow buried into the third wave, the rig broke just above the first spreader
and the crew went from racing mode to survival mode. For the second time in
this Match, Alinghi were left to sail around the course on its own, taking
their score to 4-0.
For Alinghi skipper Russell Coutts, his 13th consecutive America's Cup win
puts his team on match point in the XXXIst America's Cup Match. Coutts is
now just one victory away from capturing his third consecutive America's
Cup, and breaking Dennis Conner's record for America's Cup race victories.
Under the Match Conditions for the America's Cup, Team New Zealand cannot
ask for a lay day to effect repairs. "We'll swap masts with NZL-81, that's
a very nice rig, and we'll be ready to race tomorrow," Schnackenberg promised.
- Alinghi (SUI-64) wins, Team New Zealand (NZL-82) retires
- Alinghi leads Team New Zealand in the best-of-nine series, 4 - 0.
- Race Five is scheduled to start at 13:15 on Saturday afternoon (Friday
in the US).
America's Cup website: http://americascup.yahoo.com/
CURMUDGEON'S COMMENT: We understand that ESPN will cover Race 5 live. So
will Scuttlebutt - in fact, we will publish on every race day until the fat
lady sings. And if you can't retrieve your office email at home, just go to
our website: www.sailingscuttlebutt.com
WHAT WENT WRONG
According to Scott Vogel, past winner on Stars & Stripes off Fremantle and
rig designer for OneWorld, hitting waves like NZL-82 experienced can create
a spike of up to 25% on load pressure on the rig. That combined with the
deceleration that occurred as NZL-82's bow ploughed through the trough of
each wave made for an ugly force against the Kiwi boat. From his own
experience out on the Gulf with OneWorld Challenge in similar conditions,
Vogel said, "As the rig guy, my heart would be in my throat all day out there."
Vogel explained that because of the class rules, there is a minimum weight
to the mast so they tend to chisel down where possible to keep the weight
down on the rig, and needless to say, compromising safety features. The
unknown at this point is whether or not the additional amount of water
taken on board NZL-82, on third leg as could be seen from the footage had
any part in the destruction that occurred. - Excerpt from a story on the
Cupviews website: http://cupviews.com/
CUP NO MAS?
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to be another instantaneous cult classic. Show your non-sailor friends what
it is you do, entertain the junior program on the rainy days, or just take
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the sailing gear you need but "gear" you can't live without too.
LETTING THE SHOW GO ON IS CRUCIAL - Russell Coutts
(I think you'll want to read the following excerpt from a story written by
Alinghi skipper Russell Coutts for the Telegraph in the UK.)
The lack of racing is terrible for the fans and for the event. Some big
lessons are going to be learned out of this for the future. Sure, it's
frustrating to have had no racing for nine days but the exciting thing is
that the cup community has started to think about what changes could be made.
The fixes are easy, so the opportunity for the future is fantastic. The
America's Cup is a truly great event and only needs fine-tuning to
Simply put, America's Cup racing has got to be geared towards television.
The race committee really needs to be independent so that they tell us when
to race, not ask if we want to. We need to reverse the relationship so that
the race committee think of the audience first and the competitors second.
I'm not proposing changing the whole format of racing, but provided it's
the same for both competitors, it's a legitimate contest. If you've got an
upwind leg and downwind leg, probably several of them, that's a sailboat
race to me.
At least two of the days when racing's been called off in the last nine
days have been raceable. Thinking back to the 2000 America's Cup, there was
one race where we had just six knots in the pre-start and it died and died
and finished in very light air.
It was an OK race. Not ideal but it just depends what you call "fair". I've
competed in lots of world championships where conditions have been shifty
and mastering them has been a skill. Provided it's the same for both
competitors there should be no issue. If there's one thing I've learnt,
it's that the better sailor generally prevails.
Letting the show go on is much more important than waiting for the perfect
10-15 knot, steady breeze. I'm not criticizing Harold Bennett, though there
was one decision we disagreed with last Sunday. The breeze was shifting
around 40 degrees in the light easterly. Racing in winds like that is not
out of the question.
No, it's the method of determining whether racing goes ahead that's flawed,
where the competitors can express a preference. In future the race
committee must have a mandate that says their No 1 concern should be
getting a race away on schedule. Tweaking the class rule so that the boats
have a broader range would give the committee scope to do this. The racing
would be more interesting because the boats wouldn't be just drifting
around if it was light or liable to breakdown after five minutes if it was
Subtle tweaking of the class rule could have a big impact. - Russell
Coutts, The Telegraph, UK
There is a lot more to this story:
DETRACTING FROM THE CUP
(Rich Roberts has written a story for the LA Times about the racing delays
in Auckland and possible changes for the next Cup regatta. Here are two
One day it's too calm, the next too windy, and if the wind's blowing just
right then it's still too shifty. On some days forecasts have been so grim
that racing has been called off before the boats left the harbor - then,
occasionally, went out anyway to practice.
"It's part of the normal sailboat racing game," said Peter Isler, now home
after serving as navigator for Team Dennis Conner. "It seems silly when I
came back to San Diego and we were starting races in winds much lighter
than we'd ever have started in the Louis Vuitton Cup [challenger trials].
"It's also crazy that there's only a two-hour-and-15-minute window in which
they can have a start - 1:15 until 3:30 - without mutual consent, [and] I
think there's been a mistake in how early the blowoff time is. They should
have been more patient. There were probably days they could have raced had
Isler doesn't accuse Bennett of being a homer, although that may place him
in the minority. "I know Harold. I'm sure he has the best interest of Team
New Zealand in mind. But this isn't a guy who's going to play favorites to
the extreme. He was probably trying to run the best races he could. [But]
he started out being pretty picky, and now I'm sure he looks back and
thinks, gosh, I could have started a race or two and been farther along."
* Tom Ehman, a longtime America's Cup principal who was with San
Francisco's Oracle BMW team this time, doesn't entirely blame Bennett,
either. Calling races before boats had left port would also include
spectator boats. "There are a thousand boats, big and small, out there in
six-foot seas, and you have safety considerations," Ehman said by phone
from Auckland. "A lot of the criticism is from frustration, and there's
some gamesmanship - by both sides. "I'm not sure that what [Team New
Zealand] is doing in being a little cagey about when they start races
hasn't backfired. They've lost some support locally and have taken a lot of
heat from the international press."
The Kiwis have been especially averse to racing in shifty breezes, which
suggests to many observers that they believe they have the faster boat,
despite being down, 3-0. A lucky wind shift can help a slower boat. But why
should the competitors be allowed to make the call in the first place?
"This charming aspect of the Cup is antiquated," Ehman said. "It's time to
change. For the sake of television, for the sake of spectators, for the
sake of just sport, you've got to be prepared to race and willing to race."
- Rich Roberts, LA Times, full story:
From the Former Directors/Trustees of Team New Zealand
It is a pity that Vince Cooke (Scuttlebutt 1266) and Beth Opperman Andrewes
(Scuttlebutt 1268) appear not to have read our detailed statement posted on
the America's Cup website: http://americascup.yahoo.com/story1826.html
Had they done so, they would know the factual position is that on 31 March
2000 Coutts and Butterworth publicly announced that, together with Tom
Schnackenberg, they were taking over the management of Team New Zealand.
Throughout the 2000 Defence they had access to the same financial
information as the directors. If income had been an issue for them, from 31
March 2000 they were in the strongest possible position to ensure they
enjoyed the maximum financial rewards that could be funded from a New
Zealand based defence. In early May, Coutts and Butterworth reneged on
their undertakings when they advised they were instead entering into a new
(and presumably far more lucrative) arrangement with Mr Bertarelli. In
doing so, they let down their new trustees, their team-mates and the New
Zealand public. That is why so many New Zealanders feel a sense of betrayal
and Cooke and Andrewes have been duped by the attempt of Coutts and
Butterworth to blame others for their own selfish actions.
For the record, the former directors/trustees comprised not just John Lusk
and Richard Green, two senior and respected lawyers. They also included
Roger France, one of New Zealand's leading accountants and a director of
two of New Zealand's largest companies, Jim Hoare, a former President of
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand and Sir Tom Clark a
hugely respected businessman and sailor who is widely regarded as a driving
force behind New Zealand's emergence as a leading yachting nation. We made
all our decisions jointly, as a Board and in consultation with Sir Peter
Blake, the Chief Executive. - The Former Directors/ Trustees of Team New
GOING TO WAR
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THE BEAT GOES ON . . .
Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth face expulsion from the Royal New
Zealand Yacht Squadron after a complaint against them from a life member.
Squadron commodore Bill Endean said yesterday that life member and
waterfront businessman John Street had asked the club, which holds the
America's Cup, to consider expelling the pair for "taking information with
them that has gone to another syndicate". The complaint would be considered
at a meeting of the 13-member committee on March 27.
"There are allegations, which require proof, and that proof hasn't been
provided by the member," Mr Endean said. "It's not a simple exercise." He
said the complaint alleged Coutts and Butterworth had broken a club rule
because their conduct had been "injurious to the character or interests of
The pair are long-time members of the RNZYS, which is based at Westhaven.
Coutts has been a life member since 1995, and Butterworth an ordinary
member since 1981. Butterworth said yesterday that he would be "horrified"
by any attempt to revoke his membership. He was proud to be a member of the
Mr Street, a member of the defunct BlackHeart campaign and owner of a
marine export company and ship chandlers, said his life membership was
tarnished by having to share the honour with Coutts. "He chose to change
sides and now he's trying to take the America's Cup away from the club," he
said. - Anne Beston, NZ Herald, full story: www.nzherald.co.nz/americascup/
LETTERS TO THE CURMUDGEON (email@example.com)
(Letters selected for publication must include the writer's name and may be
edited for clarity or space - 250 words max. This is not a chat room or a
bulletin board - you only get one letter per subject, so give it your best
shot and don't whine if others disagree.)
* From James Marta: We can't and won't confuse racing at Auckland with
racing at Fremantle (Fremantle was exciting). The newer America's Cup boats
are truly freaks of design. An eighty foot boat that can't race when winds
get above 25 knots, and an eighty foot boat that can't race in seas of four
to five feet just doesn't make sense. Will the "hula" appendage really have
an application to ocean racing? I doubt it.
Even with close racing between a fast boat (NZ) and a fast crew (Alinghi),
there is a substantial lack of real excitement and drama. The first race
had some potential except for the breakdowns of team NZ's boat, and the
fact that they couldn't keep the water out of the cockpit in 25 knots of
wind. I find the current series sailing in winds from 11 to 18 knots
interesting, reasonably well- sailed, but hardly exciting. People spend
30-80 million on their boats and crews for this? It's really a dilettantish
series. The world of yachting should be better than this to captivate a
* From Daniel Tucker: I am concerned about the recent news that keelboats
may be eliminated from Olympic sailing in 2012 and beyond. I would strongly
encourage the all sailors to lobby your national authority, ISAF and the
IOC to choose another sailing discipline or preferably, another sport
My wife is a Paralympic athlete and US Disabled Sailing Team member in the
crewed keelboat (Sonar). If keelboat facilities are eliminated, this will
likely eliminate all Paralympic sailing as well, as the both Paralympic
sailing classes require keelboat facilities. While there is at least one
class of dinghies that is adaptable for disabled sailors, it is not
generally considered a desirable boat to to sail or compete in, nor is it
an International Class. The current classes, Sonar and 2.4M are established
International Class boats with reasonably large fleets of disabled and
able-bodied sailors. These classes allow Paralympic sailors to compete
effectively in open events with able-bodied sailors as part of their
training. Paralympic sailors in these classes are frequently in the top
results in open championships. Please do not allow the IOC or ISAF to
eliminate keelboats entirely and risk eliminating all Paralympic sailing!
* From Chris Ericksen: While my friend Sherwood Kelley raises an
interesting question in 'Butt 1272 about the possibility of Alinghi
refusing to finish Race One, my observation is that hindsight is always
20/20. Had Team Alinghi known how they would fare against TNZ in the other
races, it would have been a grand gesture with no consequences; if, on the
other hand, it proved that the TNZ boat was much faster and that Russell
and Ernesto had given up their only chance for a win, they would have been
pilloried throughout the sailing world, and their grand gesture judged an
empty empty gesture.
* From Larry Benthall: Should Russell and Ernesto have pulled out of race
1 after the TNZ withdrawal due to sportsmanship, as a reader suggested? No!
Technology and design is clearly as big a part of the event as the sailing
skills. Part of the competition is designing and building a boat that
offers speed and control advantages and yet withstands the elements. The
sail around was a legitimate and sportsmanlike win.
* From Steve Secor: I believe Sherwood Kelly has it wrong. It was TNZ
that ridiculed the challengers for not racing in wind stronger than 19kts
claiming that they (TNZ) were ready and expected to race in big wind. We
all know what happened in race one. Alinghi was ready to face a situation
that TNZ was clearly not. If a giant hag fish attacked TNZ and yanked
Hamish Pepper off the boat it may have been unsporting for Alinghi to
continue. But in modern America's Cup racing the idea is to push it to the
edge without going over. What TNZ pushed to cause the boat to fill is open
to speculation but it's clear that it was a problem of TNZ's making.
* From Reece Brailey: Anybody remember the Australian boat breaking in
half in the 95 LV Cup? Do you remember what the competing boat did? Yes
they withdrew from the race!! A sign of respect and an admission that they
"didn't want to win like that". Who was the team? Who was the skipper?
Russel Coutts racing for Team NZ. Show some class Alingi.
* Len Van Tassell: I came home to tune in Race 4 which it looks like
they're finally going to get off and ESPN2 is not showing the race but a
show called "Street Ball" is on. Why can't they reschedule this show and
put on an important live event! After a little research I see that the race
will be shown on tape delay at 12midnight tonight - well past my bedtime -
I guess I'll tape it. If the Daytona 500 were rescheduled due to rain would
they tape delay showing that? I think not. I know they weather delays have
wreaked havoc with the schedule but ESPN knows that this can happen -
they've been covering the cup for almost 20 years! If you're as
disappointed as I am let ESPN know how you feel, if enough people do this
maybe we'll get the rest of the races live - whenever that is!
http://espn.go.com/sitetools/s/contact/espntv.html. I want my America's Cup!
* Skip Ryder: What a joke has been played on us. Here we wait for the
weather to co-operate and let race 4 go and find that ESPN2 has decided
that they should run a pick-up basketball game that is taped instead of the
live coverage of the AC race. OLN would have run this in a moments notice.
* From Bee Hovey: For Mike Preist - In a world waking up daily to
unspeakable possibilities you and your Kellie have put welcome smiles on
thousands of faces and brought tears to many an eye. Way to go!
THE CURMUDGEON'S OBSERVATIONS
Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach that person to use
the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks.