SCUTTLEBUTT EXTRA - July 2, 2004
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OH MY GOODNESS!
The oldest regularly contested trophy in the history of sport, the
America's Cup, could come under threat from a new event being proposed by
two of its best-known competitors. New Zealander Russell Coutts and
American Paul Cayard are believed to be close to finalizing details for the
creation of an international sailing event aimed at attracting the world's
best sailors and a massive television audience. The proposal is for the
establishment of a fleet of extreme high-performance yachts built to an
identical design that will compete for a major prize. If plans continue on
their current course, the announcement of the event could come within the
next two weeks. However, although both men have left no doubt that
something is developing behind the scenes, they are keeping mum on details.
News of their project comes at a time when Coutts, the best America's Cup
helmsman of all time, is locked in a bitter mediation process with the
management of the Swiss America's Cup team, whose yacht Alinghi he steered
to victory over the New Zealand defender last year. Coutts is not enjoying
his role in the new Alinghi Cup defense organization, and he doesn't like
the choice of Valencia as the venue for 2007 over his preferred option,
Lisbon, nor does he think the style of yacht chosen is exciting enough.
Trouble was brewing in the Alinghi camp within months of their success.
Bertarelli decided to split the defense organization, putting his long-time
business associate Michel Bonnefous in charge of America's Cup management
while leaving Coutts in the role of managing the sailing team and little
else. That wasn't what Coutts expected, and when his thoughts on the venue
or style of boat for the next event went nowhere he was left started to
think about his future. Cayard found himself in a similar predicament to
his friend Coutts within Ellison's San Francisco-based syndicate before the
2000 America's Cup. Cayard was an ill-fitting piece of the syndicate jigsaw
and finished up on the outer. Now the two are set to unite around the new
The event the pair is formulating involves fleet racing one-design yachts
similar in length to the existing America's Cup yachts, about 24m (80ft).
But that's where the similarity will end. The new boats will move into the
next generation of performance sailing. It is proposed that they will be
created along the lines of the radical and extremely fast monohulls that
race on Italy's Lake Garda. They are planned for a crew of only 10 or 12
with a significant number suspended over the side from trapeze systems to
enhance stability. In being identical one-designs, the cost of entry to
this competition will be considerably less than the $100 million-plus
required to enter the America's Cup. And with all the hulls being the same,
the racing promises to be close and exciting.
Excerpts from a story by Rob Mundle in The Weekend Australian, full story: