In the first two races of the Louis Vuitton finals to determine which challenger will compete against the Team Oracle for the America’s Cup, both races were determined by which boat didn’t break before crossing the finish line. In race one, Emirates Team New Zealand won after Luna Rossa, the Italian boat, broke a daggerboard. Emirates Team New Zealand did suffer a nose-dive as the boat dropped off it foils, but managed to finish the race, albeit with damage and a somewhat smaller crew. Two Kiwi sailors fell off in the crash and were picked up safely from the water by a support boat. In the second race, Emirates Team New Zealand suffered an electrical failure which shut down the boat’s hydraulics, effectively knocking it out of the race. Sail Magazine is referring to the Americas Cup as a “demolition derby.”
At this point, the current America’s Cup looks like an expensive and dangerous farce. Even the event sponsors have admitted that the AC72 catamarans being raced are too expensive and that the cost has limited the number of boats racing.
As quoted in the New York Times: “There is no doubt that the AC72 was more expensive to manufacture and prepare for than we anticipated. When you couple that with the economic downturn that we experienced in 2010 and 2011, that’s the reason we have fewer teams participating this summer than we would have liked,” said Stephen Barclay, chief executive of the America’s Cup Event Authority, the company established by Mr. Ellison to run the event, adding, however, that the boats are safe.”
Safe? Not necessarily. In May, Andrew Simpson, a British double Olympic medalist and a sailor with the Swedish Artemis Racing team, was killed in a capsize while practicing on the Artemis AC72 in San Francisco Bay for the upcoming races. This was the second capsize of an AC72, but the first fatality.
The AC72s are so large, expensive and on the the bleeding edge of technology that what should have been an exciting series of races is developing into a competition among a small number of costly boats which may or may not cross the finish line before breaking down. Let’s just hope that no one else gets seriously hurt.