Paul Ashford Harris

America's Cup 2007

What's in It for the Tail Enders?

In the current race for the 2007 America’ Cup there have been 11 challengers, now, at last, down to the two finalists, Emirates Team New Zealand and Alinghi.

The top two or three teams, including the two above and BMW Oracle Racing, all spent around $A160million. Test yourself. Name one boat in the current series other than the three just mentioned. In case you think the other syndicates got away cheap, the bottom team, Areva Challenge spent a niggardly $A37 million, against the general mid range spend of a lazy $A100 million for syndicates like Desafio Espanol and Maslcalzone Latino. All but the two finalists are out of contention now and on the way home, and there is nothing more useless than a slow America’s Cup boat. Rides around the harbour in Nice or a Middle East live sheep carrier perhaps? If they were in it for the advertising these syndicates would be better off with their names on the rounding buoys. At least they would still have exposure in the last race of the final.

Did they ever have a chance? Well, even if they had reached the final, not much. Since the war there have been 14 America’s Cup challenges and out of the 64 races raced in the final series the eventual winner has won 55 of them and the losers have won just 9, and that includes the 3 won by Dennis Connor against Australia 2 in the latter’s  historic series wining event in 1983. No other losing finalist has won more than 1 race. Most haven’t won any.

Since the current IACC rules were introduced in 1992 the losing finalists have only won a single race.

The reasons are pretty clear. In a two boat yacht race the yacht that looses the start, unless it has overwhelmingly superior speed(unlikely) has virtually no chance unless the leading yacht makes a tactical error, much like Connors in the last race of the 1983 series. It could be the case for the final about to start that the yachts are so evenly matched we get a nail biter, but sadly history suggests that half way up the beat on the first race we will probably know who is going to win the series.

So why did the “tail enders” do it? Well, for the crews, they are professional sailors and what professional sailor wouldn’t give his eye teeth to be in it, especially as they are being paid? For the companies sponsoring the yachts, the America’s Cup definitely plays right to the demographic of Emirates passengers (those that turn left anyway), or BMW buyers and is better than a couple of ad breaks on Wheel of Fortune. But, heh, golf’s cheaper. Perhaps the Chinese are going to make thousands of cheap America’s Cup yachts out of plastic in a factory in Shang-hai. But really, when push comes to shove, the America’s Cup is the ultimate case of rich boy’s toys. If you’ve got buckets of it, (no, make that swimming pools full of it) what better way to flaunt it? For the rest of us, just sit back and enjoy it and be happy you’re not paying the bills. Any of them.

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