Dana Johannsen 's Opinion

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana Johannsen: San Francisco regatta turning into a shambles

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The beleaguered event is reeling from another series of setbacks, from which it is difficult to see it recovering. Photo / Chris Cameron
The beleaguered event is reeling from another series of setbacks, from which it is difficult to see it recovering. Photo / Chris Cameron

Like an out-of-control catamaran, the America's Cup continues to cartwheel towards ever-mounting disaster.

Desperately in need of an injection of confidence following last month's tragedy on San Francisco Bay, the beleaguered event is reeling from another series of setbacks, from which it is difficult to see it recovering.

With Artemis still to launch their second boat, which they had taken delivery of before last month's tragic accident, they are unable to meet the July 7 start date for the Louis Vuitton challenger series, and are unlikely to be ready to race until August. Upon the recommendation of the safety review committee, cup organisers already had to reduce the Louis Vuitton Cup rounds from seven to five to allow the teams more time for boat maintenance.

The result is we're only likely to see five races in July, between two teams who have already been training against one another for the past eight months.

The implications are massive - stadium tickets have had to be refunded, hospitality plans are in tatters, and economic benefits the event will have for San Francisco have been scaled back once more.

It's staggering to think how much hype has already fizzled from the America's Cup. According to the original vision, this was supposed to be the most glorious series of sailboat races ever witnessed.

It's a shame then to see attempts from Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa to restore some degree of credibility to the challenger series snuffed out by Artemis.

The Swedish team rejected a proposal from the two race-ready challengers to delay the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup to July 19, using their position as challenger of record to impose a solution the majority of the challengers do not want.

There could be further developments in the coming days, with questions being raised over whether Artemis can veto the proposal and suggestions the international jury may be asked to rule on the dispute. But whatever comes of the stoush, Artemis' high-handed dismissal of the proposal has eroded a lot of sympathy the other competitors had for the battling team.

Artemis claim the proposal will put them under more time pressure, but their bigger concern seems to be the plan that has been floated will eliminate the semifinal round, meaning they have to take part in the round robin to make the final.

It is easy to think the current mire began with the horrifying training accident on San Francisco Bay last month. In reality, the chain of events were set into motion in 2010 when Larry Ellison decided the event would be sailed in spectacular 72-foot wing-sail catamarans to appeal to the "facebook generation".

The huge cost of undertaking such an ambitious design programme and the short lead-in time to get to grips with such extreme equipment whittled down a challenger fleet of 14 to just three boats.

Now the lack of challengers has come to play in the Swedish team's favour, allowing them to hold the event to ransom.

- NZ Herald

Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana has more than a decade’s experience in sports journalism, joining the Herald in 2007 following stints with TVNZ and RadioSport. Over that time Dana has covered several major events including the 2011 Netball World Cup in Singapore, 2011 Rugby World Cup, 2012-13 Volvo Ocean Race, and the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. A multi-award winning journalist, Dana was named New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year in 2012 after scooping both the news and feature categories at the TP McLean Awards. The previous year she picked up the prize for best news break. She was also an inaugural recipient of the Sir John Wells scholarship at the 2009 NZSJA awards. Dana also writes a weekly sports column for the NZ Herald.

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