Yachting: Trouble wants to see America's Cup back in NZ

By Dana Johannsen

Team NZ is challenging two of the 37 "safety" recommendations made by Regatta Director Ian Murray and that protest will be heard by a jury next week. Photo / AP
Team NZ is challenging two of the 37 "safety" recommendations made by Regatta Director Ian Murray and that protest will be heard by a jury next week. Photo / AP

The man credited with creating the Louis Vuitton Cup has fired a shot across the bows of Oracle on the eve of the 34th America's Cup.

Bruno Trouble, former Olympic sailor and figurehead for the French fashion house, last night told the Herald he would love to see the Auld Mug head south again.

"If [Emirates Team New Zealand] brings the cup back to Auckland it will be the best day of my entire life," Trouble said via email.

The regatta, due to start on San Francisco Bay on Monday (NZT), has been plagued by mis-step after mistake on the part of Cup holders Oracle, masterminded by billionaire owner Larry Ellison and New Zealand's Russell Coutts, and organisers.

With less than a week to go before the starter's gun is fired, there is still uncertainty over the shape and schedule of the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Regatta director Iain Murray has put forward 37 "safety" recommendations in the wake of Swedish entry Artemis' capsize, which led to the death of British Olympian Andrew Simpson. Team NZ is challenging two of the recommendations and that protest will be heard by a jury next week.

"If the Americans keep the Cup, let's hope they will realise the many mistakes they made here over the last two years," said Trouble.

Coutts has at least in part admitted to his gross error in judgment, telling the Herald in October - a week before Oracle capsized - that he would have done things differently if he had his time over again.

"In hindsight, I think there were two errors. One was I thought the boats needed to be quite large-scale to be grand enough for the America's Cup. Clearly the world series has proven this wrong - the AC45s look pretty damn good on TV," he said.

"The other thing is, we possibly should have looked at making more of the components one-design."

Trouble is of the opinion the problems should have been anticipated.

"The America's Cup needed a facelift to enter the third millennium," he said. "The TV coverage was a bit boring and, sometimes, we could even see some crew members having a little nap going to windward.

"To switch to fast multihulls and short, intense races was a good move. However, the size of these boats was, and still is, a mistake. They are too costly and too dangerous for the San Francisco average conditions.

"Those new AC72s would have been good on the lake of Geneva or San Diego. We knew they were going to be wild in the prevailing windy conditions of the San Francisco Bay.

"They are also very expensive. In the past, you could participate - not win - in the LV Cup for a reasonable budget around US$10 million. To be on the starting line of the LV cup this year you need US$70 million".

Trouble is not noted for his negativity and in keeping with his usual mien, he is predicting a thrilling conclusion to the regatta.

"Racing will still be very spectacular ... but there will be less racing than anticipated ... but the final of the LV Cup, late August, and the America's Cup itself will be a greater show than has been seen in sailing."

In his opinion, the future of the cup is at stake.

"I am sure the Kiwis will go back to a more accessible event while keeping some of the ideas which have been developed here in San Fran. They will have to bring back the nationality rule in the game."

Why has it gone so wrong?

*The obscene costs of launching a campaign (estimated at $120 million) and highly complex design and engineering project for the AC72 scared off all but three challengers.
*The lack of challengers has had a major financial impact for organisers, with sponsorship and broadcast revenue well down on what was initially forecast.
*The high-speed, high-risk catamarans came under huge criticism after Artemis sailor Andrew Simpson was killed when the Swedish boat capsized during a training run on San Francisco Bay in May. The accident followed Cup defender Oracle's catastrophic capsize last October.
*The tragedy forced organisers to undertake a comprehensive review of the class and racing format, with regatta director Iain Murray putting forward 37 recommendations - some of which have proved contentious and are now the subject of a jury protest from Team New Zealand.
*With Artemis yet to launch their second boat, the Swedish team will not be ready for the start of racing and will not join the challenger series until August (if at all). That means for the most part the Louis Vuitton Cup will be a farcical two-boat contest between Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa.

Dana Johannsen

New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year Dana Johannsen leaves this week to cover the build-up and opening races of the 34th America's Cup. You can follow her reports on nzherald.co.nz and on Twitter @djohannsenNZH.

- NZ Herald

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