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The Americas Cup in Chaos
The America’s Cup (or Auld Mug as it is colloquially known) is the oldest known sporting trophy, first contested in 1851 almost 50 years before the modern Olympic Games. First won by an American schooner, the cup gained near-holy grail status for early 20th century millionaires with names such as Lipton, Sopwith and Vanderbilt all appearing in early competitions. Despite the best efforts of Britain however, the America’s Cup was held by the Americans from 1851 until 1983, the longest winning streak in sporting history, until it was finally captured by Australia’s Alan Bond and his radical, winged Australian keel 2.
Since Australia’s 2 victory, it’s fair to say that the history of the cups has been fairly turbulent. The trophy was won back almost immediately by the USA in 1987, but this was the year that saw a dramatic extension in the competitiveness of the traditional 2-team challenge with the American boat Stars and Stripes having to beat an unprecedented 13 challenger syndicates and Alan Bonds. Australians failing to even reach the defenders final. Arguably the difficulties and legal disputes that have plagued the event since then can be directly traced back to the expansion of the event in 1987. Following this, the Auld Mug has suffered from changes in boat classes (from peaked in 1988 when an American catamaran defeated a New Zealand monohull on the water and the decision was twice later overturned in the courts) and arguably the egos of modern multi-millionaire businessmen are determined to win the cup on by all means and they don’t care if this is done by the sailors or by the lawyers.
The latest threat to the cup comes from the current holders, Alinghi and their legal dispute with the American team BMW Oracle. Incredibly, the Alingi syndicate hails from underground Switzerland, but their team, which has held the cup since 2003, is packed with global sailing stars with a strong contingent from New Zealand. Adding spice to proceedings is the fact that Kiwi Russell Coutts, considered by many to be the greatest sailor in the world, led the challenge to win the Alinghis cup in 2003 but has since jumped to boss the BMW Oracle team competitive.
At the heart of the dispute is the fact that, after their successful defense of the cup in 2007, Alinghi nominated the Spanish Yacht Club Club Nautico Espana de Velo as Challenger of Record. BMW Oracle, led by software billionaire Larry Ellison, successfully challenged this in the courts on the grounds that Club Nautico Espana de Velo was not an active yacht club, just a shell set up to manage a cup challenge. There was certainly widespread concern in cup circles about the relationship between Alinghi and the Spaniards and as things currently stand the BMW Oracle American syndicate is the nominated challenger for the next cup. Unfortunately for the world’s oldest sporting competition, the legal challenges have not ended and at the moment it is still uncertain when the next cup will be held, in which country and even in what form of boats that will compete. out of this has been considerable. The cup has lost Louis Vuitton as a sponsor and other challenging syndicates (which include the British Team Origin, captained by Olympic star Ben Ainslie), are significantly hampered in their ability to attract funding and to plan every level of their campaigns from boats to personnel. to chandlers given the current level of uncertainty surrounding the event.
It remains to be seen what happens to the America’s Cup, whether we will have a competition in 2008 or 2009 and if so, what the result will be. The biggest fear though is that Alinghi, BMW Oracle and their lawyers will achieve what 150 years of history could not achieve and end the America’s Cup.
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#Americas #Cup #Chaos