Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chattin' it up at GGYC

If there’s one subject that America’s Cup aficionados agree on, it’s that the event is all about its personalities. Thursday night’s shindig at the Golden Gate Yacht Club brought the point home in more ways than one under the guise of a US Sailing Speaker series program called “Cup Chat”. Event pros Hartmann studios transformed the GGYC into a pseudo TV studio Letterman style, complete with jazz quartet Cyril Guiraud and the American Quatro and announcer James Byers.

The evening’s line-up presented some of the Cup’s most colorful characters from the “old” school: Tom Ehman (newly appointed Vice Commodore of GGYC and spokesperson ORACLE Racing), Bruno Trouble (Louis Vuitton), and Peter ‘Luiggi’ Reggio (PRO extraordinaire), and for good balance a shot of youth in the form of Olympic hopeful Genny Tulloch. Staff Commodore Marcus Young moderated the event with as much irreverence and humor as subjects like Ernesto Bertarelli deserve, making it one of the most entertaining Cup related events I’ve been to in a very long time.

However, the question of personalities has been bothering me ever since and it’s clearly a big one. We have an organizing authority with little or no prior experience in the America’s Cup who can’t possibly appreciate the essence of what these characters mean to the event. For the first time this same organizing authority is assuming responsibility - previously that of Louis Vuitton - for the event’s media center - the very heart from where Cup personalities come to life through the thousands of journalists that cover the related Cup events. I hope the event authority takes this responsibility seriously…

But back to the question, with the dawning of this new Cup era, who will be the new generation of personalities in this next event? While I’m not sure this question was answered during the “Cup Chat”, it's clear from the following excerpts it’s time to start thinking about it.

Marcus Young: Bruno, this sport is really a little about technology, a little bit about sailors and a lot about personality, and there’s been a lot of personalities in this event for years and years. Who are you missing right now? Who do you wish was still doing this?

Bruno Trouble: The America’s Cup is full of personalities, it’s about personalities. Tom Blackaller - I wish he knows that we are here for the next America’s Cup because it was one of his dreams to have the America’s Cup here. For sure Tom is missing. But the America’s Cup, I don’t know why it has attracted or created personalities and I’m not only talking about rich people - Peter Blake was not rich - but there are huge personalities in the Cup historically. If it were only a sporting event, Louis Vuitton would not be part of the America’s Cup. We are part of the America’s Cup because it is an extraordinary saga of modern times.

When the Australians from Perth - Fremantle - no-one knew where Fremantle or Perth was - when they came to Newport in 1983, to fight against US space age technology, they were exactly like the young bankers from New York in 1851 coming to race against the best of the British fleets which was then the biggest country in the world and best navy in the world. I don’t know why but the America’s Cup has a lot of stories like that, a lot of personalities, it’s the richest sporting event in my opinion. I used to be a lawyer but I changed my life to give my life to the America’s Cup over the last 30 years and I discover something every week, every month. It’s extraordinarily rich.

Marcus Young: Reality TV show for the America’s Cup, good idea, bad idea? Tom, what’s your take on it?

Tom Ehman: I think that what Stan Honey and that gang are going to do with America’s Cup television is going to be high quality. There’s a show or a magazine show starting in July, once a month or maybe more often than that, so there’s going to be a lot of TV. I’m not sure if a reality TV show is correct but there’s going to be a major upgrade to TV for the next Cup.

Genny Tulloch: I think I’m with him (Tom) a little bit. It depends on whom you would cover. If you mean REAL reality TV like following individuals…well, there’re lots of scandals in the America’s Cup but you don’t want to see that side of the sport. BUT - personalities, that’s what sells sports sometimes.

Peter Reggio: It’s going to be about personalities, it’s what’s going to sell it. You’re going to have incredible visuals but it's the personalities that keep people involved. I’ve found the most fascinating thing about the America’s Cup since I’ve been involved in it is the people.

Tom Ehman: The boats are so physical to sail - it’s going to be all manual power - forget about the 72 but the 45 is already so physical that come time for the 72, the gang are saying that they’re going to be very physical, it’s going to be a young person’s game and I think we’re going to see the Jimmy Spithills and the other young sailors come into their own and I think they’re going to make it a much better game than we’ve seen in the past with some the older guys and gals sailing on these boats when we need to project for our sport youth, forward looking forward thinking, high tech high energy personalities.

Nonetheless, one aspect that the “old” guys are into is the move to the multihull for the next event:

Marcus Young: What do you think about cats racing in AC 34?

Peter Reggio: I think its cool. But I gotta be honest with you. I was a little skeptical at first but was fortunate enough to be involved with ORACLE during the media testing last August. I was not a true believer but when I started hearing reports about the way the 45s tack and flip the weight around - I wasn’t so concerned that it wouldn’t be exciting in cats but I was more concerned about keeping them engaged actually match racing because the whole idea is to keep them engaged - at least while we were doing the media tests. The guys are telling me that they tack faster than the version 5 AC boats anyway.

Marcus Young: Anything tacks faster than that. Just kidding.

Peter Reggio: It’s a match race and it’s going to work. It’s cool. In the TV trials, we set a windward mark and we gave them - the cats and the monohulls because we were testing both - two minutes upwind, round to starboard, set, you had to jibe instantly to get back through the starting line. There’s a lot of stuff going on - they've got three or four minutes of the entry, that’s going on, they go upwind, they’re going to get there together - I can guarantee in two minutes they’re going to get to the top mark together - then they spun around and had a crash jibe which is usually really spectacular especially catamarans - when things go really bad it’s kind of cool. You don’t have the ‘bang’, gun goes off and seven minutes of snoring time.

Marcus Young: Bruno, did you wince just a little when you found out we were going to going with a multihull all the way down the line, I mean, you’re a bit of a traditionalist…but Louis Vuitton is a very forward thinking brand?

Bruno Trouble: I attended the Hall of Fame dinner party last year and we had the Ted Turners and Ted Hood so on and some people who I thought were dead ten years ago. But they voted for the multihull in the Americas Cup and I was very surprised because some 95% of the audience was saying it was crazy to have a multihull in the Cup. I’m a traditionalist - I sailed in the Olympics in a monohull, I’m a monohull guy but I changed my mind. Only a stupid person would not change their mind and I totally support the move to multihulls.

I was a bit worried as those boats are extremely fast but they will be close especially round the marks when we consider timing, but I had suspected, and I have changed my mind, that the boats may be far apart, that you may need two TV sets to watch the racing. But it looks like these boats are tacking very quick and these boats may stay together much longer than we expect. I think it's a great move for the sport and it’s our role in the America’s Cup and Louis Vuitton Cup to show the way to new techniques and you must be proud to have this first event of a new era here.
Full Cup Chat report:
Video from the evening at:

Photo 1: Ehman, Trouble, Young
Photo 2: Bruno Trouble
Photo 3: Ehman, Tulloch
Photo 4: Reggio, Young

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