The California Yacht Club in Marina del Rey will host a visit at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1 from BMW Oracle spokesman Tom Ehman, who will once again discuss the state of the upcoming 34th America’s Cup for local sailors and fans of one of the most prestigious and influential sailing events in the world. Design coordinator Ian Burns will also be on hand.
The charismatic and quick-witted Ehman has spent, in some capacity, the last 30 years being involved with the America’s Cup (AC). His understanding of the sport of sailboat racing and the AC in particular, is unparalleled. His presentations are typically filled with the latest information, exclusive images/video and plenty of comedic sidelines.
The last couple of times that Ehman spoke to the Los Angeles boating community his task wasn’t easy. The 33rd America’s Cup was, in certain ways, a stain on an event whose prestige is akin to that of the Olympic Games or the World Cup.
Instead of teams from nations match racing against rival nations in perfectly crafted custom-made boats, the 33rd Cup was reduced to the lawyers of two billionaires haggling about language in a century old document called the Deed of Gift. Instead of writing about winning starts and perfect spinnaker sets, sports reporters wrote about the interpretations and intentions of long-dead authors who wrote a document created for a worse case scenario – for competitors who couldn’t get along.
Ehman, with a clear and admitted American bias, walked everyone through the mire that was the 33rd America’s Cup. Although the 33rd Cup, which included a duel between two angry and very wealthy men, ended up producing two of the most incredible racing yachts that have ever existed, it was largely a relief for AC fans all over the world when it was over.
For the BMW Oracle team, owned by Larry Ellison, the 33rd was mission accomplished. They created a monstrous trimaran with a rigid wing larger than any other – including airliners – and promptly took the America’s Cup from the hands of the Swiss team, Alinghi, headed by biotechnology magnet Ernesto Bertarelli.
Now with the world’s oldest active trophy in sporting history securely in hand, the American team looks to make this next America’s Cup a modern spectacle that garners the interest of world media and a younger audience.
Ehman will no doubt discuss the direction of the 34th Cup that some are calling controversial. While the sport has almost always been sailed in monohull boats, the defender announced that the next Cup will be in 72-foot catamarans with rigid wings instead of the traditional soft sail.
“During our six months of planning we spoke to the teams, to commercial partners, media and to the fans,” said Russell Coutts, CEO of BMW ORACLE Racing. “A clear and compelling vision emerged that to capture and communicate the excitement our sport can produce, we need the best sailors racing the fastest boat.”
The next Cup is scheduled for sometime in 2013 and the location is still undecided, although the smart money is on a city not too far up the 5 freeway – San Francisco – Ellison’s hometown.
Although Ehman will encounter so called “purists” who believe the boats in this modern Cup will be unrecognizable and the event isn’t as relatable with enormous catamarans sporting sails that aren’t even sails, his burden to promote and explain this regatta should be far more pleasurable.
Instead of articulating legal scenarios, he’ll be discussing box rules, boats that will reach speeds of 35 knots, and whether or not match racing in multihulls will be sufficiently exciting for fans.
And it’s with this point that BMW Oracle is especially concerned. To this end, they are fitting all the boats with a wide array of specialized marine cameras that will provide the action from every angle. There will also be an onboard camera-person on each boat.
The America’s Cup organization is committed to making the next event something exciting that the mainstream media will not only be interested in reporting on but will have an easier time of covering than in past cups.
Whatever happens in 2013, one thing is certain: The next event will be unlike anything that’s come before in America’s Cup history. Pete Melvin, from Morrelli & Melvin Design & Engineering in Huntington Beach who composed the AC72 Class Rule, summed it up:
“There will be nothing else like them, which perfectly matches the allure and appeal of the America’s Cup,” Melvin said.