Modern day sport is as much about winning at all costs as it is about creating national or civic pride through athletes and their provenance. In the America’s Cup World Series, the Liveline technology superimposes little cocktail flags on the boats to remind the viewer which country the associated yacht club is based in, but the bodies on board can come from anywhere.
In forums around the internet, people will debate the merits of a nationality rule for a while yet, but the announcement of the new ORACLE Racing teams for Naples is a great reminder of the disconnect between the flag on the back of the boat and the talent onboard.
Of the 10 sailors named for the two ‘USA‘ boats, only 1 - John Kostecki is American. 50% are Australian including both Skippers. There are 3 sailors from the Netherlands and one from New Zealand.
Leaving nationality rules aside for a moment – several commentators have asked – how does the America’s Cup, being defended by an American team in American waters capture the American public’s attention when there is a token American presence amongst the team line-up.
In an astute observation recently, Alan Block from Sailing Anarchy said something to the effect of:
“Jimmy Spithill is a great guy, but the problem is that Spithill is not American. When ‘Bubba’ switches over from the fishing channel or the poker – he’s going to say – who is this guy? I don’t relate to this guy.”
Hopefully, somewhere there is a program to develop hot American sailing talent, but in the meantime, Australia is punching well above its weight.
So ORACLE Racing (USA) will be made up of Jimmy Spithill (AUS), John Kostecki (USA), Dirk de Ridder (NED)), Joe Newton (AUS) and Piet van Nieuwenhuyjzen (NED).
The second boat will be Darren Bundock (AUS), Tom Slingsby (AUS), Kyle Langford (AUS), Simon Daubney (NZ) and Simeon Tienpont (NED).
The Golden Gate Yacht Club promised that there would be a Youth America’s Cup, back in the multi-faceted vision for the future outlined in Rome – way back when Mascalzone Latino was the Challenger of Record. The America’s Cup World Series and the Louis Vuitton Cup has proven to be more than enough work for the teams and ACEA, but who needs a youth America’s Cup when sailors like Kyle Langford (22) can get on the boat for the top team in a key position?
Langford is a past youth world champion (2005) in the multihull class and a past Australian Youth Sailor of the Year (2006). More recently he has sailed with Oman Sail in the Extreme Sailing Series and been a key part of Torvar Mirsky’s Alpari World Match Racing Tour team.
The move to highly-athletic catamarans is changing the sport at the top end. There is a changing of the guard. Russell Coutts will not be on the boat in Naples and neither will Murray Jones.
Elsewhere in the fleet, young, hungry sailors are proving that there is no place for a bunch of old men in their fifties standing around on the back of the boat and that’s a good thing for the sport.