America Invades Bermuda

America Invades Bermuda John Eric Mangino

New York December 2, 2014

Arriving in New York City early Tuesday morning via the Path System from my home at the Jersey Shore, my destination is the Crosby Hotel, a boutique hotel on the border of Soho (south of Houston.) Soho is an eclectic combination of art galleries, restaurants and boutiques. I have to wonder why this is the destination the America’s Cup has chosen for its most important press conference to date. In the middle of lower Manhattan as I disembark the Path station you are quickly reminded of many things American. First would be the many Wall Streeters hurrying to their jobs which makes more sense in a way seeing the America’s Cup has always been thought of as a billionaires sailing event. Irony abounds everywhere you look .

Just behind me is the single most symbolic monument of American might, the Freedom Tower and the 911 Memorial. Shuffling through the many Homeland security concrete barriers I’m reminded there is another landmark that is more in line with mission for the day. Two blocks south is the Manhattan Yacht Club in the shadow of One World financial building that survived the terrible attacks. The next would be the Marina named after one of the most legendary America’s Cup skippers, Dennis Conner. But even more would be Miss Liberty at the entrance of this great harbor and Ellis Island that welcomed millions of immigrants from all over the world to our land of the free.

The last thought that runs through my mind is the New York Yacht Club, historic, iconic and where the Auld Mug or America’s Cup itself sat bolted to a table in the bar.

Just blocks away this is where it all began in 1857. It remained there until 1983 when it was unbolted for its trip to Australia the day most agree changed the America’s Cup forever.

This will become even more ironic later in the day. I can’t help but wonder again why with all these landmarks around us my destination is a little boutique hotel on a cobblestone street when we have all these symbols of America and its history in our grasp.

It’s windy downtown this morning of the announcement of the next venue of the 35th America’s Cup, the oldest sporting trophy. I opt for the subway — first stop the Brooklyn Bridge, more irony thought to be one the wonders of American engineering not unlike the many yachts that have defended the Cup in America’s name. A quick change to the Six train and out onto Lafayette Street. More irony, history just abounds in this area from the first Dutch settlers to the Indians that sold it away. Named after the Marquis de Lafayette, General Lafayette (France) most widely remembered for fighting side by side with our first Father of America, General George Washington, helping us win the revolutionary war against the mighty British empire.
The cobblestone streets here are an even bigger reminder of the great exodus from Europe of the melting pot, not unlike the Challengers and crews that have immigrated here to take our iconic Cup. Italian and Irish masons built most these old buildings in this neighborhood that still stand among the towers of glass and steel.

I have landed in reality of America’s Cup History. Walking now down my destination’s street Crosby, it seems very empty and quiet on this gray and rainy morning. Am I that early? As I get my bearing on the posh hotel in between historic brownstone buildings my attention comes upon a dead giveaway parked right out front. You see we have been summoned here today by invitation only, a select few brought here to learn the fate of two cities or rather one city and one country: San Diego or Bermuda or even the last hope that perhaps San Francisco in some back room deal had finally come around and decided to keep the Oldest Trophy in the Golden Gate’s shadow.

This soon became evident not to be the case and not from waiting for the announcement but a black SUV sitting out front with eg. Bermuda Embassy plates on it. Mystery over.

The clapping of cobblestone sounds off and the next of many UBER black SUVs begin to arrive. Funny, still feeling I’m early — no one outside. The door opens and who of all people steps out? I’m greeted with a huge “Hey mate, great to see you!” It’s our own James PITTBULL Spithill, Team USA skipper and winner of two America’s Cups. What timing. The last time I had seen Jimmy was in SF at the celebration party the night of winning the greatest Comeback in Cup history or even sports some say. Coming back from a 8–0 deficit against the sailing nation of New Zealand and Emirates Team New Zealand’s Dean Barker, a long time nemesis.

Next, to my chagrin, is a SIR, Sir Ben Ainslie steps out of the lobby and joins us both at the curb, greeting me as well by first name. I’m struck by my timing — all to myself I have the dynamic duo that paired up to defend the 34th America’s Cup. It was widely credited to these two teaming up in the latter rounds that turned the Team around. I’m standing with sailing royalty making small talk.

We move inside after a couple minutes, still chatting up. Jimmy has been down in Miami doing tactics for a Melges team. I learn his elbow is better and what had been widely reported he was going under the knife soon. Jimmy says a new treatment he’s been doing may keep him from surgery. Jimmy sailed the whole Cup defense with this injury. He drops the first bomb on me that he will be sailing the historic Sydney to Hobart Race on Boxing Day and he will be sailing with Ken Read on “Commanche” a new 100 foot maxi designed and built to challenge just for this race , a race that has been historically dominated by Wild Oats, owned by the Hamilton Island Oates family dynasty. The same family that had announced minutes after the comeback of Team USA that they would be challenging for the 35th America’s Cup and applied and won the Challenger of Record spot in the name of Australia and the Hamilton Island Yacht Club. This would later not be the case as they withdrew their challenge soon after. Some believe there may be another Australian Challenger coming forward, but not at this writing.

Sir Ben, the holder of the most Olympic gold medals in sailing, has been a very busy man.

Now the head of the first British challenger in many years, he finds himself in the middle of training on AC45 foiling platforms these days as well as juggling sponsorship money, overseeing the building of his America’s Cup BAR immense base in Portsmouth, England, and planning of the America’s Cup World series. As well in the same venue, he is training on the Solent while this week announcing the partnership with Red Bull Racing, thought to be the world’s most advanced Formula One engineering teams second to perhaps only the house of Ferrari.

There been no rest for Ben since that historic day with Oracle Team USA. Even getting the Royals to the table. Patron Mother of his Sailing Trust,is the The Duchess of Cambridge.

Our host handlers have woken up and now found the duo and my exclusive is time over. I’m offered some coffee downstairs in these posh digs and shown the coat check, etc.

Truth be told I could have gone home then and there, I have already scooped the press. Of course I don’t.

It’s not two seconds until I’m face to face with the man that started my interest in sailing and the America’s Cup. Yes Mr. America’s Cup himself, Dennis Conner. Defender 1980 USA; historic loser to the Australians in 1983, and perhaps the Comeback King only second to Jimmy for winning it back in 1987 from last years’ 34th America’s Cup Race Director Iain Murray. Then defending a hugely mismatched challenge just a year later from New Zealand.

Dennis says “Hello.” It’s so good to see him here, The last cycle didn’t see him very involved at all almost to a fault of the AC last round. This cycle he will play a big part and informs me he will be hosting his own DC Experience Hospitality tent in the AC race village. Dennis has sailed in Bermuda for years. We talk about how he’s been racing locally lately in San Diego, his home port. It’s always a pleasure to see him. Briefly, we are interrupted by none other than the most winning skipper and CEO of the America’s Cup, Sir Russell Coutts. Some line-up in this room already as I get to the photo taking I am reminded of one of reasons I’m here.

I ask RC “Where you been since the great comeback

days of the 34th?”

I had last seen Russell at the invitation-only celebration the next night at the GGYC with just the team and close friends of the team — another iconic night. One that I didn’t take any pictures but just enjoyed the celebration. I ask “Any sailing?” He replies not really but that soon all will be clear and he’s more excited about this venue than any before epic, as he calls it.

Within shoulder distance I’m surrounded by the past, the current and the future America’s Cup Legends. You find yourself thinking how lucky you are that you remember the four years of ACWS of the Louis Vuitton Trophy, the announcement in Dubai of the 34th, the last LVT that would see the end of the Version five ICC boats. You were there, and of Venice on the Grand Canal, of being lucky enough to guest race on an AC45 in the infamous Plymouth capsize club. I remember also of the return to historic Newport, RI and of course the summer of racing in San Francisco and sadly looking over seeing Nathan Outteridge and instantly I am reminded of the tragic loss of Andrew (Bart) Simpson and wonder how Nathan was able to rally his team back to race in what became the last Louis Vuitton Cup, leading Team Artemis Racing.

Next I’m greeted by one our hosts, Elizabeth Murphy or as I call her the Cup Mother. Hers is a unique job as she’s in charge of the well being of our country’s silver baby, named Auld.

Next, I’m joined by my old friend Commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, Norbert Bajurin. He seems a little overwhelmed or reserved more than usual but has on his trademark ear to ear grin. He tells me he’s on to Bermuda after this conference for what will turn out to be an island nation frenzy.

Norbert will present the Cup to its temporary home for the next three years, Bermuda. He looks well in agreement with the decision for this surrogate venue outside U.S. territorial waters, in fact the first time in history it will be defended this way by America.

It’s the same feeling you get walking into the New York Yacht Club in Newport or the St. Francis or even San Diego. Tradition is served here.

Next, I shake the hand of who later became announced to me as Michael Dunkley, the Premier of Bermuda, a very approachable dignitary, from whom you get the feeling of tradition from yet youthful energy with a slice of conservatism . A visionary let me say. I can’t help to feel this has all been planned for quite a while at least since the announcement San Francisco was out. I can’t help the feeling Chicago or San Diego never had a chance .

Everyone is very well behaved or let’s say mannered, most like me in suits or a sport jacket. I thought it proper but I guess that my point is something feels more traditional still even though we are racing outside our own waters. It’s the same feeling you get walking into the New York Yacht Club in Newport or the St. Francis or even San Diego. Tradition is served here.

I next meet our new Commercial Commissioner One Star General retired Harvey Schiller, an interesting man who has the look of a thinker, a constant thinker like there is something else he should be doing. He’s not a sailor he will tell you right away. This is the money man tasked with doing what couldn’t be done in the 34th: brand the 35th and do it in short time. Sell ACWS venues, attain major sponsors and seal the TV deals. He has a lot on his shoulders and in the short time he has done a lot. And Bermuda is one of his and Russell’s crowning feats. We exchange cards after I update him on my other pet project the virtual sailing foiling AC45s and AC62. He’s very Intrigued and wants a new video update. I will be sending him one soon.

I next scan over to my new pisano Max Sirena, Skipper of Prada Luna Rossa, with an Italian hug and traditional kiss on the cheeks. The new Challenger of Record ( COR) Luna Rossa was controversial to say the least in the last 34th AC and Louis Vuitton Cup by boycotting race one of the semi-finals. Waiting for a decision of the international jury on a protest, they thought it unworthy to race based on the principle that a decision was before the jury and they should not race until their decision.

The quiet yet deadly Frenchman Franck Cammas, winner the last Volvo Ocean Race and a master catamaran sailor, and skipper of the Team France entry this time speaks a broken English yet he seems to understand mine very well. I ask how their efforts are coming along.

First I asked when will you begin to sail an AC45. He laughs and says we just bought our first one, that being Coutts old ride Number 5, the same that took out the committee boat, the same that was finally cleared of the weight scandal. Max laughs. Franck then goes on to say they will be buying a new AC45F I believe to be used for testing.I get the feeling they are playing catch up and having trouble raising money. They have not announced a venue for the ACWS as of yet. We also discuss the grounding of Vestas. He is delighted all are well, he explains it could have been a much worse scenario he like most don’t see them returning.

I get the feeling they are playing catch up and having trouble raising money. They have not announced a venue for the ACWS as of yet. We also discuss the grounding of Vestas. He is delighted all are well, he explains it could have been a much worse scenario he like most don’t see them returning

Well, almost show time. Our conference is in a small theater next to this reception area. I scout it out with friend, Gilles Martin-Raget who has tapped my shoulder — ah here’s my friend and inspiration. Gilles name is associated with America’s Cup itself, always a gentleman and always one to offer advice or even lend you a memory card, etc. Gilles was an inspiration to me in the early years. I pick my spot and begin taking some test shots adjusting for the poor lighting.

Hollywood Royals meet the America’s Cup

As I adjust for the lighting, I scan up the row and notice a very attractive woman walking towards me. I think to myself “I know this woman. How do I know her?” I take the camera away from my eye only to now see a figure behind her. It’s Michael Douglas. Wait! Douglas Ha! The woman is none other than his wife, Catherine Zeta Jones. As she passes by I somehow utter the word “ Hello,” Im very surprised as she replies “Hello” in kind.

I don’t take the picture. The lights are going down, it’s show time. Mike just gives me a glare as if to say “Yup, she’s mine, Pal.” I retreat to my seat.

At this point all in the room already know the announcement to come but are there any surprises? Will there be any answers to the still looming questions and will they be addressed? We still have no Notice of Race, NOR, we still have no protocol of the Challenger’s series or what used to be called the Louis Vuitton Cup and where this will be held. It’s rumored that Team New Zealand is after this series and needs it to compete to justify government money. A venue would help them even if it’s an ACWS. But New Zealand is an expensive proposition to say the least for the rest of the Teams.

After the traditional pomp and introductions, the Minister takes the stage and with great fanfare embraces the 35th America’s Cup in a very eloquent manner. There are extensive plans already made. Months worth of logical village placement in the old Naval yards, a Team base area, extensive plans of cruise ships to help in housing as well as extra destination plans just for the 35th America’s Cup . He explains at any given time two ships are planned to disembark at the park — this traffic alone would double that of the 34th’s traffic numbers in SF which were low on any given day.

Housing packages will be arranged for the teams, the staff and, yes, even the media this time. The first event will be as soon as 2015 ACWS Bermuda in October. The first test.

Getting back to Jimmy and my conversation before this I had asked Jimmy when they planned to start to train on AC45fs and where. He told me there will be a February session the last of Oracle Team USA presence in SF and then the rest of what’s already packed up at Pier 80 will then be abandoned and closed. Everything will be moved to a new home base in Bermuda and they will be the first. The hulls for their AC62s will be laid in Northern California and the rest finished by their base in New Zealand. Remember the keels still have to laid in the countries of origin borders and Bermuda is not in the USA last time I looked.

Max also stated to me in the Q and A session Prada would also be arriving early in Bermuda to get some on the water advantages. Both would have a pretty big presence. Kind of like the Artemis base was in Alameda across the Bay from Pier 80.

The Knights in the room, Ben and Russell, were on hand and answered just about any question you wanted ask. Of course Ben is very busy with his own complex being built in Portsmouth. They will host two ACWS: one in July 2015 and one in 2016. Ben of course is very pleased to the proposition of Bermuda as it’s like his childhood playground having raced there for a lifetime and not to mention its still a principality of Her Majesty’s Crown.

As for Sir Coutts well you could tell this was his baby the whole way this is where Russell’s been in Bermuda selling this Cup to this Premier Yachting destination and now the America’s Cup surrogate home for the next three years. Deemed the Sailors Dream, this destination is home to world match racing cup and the prestigious Newport to Bermuda Yacht race.

So here are the numbers so far per America’s Cup media:

America’s Cup World Series

All teams have been given an opportunity to host events in their home countries. At least four events are expected in 2015, including:

Season opener — To be announced — June 5–7, 2015

Portsmouth, Great Britain — July 23–26, 2015

Gothenburg, Sweden — August 28–30, 2015

Hamilton, Bermuda — October 16–18, 2015

Four to six events are expected in 2016, including a summer regatta in the USA in Chicago. A stop in Portsmouth, UK has already been confirmed for July 2016.

2017 — the year of the America’s Cup

In 2017, all teams will compete in their new AC62 catamarans, powered by highly-efficient wing sails and designed to fly above the water on foils at speeds near 50 mph. Racing begins for all teams with the America’s Cup Qualifiers where the teams are seeded — with bonus points — according to their results in the AC World Series. The top challengers then go on to compete for the America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs and the right to race ORACLE TEAM USA in the America’s Cup Finals in June 2017.

The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup

In 2013, the first Red Bull Youth America’s Cup took place just before the first races of the America’s Cup. Featuring 10 national teams comprised of sailors aged 19–23, the event was an instant success.

Now, it will return. The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup will take place in Bermuda.

Double Olympic Gold medalists Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher, from Austria, will return as the Sports Directors for the Series, identifying talent, coaching and assisting the young teams, and making selections for the final regatta, which will take place in 2017.

What will be different they will be using the One Design AC45F foiling the same boats the ACWS teams use. How many teams will be accepted still remains to be announced

Lastly, the star power of the Douglas family to answer the question why they were there. Michael’s mother actress Diana Dill

of course was Bermudian. Ttey have owned a resort complex there for many years.

Mr. Douglas said: “Ariel Sands has been in our family, the Dill family, for more than 50 years. As many of you also know, the cottage colony tourism business has been pretty rough the last 20 years. I’m very proud to announce, on behalf of Ariel Sands, a partnership with the Hilton Vacation Clubs.”

Mr. Douglas said he’s been talking about the plans with Government for the past few days and presented the idea to Cabinet. He said the development would be great for tourism, but also for Bermudians. Local staff will have the opportunity to train abroad and live on site with 16 staff rooms.

Hilton Grand Vacation Clubs is basically a high-end timeshare operation with more than 3,700 exchange opportunities.

It is still unclear if this will be open in time for the 35th America’s Cup but one would think yes it would.

As much as I hate to say this without the San Francisco venue I have to say this is going to be one of the best America’s Cup in history. I really feel San Diego dropped the ball at the ACW. There was little viewing space provided for the public and the hotels were far from the venue. The homeless at the gates didn’t help every morning. And the fact our own President couldn’t get himself to visit but could find the time to attend the basketball game across the bay from the venue in ear shot. It was just about enough room for an ACWS but foiling AC62 in the small harbor I just can’t envision. I don’t think Russell did could either.

Chicago was way too unpredictable and the state of its economy probably the deciding factor. An ACWS in 2016 makes sense and is more affordable. Why we haven’t seen a Newport venue is kind of a mystery. It may be because of the Volvo Ocean Race — the America’s Cup of past never liked shared billings but with the infrastructure being built for their stopover it would have made sense of a ACWS at least.

The Dalton Factor — strange he was not on hand for this announcement perhaps in protest. I didn’t get to speak to Kevin Shoebridge but he stated over and over the team was happy with the choice. While Dalton had in the past warned of its choice and that it would be an unfair venue choice for New Zealand pointing to sponsor engagement. That all seems to have changed here are some of his comments via an ETNZ press release:

New Zealand has the opportunity to host an ACWS regatta in December 2015 and another in December 2016.

Dalton confirmed the team had put together a proposal to ACEA about events in New Zealand and discussions were proceeding favourably. “Details must remain confidential for now; we hope we can say much more before the end of the year.”

“We were encouraged by what we learned. Operationally, Bermuda is by far a better place to sail. Unlike San Diego there’s usually a good sea breeze, plenty of space for the race course area and more waterfront space is available for teams to set up bases.

Grant Dalton said the team was pleased the waiting was over. “Now we know the venue we can get on with putting the finishing touches to our business plan and present it to our backers. We have solid support from our sponsors and we have every expectation of being able to mount a credible challenge in Bermuda.”

So in closing there are possibly two other teams that may or not join the party — who that is remains a mystery one may be from the middle east another has China again entering the ring. This all remains unclear. It is also rumored the Big Fella, Iain Murray, may be making a returning as Race Director after his Team Australia withdrew. I will be reaching out this week to him. There are other candidates in the pipeline as well.

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