PS Readers Divided Over America's Cup Coverage

Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 04:51PM - Comments: (25)

A preview of excitement to come? Oracle Team's USA-17 suffered a spectacular capsize late last year.

Earlier this year, my provocative blog post asked readers to help decide whether PS should dedicate some ink to the America’s Cup in San Francisco this summer. The post generated an overwhelming response, and at this point, the “yeas” have only a slight edge over the “nays.”

Almost all of those who’d rather not see Cup coverage were emphatic: “Please don’t fill your great magazine with America’s Cup dribble. As a cruiser, I have absolutely no interest in it,” wrote one reader.

And most readers who encouraged PS to cover the event did so with reservation: “If you pick your topic, the AC certainly has practical value. For example, when these boats break, how are they repaired? As more boats are made from exotic materials, which structures are found to be more durable, more flexible, more brittle, or less repairable after damage?”

In other words, "keep it real."

Most agreed that from a spectator’s standpoint, this year’s event, which features super high-tech catamarans, promised to be more exciting than previous Cups. However, as PS Editor-at-Large and Chief Measurer for the America’s Cup Nick Nicholson (no relation to me, other than clan) pointed out, this also creates a Grand Canyon-size chasm between the equipment and materials on Cup boats and the boats most of us sail. To make matters worse, the veil of secrecy surrounding much of the “secret sauce” that goes into these boats makes it more difficult for even the snoopiest journalist to know what’s going to be applicable to cruising boats.

Chief measurer of the America's Cup and PS Editor-at-Large, Nick Nicholson.

“Frankly, these boats are so different from what we usually deal with, that it’s really hard to visualize what may actually trickle down into the world of ‘normal’ sailing,” Nick told me in an email. “Part of the problem now is that much of what they are doing is highly proprietary, and I can’t even discuss it, much less photograph it.”

So, I suppose this is a long-winded way of saying the vote goes on. Should we cover the Cup this summer, or just leave it to those fancy magazines with the fancy watch ads? Right now, my tally shows 25 people in favor of coverage, and 22 people against, with four comments too ambiguous to count, such as: “Now if they could find someone else other than Gary Jobson to serve as color commentator, I would really be excited about it.”

For those fence-sitters out there, or for those who haven’t yet cast their vote, here are a few Cup teasers. The AC public relations machine has put together an interesting extended video recap of Dennis Conner’s historic bid to reclaim the Cup from Down Under. It has a few snooze sections to fast forward through, but you can almost feel a heart-attack coming on as the skippers clearly begin to take this event personally. 

If you're curious about what sort of coverage I had in mind. It would most certainly be focused on elements that are relevant to our readership. Here's a link to a report Nick did for us in 2002 on the technology used in the Cup boats of that era. If anything, it offers a good picture of how drastically the boats have changed.

Finally, if you’re not yet up to speed on what’s actually going on over on the West Coast, the big event last month was the re-launching of the repaired USA-17, the AC72 that capsized in spectacular fashion last year. Here’s a cool video of the capsize, that gives a pretty good idea of how fast these boats go. In fact, you’ll find no shortage of exciting AC footage on the Web, if you’re handy with Google searches.

So what is it like to ride on one of these super-charged catamarans? Nick had the opportunity to sail on one a few weeks ago, in nearly ideal conditions, and summed it up thusly: “Foiling at 40 knots with only about 20 knots of breeze is an unbelievable experience, once you get past the shock and awe of always sailing in a gale of apparent wind with a hurricane's worth of salt water in your face.”

I think that was the one thing everyone was unanimous on: Even if they didn’t want to read about the Cup, no one said they’d refuse a chance to race an AC72 across San Fran bay at 40 knots. And I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Thanks again for all your feedback. I'll keep the voting open through April. Post "yeas" or "nays" here, or at the previous post.


Comments (25)

I vote no to The America's Cup Race coverage i PS. That sort of coverage will be plentitful in the other more commercial magazines. These boats are so far advanced, I see little they have in common with the boats the rest of us cruise in. Your magazine is perfect the way it is without this type of coverage. I think the space would be better used by continued repair tips and reviews of products the every day sailor would be likely to use. Thank you for a great magazine! Gary C.

Posted by: windshadow | April 8, 2013 11:42 PM    Report this comment

Not much I will learn from a cup coverage. That is not why I consult practical sailor.

Posted by: francois o | April 2, 2013 2:13 PM    Report this comment

I will have to side with the nays. This really is not the genre of this magazine. I am inclined to side with those that are of the opinion that if we can learn from failures of material, equipment or can be updated on gear that worked well do to new materials etc. You, of course, will always need to remember who your readers are. Keep up the good work...and thanks for listening. ps. I cancelled a subscription to a national mag. due to the heavy racing content...that is just not representing the sailing I do.

Posted by: DAVE R | April 1, 2013 10:05 AM    Report this comment

I enjoy the AC competition and watch it when it is in a convenient time zone. I am put off by the egos of the billionairs who compete and I find it sad that the boats are not of a standard class so we can really judge who the best sailors are. Given the above feelings I think you should cover it but be very careful so you are not manipulated by the hugh egos and dollars involved.

Posted by: Jonathan E | April 1, 2013 10:04 AM    Report this comment

This magazine is called Practical sailor. If the story is concerned with the actual doing or use of something sailing related, then it is fair game for publishing.

The race results are not important but what the AC boats do or use should be published.

In my view, PS already has too little content for club racers.

Posted by: Chris M | April 1, 2013 6:55 AM    Report this comment

Yes the "America Cup" is a rich man's sport. But not wanting to know about this amazing part of sailing is like not wanting to fly in airplanes because we can't afford to fly in space. This IS sailing. And I beleive that there isn't one of you who would'nt want to see ten 72' Cats screaming towards the first mark at 40knots! (These teams are introducing technology that will one day be used in cruising boats. So, Please, write about the "Cup".!

Posted by: 23craig | March 29, 2013 4:01 PM    Report this comment

Please stay focused with your time and resources on the topics we subscribe to the magazine for "the boats and gear we will find useful". I have little interest in seeing AC coverage here.

Posted by: PAUL F | March 28, 2013 9:49 AM    Report this comment

I can't see how AC coverage is relevant to your primary mission. Leave it to the luxury watch advertisers and continue to do the work that has us all continue subscribing to PS!

Posted by: ROBERT W | March 27, 2013 11:57 PM    Report this comment

I'm keen to see coverage but from a PS point of view. PS covers all sailing differently than other publications - that is why I am a loyal and long time subscriber. So cover the event, but do it from PS's unique point of view. Not who won or show spent the big bucks (well they all did) but perhaps things like, what new materials are being used that could interest us, communication advances, new wind measurement tools, cool and useful clothing or gloves. I'm not sure what, but that is what your team has done so well. Keep up the good work. But ignore the biggest sailing event of the year - perhaps the century? What stupidity would that be? Those who say nay seem to me to be reverse snobs. So show them something useful and win them over.

Posted by: Andrew H | March 27, 2013 10:02 PM    Report this comment

I expect Practical Sailor to be practical. Ignoring the Americas cup event completely is not practical. I live in the Bay Area, sail the Bay on a regular basis and have been as close as you can get to the Oracle AC72 under sail. The experience is brief and breathtaking! Yeah, I'm one of the 6-8 knot sailors, however, I can't help but be impressed by those that are challenging the limits of sail/hull technology in search of speed. Keep us excited about the sport we love! I trust your judgement.

Posted by: William D | March 27, 2013 9:57 PM    Report this comment

No thanks. Nothing practical about it. If I want to follow it or buy a watch, I can do that elsewhere.

Posted by: Cap'n Pete | March 27, 2013 6:28 PM    Report this comment

Keep doing what us PS subscribers pay you to do, help us with our real life sailing difficulties. The "other" mags do the racing thing.
D W Martin, Boise, ID

Posted by: deancrna | March 27, 2013 5:48 PM    Report this comment

Starting with the first comment, practical is the key. While the America's Cup may be of interest I would rather see articles covering the basics of electronic gear for the brown water cruiser. What is minimally appropriate for the budget sailor as opposed to the highest technology. Most of us are not computer or electronic whizes. We need plug and play info without calling Bill Gates or Paul Allen for names of experts. Mark48

Posted by: Joel G | March 27, 2013 1:21 PM    Report this comment

The fact that this question is being addressed suggests that at least some of the editors of PS have forgotten the name of the magazine. There are ample sources of glossy pictures of the AC in advert financed publications.

Posted by: David G | March 27, 2013 12:40 PM    Report this comment

The neat and not so neat stuff in the AC will be showing up in PS in a few years. Please let's hear about the new technologies as they happen. Please cover the sailing/vessel technology of the AC.

Posted by: randy B | March 27, 2013 12:24 PM    Report this comment

PS Could you please do an issue about fuel cells.

Posted by: CruisingKitty | March 27, 2013 12:22 PM    Report this comment

The America's Cup is a race of management, money, technology, teamwork and, last and incidentally, sailing. -Bill Koch

Doesn't sound like there's anything practical about that.

Then again, there may be some super secret new bottom paint that's going to give us cruisers an extra knot of boat speed without killing the environment. That's if we could afford it. Now that I'd like to hear about.

Posted by: CruisingKitty | March 27, 2013 12:21 PM    Report this comment

Wing sails and 40 knot catamarans don't match my day-to-day boating reality. Carbon fiber construction (and repair), high tech lines, and other AC technology will trickle down to us 6 knot monohull sailors. Report on that. There are better media for keeping up with the racing -- the slick magazines, Sailing Anarchy, YouTube, etc.

Posted by: CLYDE J | March 27, 2013 12:21 PM    Report this comment

I must confess that I'm a technical junkie. All the technical gizmos that PS reports on and what experienced testing shows helps me save time in how I invest in my boat. PS has great talent and resource in evaluating this technology. The eye of the professional evaluating the technology of the AC is what I look forward to reading about. Don't wimp out on this one. Go for it and report it.

Posted by: Richard d | March 27, 2013 11:45 AM    Report this comment

SKIP it, I'd rather see space used on electrical propulsion systems (for example).

Posted by: William C | March 27, 2013 11:45 AM    Report this comment

What makes the 2x wind speed possible is the fixed wing. Of practical interest to us all, is how does one park these things with the wing left up? Can they be parked without the boats needing a crew of night watchmen to monitor the boat? If practical solutions to this issue can be found, it has the potential of radically transforming the sailing boats of today.

Posted by: Richard d | March 27, 2013 11:31 AM    Report this comment

AC seems to be mostly about the equipment, and how deep the pockets are - hence the ads and sponsorship from the fancy watch companies.... Practical Sailor should stick to what it does well: providing information about boats and equipment that most of us can (and do) use.

Posted by: WM | March 27, 2013 11:28 AM    Report this comment

Report only what's relevant to the real world of sailing. I don't care who wins and loses, or even much about tactics.

Posted by: Charles S | March 27, 2013 11:20 AM    Report this comment

Please don't waste space reporting on the AC.

Posted by: ROBERT N | March 27, 2013 11:17 AM    Report this comment

My fear is that energy put into Cup coverage will distract from the unique regular good work we rely on. Please don't let that happen.
So my vote is:
Include short AC coverage as an addendum (maybe a separate color page?). Don't do Cup promotions - keep it relevant for us readers - meaning mostly bleeding edge gear or connecting the dots between 40 knot and 6 knot sailors.
Captain Howard

Posted by: Howard E | March 27, 2013 9:59 AM    Report this comment

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