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