Johnstone: End of Cup double vision is in sight

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:10 21/09/2013

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America's Cup

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OPINION: The next America's Cup needs to find some middle ground.

That point has become painfully obvious over the last few days.

As much as these giant catamarans have amazed the old faithful and wooed a new crowd of followers with their sheer speed and dynamics, their Achilles heel has also been exposed with the frustrating postponements.

Cries for increased wind limits are one thing, but how far do you push these things, how fast do they need to go to provide a spectacle?

Larry Ellison's vision included the elimination of monohull boats that were either painfully slow racing in light winds, or were left waiting at the start line for enough winds to get under way.

That happened 10 days in a row in Auckland back in 2003. It was embarrassing.

But what we've witnessed at the opposite end of the spectrum a decade later in terms of racing cancellations isn't much better.

It's almost more frustrating because an oily Hauraki Gulf has been replaced by a white-capped San Francisco Bay.

The course can't be shifted to a less windy area because of the land crowd and the starts can't be moved forward to a less windier time because of TV schedules.

Supporters of the monohulls - and believe me, there are quite a few - will be quietly chuckling in their rums at the irony of what's been happening here.

The development of the AC72s has been so rapid, it has caught everyone unawares. Andrew Simpson's death in May wasn't all to do with speed, probably more about physics and boat performance.

But the handbrake that tragedy placed on this event is now being felt because the second-generation boats are better and the sailors have learned to sail them far more efficiently.

But it's an endless highway with these boats in the fast lane while the rulemakers and circumstances will always place a speed limit on them.

The AC72s appear to be instant dinosaurs the moment this final finishes, victims of their own excesses.

Smaller, slower catamarans or faster monohulls will surely be the equation on the table for the next cup holder to make.

Something that has the ability to operate safely in a wider range of conditions and yet retain some the current sex appeal needs to be a priority, along with hauling in the expenses.

It's a tricky equation and not everyone's going to be pleased with the solution.

But right now, just as they were 10 long years ago, no one is happy sitting around looking at America's Cup yachts unable to start a race.

Fairfax NZ

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- Fairfax Media

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