America's Cup veteran blasts farcical regatta

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 06:01 04/09/2013
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The man regarded as "the America's Cup authority" has launched a scathing attack on the current regatta, labelling it the biggest mess since 1988's big boat fiasco, believing catamarans have no place in the event and hoping Team New Zealand can win to return some normality to sport's oldest contest.

England's Bob Fisher is covering his 15th America's Cup and while the world's yachting media gathered in San Francisco awaiting the "puff of white smoke" to signal a decision from the jury over the latest scandal to hit the storied event, he was willing to air his frustration to Fairfax New Zealand.

Fisher is writing the third volume of his historical America's Cup book "An Absorbing Contest" though he concedes this event may provide better copy for his next tome, "The Poisoned Chalice" which chronicles the dirty tricks of the Cup and is going to be subtitled "The Fascination of Sin".

He believes when the jury does rule against Oracle - yesterday was another day, another delay - it will be electric.

Fisher predicted "huge" fines, a loss of points and bans from the cheating scandal that has enveloped the defenders.

The delay with the jury decision hasn't surprised Fisher because of the enormity of their decision.

"They have a lot to write. There are two lawyers in their own right [on the jury], they will want all the i's dotted and t's crossed ... and rightly so."

Fisher has endured a long eight weeks in San Francisco and has little to enthuse about what has slowly unfolded.

''I don't think there has been one quite as messy as this since 1988 when the Kiwis big boat was tackled by Dennis Conner's catamaran. That was a waste of money on all parts, certainly there was no 'racing'.

"This one has shown no signs of racing. There have been a few parades but nothing other than that.

"It's absolutely diabolical. There should have been some racing ... we were treated to boats sailing around the course on their own."

Fisher felt the regatta had found its niche with the America's Cup class monohulls that were used for five Cups from 1992. The 2007 edition was proof of that with the absorbing final between Alinghi and Team New Zealand.

Larry Ellison's move to the massive and hugely expensive AC72s had proved a disaster

"I'm a catamaran enthusiast; I think they are great boats but they are no use to the America's Cup," Fisher said.

"There is no way you can get match racing as you need to have in these boats. They are speed machines - but that's not what the Cup is about. The Cup is about duelling to a certain extent.

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"This isn't yacht racing; this is display racing for television. It was made for television and declared made for television. If I have to give a man of the match award I give it to [graphics guru] Stan Honey for what he has done on the electronics because they are absolutely stupendous. Anyone can follow it, but what are we following?"

Fisher believes the best of 17 final between Oracle and Team New Zealand that starts on Sunday will be over quickly, unless there are breakages.

"I think it will be 9-0. This is now who has got the fastest boat because I can't see any passing taking place. I could be wrong, but to me it means whoever gets around the first mark is going to win the race. There aren't any passing places ... the course is so narrow, you can't wriggle out of it [if you are behind]."

Fisher believes the best thing that could happen now is a Kiwi victory.

"I'm hoping to hell Team New Zealand wins, I really am. Get it out of here and the regime they are under."

Fisher is a fan of the nationality rule that Grant Dalton is promising to implement if he wins.

He laments the lack of British or Australian presence at this Cup but the low entries don't surprise him.

"The price on this one is so astronomic. New Zealand have had to put a government behind it and get a few billionaires in on their side as well. And they aren't paying their sailors anywhere near what the others are being paid."

- Fairfax Media

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