A Yacht Club, SAYC, which is attached to the world's most popular and irreverent sailing forum, Sailing Anarchy, is making a bid to enter AC 33.
Initially, the entry seemed to be little more than a poke at the establishment, but it generated a swell of support that has changed all that.
Marian Martin e-mailed some questions to SAYC Commodore, Scot Tempesta.
You have got until January 15 to get a fair amount of paperwork together & notarised, can you give a progress report?
Scot Tempesta: ACM did require us to jump through a lot of hoops, but with the help of our members, it's done and sent.
The SA front page says you raised $8000 in the first 24 hours; that’s about €44,000 short of your entry fee target. Do you really have a hope of getting it together by Thursday?
Our community has a history of coming together for good causes, and we're pretty sure they will do so once again.
You say that others have had the entry fee waived, but you don’t know that, do you?
We have been assured by reliable sources that the entry fee has not been paid by all Challengers.
OK, let’s assume you are given more time, there’s the matter of the declaration you’ve been asked to make. You can give an assurance that SA is a serious challenger and won’t sully the America’s Cup, but how can you ensure that the members don’t? Isn’t curbing what they say and do against the whole SA ethos?
In order to answer your question properly, I'll have to explain who is actually challenging; Sailing Anarchy Yacht Club is the Challenger for the Cup, and as required, is a Club approved by US SAILING, the National Governing Body for sailing in the United States. SAYC is an internet-based yacht club with over a thousand members, and is a seperate entity from the members of the social networking community that “lives” on the Sailing Anarchy forums. The Sailing Anarchy website contains a massive forum inhabited by some 20,000 registered members and read by up to 400,000 unique visitors each month. Those readers use the forum for nearly every possible purpose; evaluating boat design, resolving rules issues, forming classes, critiquing designs, finding crew and skippers, even getting romantic advice. We don't suppress the speech of those members except in the most egregious of cases, as we believe that free speech and transparency is essential to the enjoyment of our sport, and of life in general. We have no reason to “curb” the speech of the people that post on Sailing Anarchy – the fact that SAYC is using the site to communicate with our members and the world doesn't confer some kind of responsibility to start censoring the much larger community that is Sailing Anarchy, and we can assure everyone in the Cup community that SAYC will always treat others with the same respect that we are treated.
ACM asked us to declare that SAYC's challenge is serious, and we can unequivocally state that it is. While it started in a typically disorganized fashion, the community immediately rallied behind the idea of a grass roots America's Cup campaign that would represent sailors of every kind, every race, and every nationality. With the full support of a community that includes sailors, naval architects, riggers, administrators, rules experts, project managers, sailmakers and more, we are confident that we can rise to any challenge – serious or otherwise.
Since this started, one prolific SAAC poster had created an Anarky blog, which seems devoted to making up ridiculous stories about Ernesto Bertarelli and others. Don’t you think some people will see that as proof that a Sailing Anarchy team would, for want of a better phrase, “lower the tone” of AC33?
People who are unable to grasp the workings of the internet and social networks may become confused by how our community works, but even so, it's awfully hard to understand how anyone could take an obvious parody authored by someone outside of SAYC management as proof that we would “lower the tone” of the America's Cup. Considering that some of the most reputable personalities in the history of the Cup have recently argued that the event's tone has been lowered to a rock bottom level already – arguably we couldn't make it worse if we tried! Ironically enough, the entry of the US-based, but extremely international, challenge of SAYC may actually have the ability to help rehabilitate that reputation. Despite the recent eruption of exotic new types of boat and extreme sailing disciplines, it's still very clear that, throughout most of the world, yacht racing is regarded as an anachronic, elitist game played only by the super-rich and their servants. This perception keeps competitive sailing in the basement when it comes to mass-market appeal, makes sponsorship significantly more difficult to obtain than in other sports, and relegates TV, print, and internet sailing coverage to a weaker position that pro fishing tours. Besides, we've seen some pretty nasty and “low” parody cartoons over the past year published by Alinghi on its official website – has that damaged the Cup?
Let’s get onto your campaign, assuming you get accepted. You seem to have a team set up for logo design, website creation, boat graphics, T-shirts, TV films and other peripherals, but who is planning the actual campaign?
A strong core of team members is already working on many of the issues we'll need to deal with, but considering that we hardly know any of the details of the actual events planned or even whether we'll be allowed to compete, it is a bit premature to form our complete sailing and management team. When the time is right, they'll be in place – and will include people with substantial AC experience, as well as many without. One thing that we have that the “corinthian” teams of the past lacked is a massive network of volunteers, and we will leverage that advantage to accomplish things that many think are impossible.
What is your planned budget?
When we know some of the parameters of the event, we'll be able to better answer that question.
Have you approached any sponsors, with a campaign plan yet and, if so, what reactions have you had?
No, but a number of them have approached us with a lot of enthusiasm. How that translates into our campaign remains to be seen.
You need a V5 boat to start with and, with a lot of new teams needing the same thing, they could be in short supply. There’s been talk of you being offered two; were these serious offers?
I hope we get to find out how serious they were. We understand that there are actually quite a lot of V5 boats that will be available when necessary, though whether they will be competitive is a different matter.
Who will be organising your crew selection trials and what boats will you be using?
There have been a fair number of posts saying “I’ll do bow”, “put me down for tactician”, “I can helm” etc. Do you expect to be able to get a crew together solely from SA members?
Without question! Our community is filled with amazing sailors from every walk of life.
Will you be skippering the boat?
If you are not going to limp round at the back of the field, you are going to have to put in a great deal of team training. Where will that take place and who will be in charge?
Presumably, a number of Anarchists who are keen to crew would have to leave other jobs if they joined the SA squad and the same goes for shore team members. Will you be able to offer them job security?
We don't know yet.
At present, the management side of things seems to be you, Alan Block and some volunteers. What are you going to do when they ball really starts rolling and you need a full time management team?
To participate fully, in shaping the event, you would need to start attending competitors meetings as soon as you were accepted. Will SA be attending and who will be representing you?
After we're accepted, we'll have a representative at these meetings from our European office. We don't yet know who will go.
You have already made a Private & Confidential letter public. How are you going to deal with any non-disclosure agreements that your representative is asked to sign?
As you well know, putting “Private & Confidential” on an e-mail confers no actual duty on the recipient of the information. We will fully abide by any and all legal agreements that we are party to.
By entering, you are agreeing to abide by a protocol that your AC forum posters haven’t had a good word to say about. How do you account for the fact that those same people are now actively working towards getting you racing under that same protocol?
To reiterate the points I made above, we will not control the sentiments of the people that post on our forum. It's a public place where anyone can have their say. The community has overwhelmingly supported our entry, with the understanding that one of things lacking from the America's Cup has been a true “people's entry.” We believe that a campaign of this kind can bring the kind of interest that will help modernize the event without losing its historical spirit, and prevent the kind of damage that the Cup's reputation has suffered over the past year and a half.
Finally, the owners of teams that have entered AC 33 have all been described as “poodles”. Doesn’t the SA entry make you a poodle?