Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Today in AC history as desperation sets in

Today in America’s Cup history
Historian Hamish Ross looks recalls the advent of the nationality rule during the 1980 America’s Cup season off Newport, R.I.

1980, Race 4, Australia vs. Freedom – Freedom wins by 4:48. Skipper Dennis Conner takes the New York Yacht Club to match point at 3-1 in the 24th America’s Cup Match.

After an American sailor, tactician Andy ,Rose had sailed with an Australian challenger during the 1977 America’s Cup season, the rules regarding the nationality of crew and designers were first implemented by the New York Yacht Club on July 15, 1980, prior to the 1980 match, but to take effect after 1980. Designers and crew were thereafter required by a new Trustee Interpretative Resolution to be nationals of the country of the respective competing yacht club. Immediately, issues arose as to what constituted a “national” of a country and with the Defender seeking to access foreign design talent, the new nationality rule was soon undermined by an amending Trustee Interpretative Resolution on March 9, 1982, permitting nationality to be attained by holding a passport, having domicile, or by having a principal place of residence in the country concerned for a period (usually about 18 months to two years) before the match. The rule was now easily, if sometimes expensively, satisfied by designers and crew renting a residence in a country as from a fixed date. The advent of almost fully professional crews after 1987 put more pressure on the new nationality rules as more mobile professional sailors and designers sought to take up America’s Cup opportunities across national boundaries.

The designer and sailor nationality rules were abolished after the 2003 match, after the rules had lost credibility and only added an additional expense for competitors. The America’s Cup then returned to the position in which it was prior to 1983, when there were no restrictions on the nationality of crew or designers.

Historically, America had engaged six English sailors and an English pilot to win the Cup in 1851, and American defenders routinely used Scandinavian crews. Use of an all-American crew on Defender was headline news in 1895. Early challengers engaged local pilots to help them navigate the tides and shoals of New York Harbour.

The issue of crew nationality remains alive in many quarters in a search for balance between a representative national team to promote national public support, and encouraging new countries to enter the America’s Cup competition by making accessible skills and experience necessary to compete effectively. At present, a competitor has the discretion as to whether or not they engage nationals as their designers and crews, but a defender and its challenger of record have the freedom to mutually consent to crew and designer nationality rules as part of their mutually agreed terms for their forthcoming match. It would take a change to the Deed of Gift if a rule were to apply to all future matches.

If you want to know about the actual race Dance of the Desperates, look here or watch it yourself.

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