Levelling the playing field (again)

Gilles Martin-Raget / BMW Oracle Racing
Sir Keith Mills and Grant Simmer speak out about the lack of challenger contribution in this 34th America's Cup cycle
Ironic, given the heated legal wrangling preceding the 33rd America’s Cup, but a storm is brewing up among the potential challengers for the 34th America’s Cup over what they consider to be BMW Oracle Racing’s monopolistic approach to the next event. Sound familiar? Once again we are hearing talk of ‘unlevel playing fields’ and ‘unfair advantages’, but rather than these emanating from the BMW Oracle Racing camp as they were just a few months ago, this time these accusations are being levelled against the American team. Maybe this bickering is just ‘business as usual’ at this stage of the America’s Cup cycle, in an event where the outdated rules allow the defender the right to determine the degree of slant of the playing field in their favour. But weren’t we being promised a new era of egalitarianism, where the Defender ceded some of their rights to an independent body, democratising the process and generally making it more acceptable in the 21st century? For while no one would question the sentiment behind Russell Coutts’ desire to revolutionise the America’s Cup – and frankly there are few other people who you would rather have undertaking this - the direction in which the event is heading seems to be solely the vision of Coutts, Larry Ellison and the BMW Oracle Racing team. At present the challengers can add their input, but seem to have no power to impose their will on the event. As Sir Keith Mills succinctly puts it: “What we are concerned about - but frankly no decision has been made yet - is that BMW Oracle has set about putting together a Protocol and a Class Rule through consultation, but consultation is not much use if you don’t listen.” The main issue it seems is the invisibility of the Challenger of Record, the