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Cup Talk of the National Business Review

by Ivor Wilkins

Everybody's doing it
In ancient Egypt, the slaves who built the pharoahs' tombs were routinely executed so they could not reveal any secrets. Imagine then, how insecure the America's Cup measurers must feel. They are the only ones that get to see all the teams' secrets, because they have to decide whether the various boats are class-legal. Australian Ken McAlpine heads the measurer team. The sense of tension as he inspects all the secret bits is palpable. This is where teams hope they have the edge over everyone else. As he inspects some esoteric invention, he loves to burst the bubble by groaning and complaining, "Oh no! Not another one of these!"

Dickson's leap is Brady's loss
In all the ballyhoo about Chris Dickson's sudden reincarnation as skipper of Oracle BMW Racing, spare a thought for Gavin Brady. When both had been relegated to roles "on the beach," Dickson from Oracle and Brady from Prada, they decided to team up for the Etchells World Championships, which will be held at Gulf Harbour this year. Suddenly, their plans were turned upside down by Ellison's decision to recall Dickson. So Oracle BMW Racing gained a skipper and Brady lost a mainsheet hand.

...and Ellison's too
When Dickson got the job, he obviously drove a hard bargain, because Ellison gave the assurance that, when it came to selecting crews and anything to do with sailing and performance, it was Dickson's call. Ellison probably never thought for a minute that Dickson would exercise that power by getting rid of the boss. But, for whatever reason, the second time Dickson took charge of the crew, Ellison was not on board. He must have had pressing engagements elsewhere.

Let sleeping dogs lie
During the lively press conference where Larry Ellison explained his decision to put Chris Dickson back in charge of the Oracle BMW Racing sailing team, the man from the BBC posed a question to representatives from rival teams. "If someone had woken you up in the middle of last night and said the next time you're racing Oracle, you can have Chris Dickson as skipper or you can have the current skipper, what would you have given as your reply?" Alan Smith, Australian bowman on OneWorld: "Why the hell did you wake me up just to tell me that?"

Coming from you, that's rich
Rich and powerful men hate having to apologise for anything. Larry Ellison certainly wasn't going to apologise for recalling Chris Dickson. But he was quick to apologise for an official Oracle BMW Racing media release, which took a gratuitous swipe at Prada, whose own billionaire owner has done his share of hiring and firing. According to the Oracle BMW release, Ellison's reshuffle was about bringing talented personnel into the sailing team to boost performance, "whereas Prada has eliminated their talented personnel." The only one laughing was Doug Peterson, the designer eliminated from the Italian syndicate.

It's like holding the Winter Olympics in Cairo

At the time of writing, nine days out of 21 had been lost to the weather, most of them because of too much wind. As the lost time approached the 50% mark, there should have been a sense of familiarity about the statistic. Lost practice time last spring was about the same. And the spring before that, and ... Trying to impose a 7-19 knot wind range in Auckland in springtime is like trying to hold the Winter Olympics in Cairo. It just doesn't equate.

Too windy? Hell no, we love this stuff

The America's Cup represents the pinnacle of sailing, the summit to which young up-and-coming sailors aspire. Yet, one couldn't help wondering who should be admiring whom recently when Cup racing had been called off for too much wind. As the multimillion-dollar yachts were towed back to their bases, the youngsters at Kohimarama Yacht Club were out in force, sailing their P-Class yachts and Optimists without a second thought, revelling in the brisk conditions.

If I'm not a good bet, back the Kiwis

Dennis Conner is an astute judge of sailing "horseflesh." At a recent luncheon, he assessed the current fleet competing in the Louis Vuitton Cup and reckoned Team New Zealand was a good bet to keep the Cup. That is, as long as they were not sailing against his own Team Dennis Conner. And, on current performance, that looks a pretty safe bet. Even their own skipper, Ken Read, had to shake his head the other day and confess they just couldn't figure out why they weren't winning many races.