America’s Cup - Sport

Bertrand embraces the new world order

  • Winner: Australian sailing legend John Bertrand defeated Dennis Conner in the 1983 America’s Cup

Viewers of today’s fifth and sixth races of the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, will see the world’s ultimate sailing action in real time ... foiling catamarans flying at each other with closing speeds approaching 100mph. Pilots, not helmsmen, acting on instinct, steering through lightning-fast tacks and gybes, creating multi g-forces that challenge the best athlete’s balance.

This is not your grandfather’s, nor your father’s, nor Dennis Conner’s America’s Cup — this is America’s Cup Bermuda, 2017.

John Bertrand, an “old world” America’s Cup winner and Australian sailing legend, shocked the 1983 sailing scene by defeating Dennis Conner and crew in their traditional monohulled vessel. Bertrand won with Australia II, famous then for its revolutionary winged keel. It was breakthrough technology.

Unlike Conner, who seems happy to be in California making unsubstantiated, negative comments about the America’s Cup, Bertrand is in Bermuda experiencing the foiling multihull revolution first-hand.

He is tuned in to the fast-paced, instant decision-making necessary for sailors racing — actually flying on foils, lifting rudders and wings — at 45 knots, over 50mph.

Bertrand met recently with a handful of media representatives at the America’s Cup Village in Dockyard, where he recounted a recent tour of Silicon Valley and meetings with Facebook, Google and Apple Computers.

He said: “Some of these people think that e-gaming will be the biggest Olympic sport in the future ... There’s 100 million people playing online in real time as we speak.”

He added: “What I see here [at the America’s Cup] is that this is kind of an e-gaming world. These operators, these skippers in particular are unique. There’s only about a half-dozen people in the world who can sail these boats as close to optimum as possible.”

This is their e-game.

“The speed of decision-making with these boats and the way these boats are flying, these guys are test pilots working on prototypes in the morning and in the afternoon’s combat. In the morning they are prototype military jet fighters; in the afternoon its mortal combat.”

“This is exciting for young people,” Bertrand said. “The challenge with sport today is the demographics getting older and older, with linear TV and linear media. The question is ‘what’s the hook for young people for the sport?’

“There are incredible hooks evolving here [at the America’s Cup level] with the way these boats are operating. This is the world of Formula One on water now. These boats are airborne platforms, more so than boats, and it’s really exciting. The racing, regardless of all that, is amazingly close and exciting.

“There have been more lead changes that we are seeing here than we’ve ever seen in the America’s Cup in the past. We are seeing disruption happening here.