America’s Cup a billionaire’s game: Bertrand

The America’s Cup has come a long way from when Australia II won the Auld Mug in 1983, with the helmet and safety-equipment clad competitors now being akin to “test pilots”, winning skipper John Bertrand said on Wednesday.

Bertrand told SEN that the technical advancements that made up the new AC-72 boats made the contest a “different game” from 1983 with campaigns now costing $100 million compared with the $1.5 million that was used for Australia II.

Where the Australia II caused controversy with its winged keel, the contests in the 12-metre category yachts now seem almost stately compared to the high-octane battles of the remarkable AC-72’s, which have been likened to formula one racing cars on the water as they reach remarkable speeds.

‘These boats are now sailing three times the speed of the wind, so in 10 knots of breeze they’re sailing 30 knots so it’s amazing what they’re achieving,” Bertrand said.

“They’re test pilots, these sailors now, because these things are airborne vehicles.

“They’re sailing on hydrofoils but the bottom line is it’s a young man’s sport, it’s a super athletic environment … the power on these boats that’s required is massive, the aerobic ability and also the smarts, so it’s a different game.”

Bertrand said he believed Australia would again compete in the America’s Cup, which he regarded as still “very, very prestigious around the world”.

“We’ve got a lot of guys the question is the cash,” Bertrand said.

“I think the multibillionaire coming out of Western Australian or Queensland who wants to become a global trader, that’s the sort of vehicle that could be of interest to him. The America’s Cup is still very, very prestigious around the world.”

As for the current series, Team America on Wednesday levelled at 8-8 after winning seven races in a row and leaving the series to be decided by a sudden-death race this week. Bertrand said it appeared that the American’s had benefited from intensive out-of-water testing during the series, which New Zealand had led 8-1.

“The bottom line is that the Americans have found another gear,” he said.

“They’ve done a lot of work with the technology at night with all the super computers and so on and they are sailing, I suspect, a shade faster in these conditions.”

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