Steve Clark prepares the 1/4 scale C-Class wing

Just when we thought legal controversies in the America’s cup were over, the switch in the all-powerful Challenger of Record in mid-May popped up. It just so happened I had the privilege of speaking before the New York State Bar Association that week about the “new” America’s Cup. Perfect timing!

I get asked to speak on topics I have covered for newspapers and magazines and in this case, through word-of-mouth, the Bar Association found me. This was their spring meeting, held in Newport, where they discuss the wonderful mentorship programs they advance and work with legislators to streamline laws and systems. They asked me to be the after dinner entertainment and bring them up to speed on the changes in the 34th AC. They were racing vintage 12 Meters the next day…when in Newport.

It is daunting to say the least to speak in front of such an intelligent and astute group, but adding to my tension was the fact that Judge Shirley Kornreich, who adjudicated the final 2009 AC litigation, and Judge Victoria Graffeo, the appellate judge in the AC case, were both in the audience. I immediately, at the opening cocktail party, made note to those I spoke with that I will not try and speak intelligently to this group regarding AC legal wranglings as I was in over my head considering the company. It brought up a few lawyer jokes but my evening was punctuated by my conversations with Judge Kornreich and Judge Graffeo.

Both spoke with me about how absolutely foreign the yachting world was to them and the attorneys. They both pored over technical and historic books on the sport just to get a better grasp on yacht design, what makes a boat faster, how a sailboat race is held and so on. In the end, they were both still a little in the dark about the finer points but realized that the Deed of Gift is a contract, and that , in the Commercial Litigation Division, they knew well.

As I explained to the audience the current AC model, how we came to this, and what they should expect, everyone (even after a full New England clam bake and ice cream), was visibly excited about the new format with rocket-fast catamarans and POV cameras. In the end they understood how the AC got here, why the event needs to appeal to a broader audience to sustain and be competitive in sport for advertising, broadcast rights and sponsorships. It’s important to note, however, that along the way I described the lifestyles of the crews, and the skippers, how much they get paid, the vagabond lifestyle, the evolution of professional sailors and the upcoming rivalries and personalities that will make the event truly exciting to follow. That is not seen in current promotions for the event but I know they will get there.

AC talk setup, Newport Hyatt, Goat Island

When Judge Graffeo and her assistant came up after the talk to thank me, she was fascinated with the 1/4 scale working model of a C-Class catamaran on display. The basic setup of this intricate and very light carbon model, was similar to AC 45s. Legendary designer and high speed craft spiritual leader Steve Clark supplied the model and I was fortunate enough to watch him apply a new skin to the wing in his rustic shop in Warren, RI, that morning.

Judge Graffeo’s first question as she felt around the slender red hulls was, “Is there a place to sleep? Where do they sit? Do they use the AC boats just for racing or other times too?” Great questions and really to the point. A general audience wants to know these things and currently we have cut to the chase and left viewers in the lurch. It was fascinating to see a group so well versed on a significant chapter in the AC, wanting to know about the basics. I believe the represent a good general audience, inqusitive, common sensical. More people stories, more basics, I heard them loud and clear and I believe the AC folks will be addressing this in their upcoming coverage. No matter what it will be unlike anything we have seen.