The smartest way to bet on the America’s Cup is to watch the first race and back whichever yacht wins the opener to take out the oldest active trophy in international sport.
Employing any other America’s Cup punting strategy is akin to betting blind because the truth is that even the expert crews of the defender, Oracle Team USA, and the challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand, do not know how the best-of-19 series will pan out at this point in time. Oracle Team USA has not raced its AC72 yacht in a competitive event because it qualified for the America’s Cup as the reigning champion, while Emirates Team New Zealand has withheld some of its secrets during the Louis Vuitton Cup that it won with something to spare. It is a guessing game right now.
Beyond doubt, though, are two things. First, Oracle Team USA must win at least 11 of the 19 races to retain the America’s Cup for the Golden Gate Yacht Club after officials docked the Larry Ellison-financed defender two points for illegally modifying catamarans. Also, Team Oracle USA lost the services of three crew members for the entire America’s Cup regatta, including Dirk de Ridder, whose trimming role is one of the most technical. Bookmakers reacted to Oracle Team USA’s penalties, which included a fine that billionaire Ellison will be able to pay without batting an eyelid, by promoting Emirates Team New Zealand to favouritism. Emirates Team New Zealand is available at odds of 1.62 with Paddy Power, while Oracle Team USA is trading at odds of 2.10.
Second and much more importantly, history shows that the first race defines the outcome of America’s Cup battles. Only once in the 17 America’s Cup clashes staged since the end of World War Two has the opening race winner not gone on to take out the title. The exception to the rule occurred in 1983 when Australia II fought back from 0-2 down to beat Liberty 4-3 in the closest America’s Cup ever. So historic was Australia II’s victory – it ended the longest winning streak in sports history – that Australian prime minister Bob Hawke said that any boss who sacked an employee for having the rest of the day off would be a bum.
America’s Cup contests are rarely close, with whitewashes happening with great regularity. Four of the last five America’s Cup clashes have been one-sided affairs, with the post-World War Two tally standing at 11 whitewashes out of 17. Only in 1983 has a post-World War Two scrap for the America’s Cup been decided by fewer than three races.
Bookmakers have overreacted to Team Oracle USA’s penalties because if the defender is just as likely to win 11 races as it is nine and, while de Ridder’s ban is a blow, Ellison’s billions have meant that two full crews have been training off San Francisco. Team Oracle USA has able replacements in all of the key roles. So, if one must strike a bet before the America’s Cup gets under way on Saturday 7 September 2013, Team Oracle USA is the play at odds of 2.10.
But surely one would be smarter to watch the first America’s Cup race, hope that Team Oracle USA defeats Emirates Team New Zealand and bookmakers are sufficiently silly to offer odds of around the 1.80 mark that the defender goes on to retain the trophy. Victory for Emirates Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup opener would probably result in bookmakers crunching the challenger’s odds to such an extent that it would not be a betting proposition for the average punter.
The reportage regarding Team Oracle USA’s penalties has centred on the reaction of the America’s Cup defender’s chief executive officer, New Zealand sailing legend Russell Coutts, who has slammed the punishment as being outrageous but said that there will be no appeal. Coutts is playing the game – big time. Coutts knows that the two docked points are unlikely to be the difference between victory and defeat for Oracle Team USA and hoping that the America’s Cup defender will get the rub off the green if there is any controversy during its actual races against Emirates Team New Zealand.