Posts Tagged ‘ben ainslie’
Big Ben Ainslie popped over to Gothenburg for a short break from the business of foiling to receive the Mange Olsson Award (and give two more out to a pair of standout junior sailors), and we grabbed him to catch up on his new sponsorship deal, on Bermuda’s status as ‘home turf’ for Land Rover Team BAR, on multihulls and the next generation of sailing, and much, much more. Always a great chat with Sir Ben, and keep your eyes on this page for more interviews from the last day of the #volvooceanrace.
June 27th, 2015 by admin
One of the well-proven adages in business is to spend, spend, spend during a recession. Marketing hard and growing fast when the markets are down is a great way to build market share, and it seems that the big names in the United Kingdom sailboat racing business are doing just that, despite all kinds of fears about austerity measures and deficit problems. Here are three quick bits to illustrate.
The Great Contender
Russell Coutts chased off the most serious challenger for the next America’s Cup. Then he pulled the rug out from both his own hometown and the team that came a couple of minutes away from ending his run at AC34. Just one of those is fully funded by a billionaire, but it’s the less well-funded one – Ben Ainslie Racing – who currently has the best chance of ending Larry Ellison’s reign of bullshit and the constantly waffling hypocrisy from the Russell Coutts Flying Circus.
Why, you ask?
Because Ben and his team are genuinely not in it for cash, but for nation, for country, for all those things that the rest of the world finds quaint and anachronistic. Their hashtag is #BringTheCupHome, and that resonates like a motherf&%*ker.
That’s how he got longtime Mclaren Formula 1 team boss Martin Whitmarsh involved, and that’s where Red Bull Formula 1 designer and aerodynamic wunderkind Adrian Newey came in.
And perhaps most importantly, Ben will have home field advantage, as we’ll see during next month’s ACWS event in Portsmouth. Bermuda is unfailingly British, and there are we cannot find anyone from the United States who wants to see the betrayal of Ellison and Coutts go unpunished.
Don’t underestimate the power of the crowd; unlike the almost entirely mercenary teams (and Oracle Team NOT-USA just added yet another non-american to the mix), Ben can get talent like Whitmarsh and Newey to help him despite being unable to pay them what they made when they worked for the F1 juggernaut. And the more one-design the boat, the more cerebral the game becomes – and the more morale and confidence come into the mix. If you don’t know what we mean, head over to Portsmouth and listen to what an estimated half a million people sound like when they are cheering. The biggest questions remain about Ben himself; is he a fast enough driver in foiling boats?
Longtime pommie sailing boffin Matt Sheahan wrote a solid profile of the team and its obstacles over at howtospendit. Check it out here.
The Extreme 40 has been long in the tooth for the better part of 5 years, but much of that time was devoted to ensuring the Extreme Sailing Series survival and OC Events future cash flow. As the rest of the world’s catamarans innovated, the Extreme Sailing Series looked more every season like a race for lorries in a downtown parking lot. But Mark Turner’s stature as one of the sport’s best organizers doesn’t come from his generosity; he is a master of spending only when necessary. Thanks to a few years of downturn and the ineptitude of his ostensible competitors, the X40 got a bit of breathing room – but not anymore.
And while Turner has been saying for years that ‘foiling is not for them,’ on Wednesday the ESS announced just the opposite; 2016 and beyond will likely see the new Extreme boat flying. Turner says they have ‘four options’ that they haven’t distilled down yet, but the clock is a-ticking. The X40 hulls are a mess, with dozens of repairs adding weight and reducing stiffness throughout the fleet, and one-design something of a joke. The design itself is as dated as you’ll see in a modern event, as you’d expect from a boat created more than a decade ago for the 2005 Volvo Ocean Race; the event that re-launched stadium sailing (though not a new concept; cf. the Formula 40 series in the 90s, the wildly successful 150,000-person Match Cup Sweden in the late 90s and early 2000s, the One-Design Grand Prix circuit, the…well, you get the point).
So there are a lot of reasons for a new boat and it’s almost imperative for it to happen quickly, but it is already pretty late for one of the brand new designs being evaluated by OC to impact the 2016 season. Enter the GC32, currently the front-runner for the Extreme series next year. It’s a bit small for much of the corporate PR and VIP work that’s the bread and butter for Turner, but Martin Fischer’s flying boat is furious and exciting in anything over 8 knots of breeze. Perhaps more importantly, two years of now-solved foil issues has taken much of the value out of the GC32, and having spent millions on the creation of his dream boat and a relatively low-budget series, GC32 creator Laurent Lenne is ready to get back to racing instead of running a sailboat marketing company. That could mean ‘bargain’ to the famously cost-conscious Turner, solving all his problems for 2016. The only other option for next year is to modify the truck-like X40 for foils, but that’s crazy talk.
And for 2017, look for an all-new X36/X37/X38 – a straight or foiling daggered monster that looks as modern as possible. Whether you are talking about markets, boat types, or formats, the world is a-changing, and Mark Turner and his group will continue to be one of the most important drivers of those changes.
Watch the final day of ESS racing from Cardiff today.
He’s Got The Look
Since we couldn’t get a new rendering from the Alex Thomson Racing team, we’ll keep this one short, but a monster piece of sailing sponsorship news hit the wire this week providing further evidence that a good look, a strong marketing team, and a few successful PR stunts are far more important than performance when it comes to finding big money for sailing. Thomson’s team announced on Thursday that Mercedes-Benz had joined the Hugo Boss/ATR racing program as a ‘Core Sponsor’ in advance of this summer’s launch of Thomson’s brand new VPLP/Verdier Open 60 HUGO BOSS. The move comes on the heels of last years defection of Hugo Boss from the McLaren F1 team to the all-conquering Mercedes Silver Arrows, marking the end of F-1′s longest team sponsorship deal. The best part about it? Thomson doesn’t even need to change his color scheme.
With Alex scoring a 3rd in the last Vendee in a last gen boat, and telling us numerous times that he’s getting a bit old for all this noise, and with golden boy Francois Gabart sitting this one out in favor of a much faster singlehander, 2016 will mark Thomson’s best chance ever at the biggest win ever for an Englishman since Sir Robin beat Moitessier in 1969, nearly 50 years ago. That is, if he can finish, unlike the last BWR, or the one before that, or…
June 21st, 2015 by admin
Those of you who still think the ‘second coming’ story is real will probably not get this one either; instead, you might call your realtor to put in an offer…We promise we’re not kidding when we tell you that this $2 million Bermuda America’s Cup special ‘fixer-upper’ is actually named “Uppity”. Great views of the AC course top off this beauty – and according to the video walkthrough, she’s selling at a discount. Loaded African-Americans might want to look further afield…or at least change the name.
In other Cup news, Sailing Anarchy’s new favorite is now Ben Ainslie Racing. Not necessarily because we think they’re going to win, but because BAR is the only team that’s really thinking long term. And with ETNZ’s constant media shit show, they’re now the most ‘national’ team – something that we find absolutely necessary if anyone is to turn around years of media, TV, and business model fails from Larry and Russell. Ben would be a far better steward of the Cup and the competition than a confused old Ellison or the self-concerned Coutts. Equally important is Ben’s support – Portsmouth believes in him so much that they’ve given the BAR Portsmouth center 10 years of free rent Remember what San Francisco was prepared to give Larry after AC34? A kick in the ass and a bill for $11M.
March 20th, 2015 by admin
After the ass-kissing statement of support released last week by the ‘Euro 4′ AC35 challenger heads (Ainslie, Sirena, Percy, Cammas), we’re unsurprised to learn that, according to AC authority and AP writer Bernie Wilson, Russell Coutts specifically told ETNZ to stay home from a major, confidential Challenger/Defender summit meeting later this week in London.
According to Wilson’s piece, “the event authority is working with the teams “to further define an event based on the published protocol.” Coutts said that after he heard from another team [emphasis ours -ed] the Kiwis didn’t want to want to proceed on that basis, “I rang them up and said, ‘It’s best that you not come.’ We have four other challenging teams and the defender that want to work together to have a great event this time and in the future.”
We’re not quite sure what Coutts’ offered to get formerly logical and critical guys like Sirena on board with whatever failure-doomed plan Coutts is trying, now that his greed and hubris sent Iain Murray and Team Australia into the void previously occupied by Vincenzo Onorato. Discounted entry fees? Access to some of OTUSA’s old data archives? It’s gotta be something, because they all know that Australia’s Challengus Interruptus makes Russell Coutts and Larry Ellison look like some of the biggest buffoons in international sport.
Coutts’ latest bit of nastiness to his countrymen is just one more folly from a guy who is almost comically bad at the business of sport, and the same question is on every AC watcher in the world’s lips: Why would one of the world’s best businessmen keep Russell Coutts at the head of the AC organization when he has failed at every single AC-related business decision he’s ever made, including the most costly boondoggle in the history of modern sport? It ain’t the biggest newspaper in the world, but the Otago Daily Times has one possible answer: They say Coutts’ contract may have a ‘Bertarelli Clause’, guaranteeing Coutts the top job until he gives it up himself.
Golden Gate Yacht Club members are not happy. Notwithstanding their recent “support”, Challengers are not happy. Sponsors are not happy (or nonexistent). And fans are not happy. Hell, even Obama has a 40% approval rating. But how long will the notoriously headstrong Larry Ellison continue to allow his reputation and the sport he loves to be screwed over by a piss-poor businessman who’s proven that he is terrible at everything…except for one skill: Winning the America’s Cup?
Unless this is all part of the plan…screw everyone and you might not come so close to losing the next one?
- Tags: AC35, America's Cup, artemis, ben ainslie, Coutts, ellison, Emirates Team New Zealand, Franck Cammas, Luna Rossa, Oracle, San Francisco
July 28th, 2014 by admin
We took Mich Dej’s presently undefined role in the Team Campos VOR team as an indicator that maybe things are not going all that well for him as one of the trio of leaders of the Team France AC effort, but that take might be very wrong if you believe France’s top sailing journo Loïc LeBras. LeBras is a good digger though, and his sources told him two days ago that Cammas is about to sign a major agreement with “France’s leading hotel group and Europe’s leading aircraft manufacturer.” Cammas’ statement in an otherwise fluffy and bullshitty joint statement today seems to support Franck’s optimism that Team France will, at least, be able to enter by the million-dollar deadline on the 8th of August.
Let’s not screw around with implication here; if LeBras is right, we’ll see some serious commercial juice in AC35 from a second non-billionaire backed team. France’s biggest hotel group, by far, is the Paris-based Accor, which owns some 3,600 hotels on five continents. They hit every budget with their holdings; from Motel 6 and Red Roof Inn right up to the 5 stars of the Sofitel and Pullman lines. And of course Europe’s biggest airplane manufacturer is Airbus, which has been peripherally involved in sailing (via the C-Class Invictus and several other endeavors) for ages now. As a branding exercise, Airbus could get huge mileage out of involvement with the AC, especially considering Oracle’s ties to Airbus competitor Boeing. And while France’s tardiness means they might miss out on the designer raffle and some may dismiss this as a Luna-Rossa-in-AC-34-style ‘learning campaign’ leading to AC36, there are those who thought the same thing about Groupama in the VOR…and we know how that worked out.
Stay on top of the Team France thread in America’s Cup Anarchy for the latest on Cammas and Co, and have a look here at one of the most empty, vapid, useless press releases we’ve seen from a Cup team in years…and that’s saying something.
July 25th, 2014 by admin
Straight out of the box, we expect Ben Ainslie Racing to have possibly the best shot at beating the Larry and Russell show for America’s Cup 35. Ben’s played this one pretty close to the bone, though it isn’t a stretch to tell you that long time big boat bowman and BAR Extreme Sailing Series crewmate Nick Hutton will be on the boat, as will, we expect, Paul Goodison and Mattie Cornwall. Will Big Ben bring along sailor chick Pippa Wilson? While size and strength will be at a premium for the AC62, Pippa’s proven in the X40 that she can do good things for a 40 footer and perhaps the ACWS; it’s been a goddamned long time since we saw a woman in the sport’s premier competition and Ben could make some serious PR points if she came along for the ride.
But his crew isn’t the reason we expect Ben to shine this time around, and the biggest news of the day isn’t about sailing teams; it’s about designers, and we understand that Ben has or is close to signing up Adrian Newey OBE – the 4-time Formula One winning aerodynamicist responsible for the dominant Red Bull Racing cars for the past three seasons of F-1. Red Bull announced last week that Newey had signed on for a contract extension with the team, but not a typical one; Newey will design the 2015 cars and then expand his job to oversee the new Red Bull Technology program, and we believe that Sir Adrian’s first big project is to help Sir Ben bring the Cup home to Britain for the first time in more than a century and a half. It makes sense that Red Bull will come along as a major sponsor of Ainslie as well, especially as we’ve heard from several Red Bull insiders that they were less-than-enamored with their Oracle partnership in 2013. If you’re not an F-1 fan, trust us – this is the biggest threat to Ellison on the horizon; well, that, and the fact that Detroit’s favorite sailing son is now in Cagliari wearing a shiny helmet and robot armor…
We’ll have the press conference for you as soon as it is available; watch this space and www.benainslie.com. And stay tuned for a detailed analysis of the Protocol and AC62 rule later in the week – the kind of thing you’ll only see here on SA.
UPDATE: Apparently, streaming a press conference on the web is simply too difficult to handle for the world’s most decorated sailor, his media team, and a 100 million dollar budget, so you’re shit out of luck if you want to watch it here, or frankly anywhere that isn’t BBC on a television set. Welcome to 2014.
UPDATE 2: Oracle Team USA lead designer Dirk Kramers has jumped ship; the American will be with Team Ben for the next AC. If you don’t remember Dirk, we caught up with him at the Little AC last fall.
June 10th, 2014 by admin