We’re still a few days (and a transpacific flight or two) away from the comprehensive SA “Report Card” on the 34th America’s Cup. It will perhaps not surprise or amaze you, but it will lay out the reality behind the event, without qualifications or a worry that somehow Sailing Anarchy will be excluded from future Cups for being honest in front of a massive audience. In the meantime, Pierre over at Vsail continues to be run one of the few sailing publications unafraid to tell it like it really is, and here’s a portion of his own solid analysis of what went right and what went wrong in San Francisco.
Does Larry Ellison really want an America’s Cup with many challengers?
Despite Larry Ellison’s own statements as back as February 2010 and Russell Coutts’ frequent claims, the 34th America’s Cup wasn’t conceived and implemented in order to attract a great number of competing teams. We will not go once again into the details of the high costs, enormous complexity and mind-boggling logistical needs of the AC72 boats, these aspects have been exhaustively covered by this and many other sailing and mainstream media. If Ellison truly wanted to have 12 challengers and 3 defenders, he could have easily done it in the three and a half years since his victory in Valencia in February 2010. The end result was that only three challengers were able to afford the necessary costs to mount a credible challenge and one of them, Artemis Racing, had no interest whatsoever in the commercial and media return of the event since they were entirely privately funded.
Having just two challengers with serious commercial interests makes it much easier for any defender, in general, and Larry Ellison in particular. He’s only goal was and is to retain the America’s Cup, not to organize a challenger selection series with 12 teams, avoiding a great deal of headaches that come with that. The less, the merrier. We can’t see why it will be different this time.
The question is of course whether it really matters if there are 2 or 12 challengers. The America’s Cup was never meant to be a a “big” TP52 circuit. Each one has its own place in the sport of sailing and the America’s Cup isn’t meant to be for everybody, even if they can afford it! Take for example Niklas Zennström, the founder of Skype. He’s an avid sailor, his fortune could eventually allow him to fund a Cup campaign and he spends a lot of money in his TP52 and Mini-Maxi 72 campaigns, nearly 7 million euros per year! Yet he’s not interested in the America’s Cup because he wants to helm his boat, not write checks and watch her from the dock. Other, equally wealthy businessmen, prefer to race in the RC44 class.
Bob and Sandy Oatley, the father and son billionaires from Australia and Challenger of Record, stated a couple of days ago they would like to see a significant reduction in costs so that more teams can enter but then again it’s up to Larry Ellison to decide the future. Vincenzo Onorato, Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup, agreed with Ellison’s protocol because he thought Ellison would also fund his campaign. When he saw that he wouldn’t get a single euro from the American billionaire he withdrew since he was unable to find the necessary funding for Mascalzone Latino. This shows that the Challenger of Record doesn’t have a say in shaping the event and Larry Ellison doesn’t seem to bother if the challenger he chose withdraws…
However, one thing that Larry Ellison’s organization should refrain from doing again this time is to embark on a PR campaign preaching their desire to have “multiple” challengers while at the same time doing everything possible in order not to have more than a handful.