For the longest time, I was boycotting the America’s Cup. Despite Bermuda’s proximity to the US and kind invitations for us from a number of teams and sponsors, I didn’t want to lend any legitimacy to a venue that, in my opinion, represented a betrayal to America and all those fans who’d supported Ellison in Oracle’s huge legal and then design battle against Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi team. If you’re balls deep in the Cup like we are, you’ll remember that SA was extremely hard on Bertarelli for his proposed changes to the AC, which we saw as sabotage of the history and legacy of the AC. So hard, in fact, that we became embedded inside Oracle Team in Valencia, running daily talk shows from their base and helping in the effort to demoralize Alinghi. And when asked why Larry Ellison’s plan was any different than the “Ernievision” plan for the Cup, my answer was simple and became rote: “If he shows that he’s not, we’ll be just as hard on him as we were on Ernesto.”
I missed the incredible excitement of San Francisco in 2013 thanks to a conflict with the Little America’s Cup, which my small crew streamed live from Falmouth, England during the day before watching the AC matches late in the night with the entire C-Class fleet – all at the club where Ben Ainslie learned to sail. While a great experience – and still the coolest boats ever – I’ll never forgive myself for not being on the ground during the most fascinating and compelling competition in yachting history.
A year later, when Ellison removed the Cup competition from the USA and still later when the so-called ‘Framework’ was signed by all the teams but one, we realized that Larry – or henchman Russell Coutts – in fact had quite similar ideas to Bertarelli: Profit to come from shopping the venue out to gullible governments, and sponsor VIP fulfillment thanks to an annual perpetual league of racing. Neither idea is a bad idea, but neither idea comes close to the Deed’s intent, and neither idea is the America’s Cup.
Fast forward to just before the LV Qualifiers last month; I was riveted to my computer and the SA forums watching incredible racing in the kind of boats that SA has been begging for since something like 2005. Finally, there really was something in sailing that captures some of what I love about Formula 1, and I wasn’t there! With no decision made, I sent a little feeler e-mail out to the AC folks via their Media Accreditation Application. I made it clear I wasn’t looking for Media Center access, didn’t need a Media Boat, and wasn’t interested in parties, accommodations, press kits, swag bags, or any of the other bullshit that most events use to try to convince reporters to be nice. In fact, I didn’t need anything at all other than attendance at the press conferences.
Imagine my surprise when I received this e-mail, even before deciding whether to head over to the island.
Dear Alan Block,
Thank you for your media accreditation request for the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda.
Your accreditation request has been received and considered. Unfortunately it has not been accepted which means you will not be issued with a media pass and access to the 35th America’s Cup Media Centre.
Please be aware that entry to the public facilities at the 35th America’s Cup does not require a media accreditation pass. Our website, www.americascup.com/tickets will provide you with all information regarding the range of ticket packages that are available.
Daniel Ferrando, Media Centre Manager
Immediately after the shock wore off from what is my first-ever media accreditation denial, I booked my ticket to Bermuda.
Next, I set about trying to figure out how a modern sporting event, sponsored to the tune of $77M by an island nation – one that relies nearly entirely on American tourism – could reject the single most-read publisher of sailing content in America. The handwriting was on the wall already as far as the commercial success of the event; the interest among Americans was at an all-time low, the early ratings on MSNBCSN were dismal, and the event must be desperate for american eyeballs. And yet even after sending over proof of the million-plus American readers of this site, I got another rejection – this time, after the thing had been kicked uphill to their Comms Director.
Dear Alan,Your email below has been forwarded to me so I can reply.We judge each application for media accreditation to the 35th America’s Cup on its own merits, bearing in mind the resources we have available in the Media Centre.As with various others, we have decided to exercise our right to decline your application.Sincerely,Tom Webb
In the media world, that’s called a non-answer, and I correctly guessed that Tom Webb – a real media professional whose worked with much tougher reporters than me in his F1 days – had nothing to do at all with this decision. I wrote back:
Thanks for the personal response Tom. Can you please explain what those criteria are, and whether or not non-accredited individuals are permitted in the press conferences? To be frank I couldn’t care less about the media center, media boats, or any other trappings of entitled reporters. I do however know that our readers want to have their questions represented…
Hi Alan,Non-accredited personnel are not allowed in the press conferences.Tom