remember the america’s cup?

Apparently these two guys do…

I do enjoy a good discussion especially with someone with reasoned counterpoints like Anarchist David. It is likely neither of us would win 100% but I do respect his views, although clearly don’t agree with most of them.

Up front I will grant you that INEOS obviously had a lot less left in the tank when they reached the Prada Cup Final but my comments were in response to a number of people calling Rita a ‘dog’. She then cleared the round robins without a loss so was looking good but the ultimate challengers Prada Pirelli Luna Rossa had done a heap of improving of their own – including talking to each other for a start – go figure. So fair play to you on that point. Love – 15

As an aside I couldn’t help noticing a number of Spithill fanboys who suggested The Cup result might have been a bit different if Jimmy and Peter swapped boats. Not only that is not how it works, I couldn’t help notice they didn’t make the suggestion at the Prada Cup Final stage and have Jimmy swap with Sir Ben. Might have resulted in a different challenger perhaps. It also down plays Burling’s ability as showed by the excellent start in Race 10 to seal the deal.

Straw man though? Give me a break. At least my home country has had a team these past few America’s Cups. Sorry – that was a cheap shot, I promise no more.

Press releases from the likes of Prada and NYYC are meaningless and remain so for at least 8 months when the protocol agreed between RNZYS & RYSR is released. Then of course they would have to enter AC37 to have a meaningful voice Those are the only two bodies(RNZYS & RYSR)  that should ultimately be listened to although they will likely be lobbied by other interested parties and probably a few disinterested ones as well.

Until that ‘official’ document is released, anything else, from anyone else, might just as well be from that 42nd cousin and while they might not be toilet cleaners it will be pure speculation or wishful thinking. Come to think of it, a tale from the toilet cleaner themselves might be more accurate than the gum bashing of some pundits.

Even in the present (or just completed Cup) Yachts & Yachting reported ETNZ had been clocked at 62kts. I soon checked that out and found it to be BS.

I love the assertion that I am wrong in that the America’s Cup has not become a commercial entity. 

If the America’s Cup regatta is a commercial entity then every yacht club regatta in the world is also a commercial entity. Entry fees cover the cost of race marks, support boats (perhaps amortized over several events or seasons perhaps) , fuel, trophies and/or prizes. 

A product is developed (the regatta) a price is set (entry fees) and sold to customers (competitors) For that they get x number of races, safety cover and for a few select customers who get to the counter (finish line) early enough a bonus product in the way of a trophy or other prize. A product made and sold! If it works out a profit is made – usually through the uplift to the club’s bar takings over the weekend. “Commerce”!

And of course if it is an open regatta it is unfair that club members foot the bill for that so sponsors are often sought (or entry fees raised.) Commercial for the sponsors as they will always have an eye for ROI but not usually for the club running the regatta.

Looking wider, are all clubs ‘commercial’ because they expect members to pay fees to participate or just be members. In actual fact, most are, “non-profit” which is as far from commercial as possible. For the avoidance of doubt “commercial” comes from “commerce” – the activity of buying and selling” and those who do not make a profit or at the very least break even aren’t “commercial” for very long.

The America’s Cup is not run with the explicit aim of turning a profit. Rather it is run as a top quality  regatta at the pinnacle of our sport with the best of the best as officials, the development of software to enable fair competition at the speeds these boats, along with chase boats – and even the umpire RIBS were way better than anything I have been given to umpire on. Add to that TV coverage to showcase our sport to the world, a specially designed on the water camera platform, 2 x helos at (a least) $10k an hour each and commentators to try and make the whole thing understandable to non sailors. None of that comes cheap.

There is a balance between expenses and income, between the cost of race officials (the bigger the regatta, you better hope the better and more professional the racing is run. Professionals usually cost money by the way.

The RNZYS cannot expect non members (ordinary Kiwis) to constantly foot the bill of the event.

In reality though they (government support) are in effect sponsors of the event and their return to New Zealand the country and Auckland the city may have a commercial or economically beneficial effect but that return is not to the even itself. Figures are publicly available that show huge uplifts to the New Zealand economy during an America’s Cup unaffected by COVID restrictions.

I will give you that a large amount of ‘commerce’ goes on around the event but, in reality it is just another (rather expensive to run) regatta. I see the offer for tenders for other cities more as a backstop in case Auckland and New Zealand are not willing to back the event – in effect sponsor it. It is not a given that that support will be forthcoming therefore it is then it is wise to look to other sponsors (cities) who may see a benefit to them by holding the cup.

The reference to the Olympics is not really relevant, the tense is wrong for a start and the costs are leagues apart. Cities holding the 5 Ring Circus are not always looking for purely financial benefits, they are looking for image improvements, a catalyst to regenerate part of the city or to show to the world what they can as a city or a country can do. Beijing 2008 is a prime example. I first was invited to visit the Olympic Marina in Qingdao in 2005 after long meetings with the Marina Director– it was a building site back then. It cost around $420m (15 years ago), or around 1m per sailor – that’s around 5 America’s Cups if the amount being requested in tenders for AC37 are to be believed.

Most reports of former Olympic sites show under utilization, disrepair or massive financial loads going forward. For example the 1976 Montreal Olympics didn’t finish paying off their Olympic debt burden until 2006. I doubt very much if Auckland City Council would tolerate that sort of liability for an America’s Cup so ETNZ are very sensible to be hedging their bets.

Personally I think the Kiwis will back (financially) another defense at home, once COVID is out of the way the potential returns from visitors (referencing former financial benefits) would be too much to ignore.

The suggestion that I am being pedantry by stating INEOS is not the Challenger of Record shows poor understanding of the Deed of Gift although granted that if INEOS hadn’t suggested to RYSR that they (RYSR) challenge then the challenge most likely would not have happened.

I write here with some inside knowledge as I was Commodore of a Chinese Club that challenged for the America’s Cup. It was the CLUB which had to issue the CHALLENGE; it was the CLUB which had to comply with the DEED OF GIFT and it was the CLUB that was responsible for all the initial communication with America’s Cup Management (ACM).

One could argue that the CLUB would not have CHALLENGED if the SYNDICATE hadn’t requested the CLUB to be the VEHICLE. (We most likely wouldn’t have) But make no mistake, the SYNDICATE COULD NOT HAVE entered without a DEED OF GIFT compliant CLUB willing to present the CHALLENGE.

The legal documentation between the CLUB and the SYNDIACTE was as long as your arm.

Would RYSR have mounted a challenge if INEOS hadn’t approached them? Of course they wouldn’t any more than Royal Ulster yacht Club wouldn’t have mounted a challenge if Sir Thomas Lipton hadn’t approached them, but that is how the America’s Cup has always worked FOR 170 YEARS.

Costs may seem “obscene” to mere mortals like David or myself when I consider my last set of fore and aft sails came in at under $10k. 

However the America’s Cup has always been a billionaire’s game (inflation adjusted) and what is $100m-150m to a multi billionaire who wants to spend a chunk of his pocket change on a sailing regatta or two. 

To put it in perspective, the annual salary costs of a top flight NFL team or perhaps even an English Premier League Soccer Team would make any AC team weak at the knees and then take a look at motor sport’s F1 with Mercedes’ ANNUAL budget of $200m – that would fund – by David’s reckoning FOUR America’s Cup teams.

Sorry I missed the rebuttal on being able to sail these monsters by Radio Control  – you must be kidding. That’s all I have to say about that as it is, in my view, an “out there” idea. Having said that NASA can land a probe on Mars from x million miles away. But we all have an idea the size of budget they have to play with.

You cannot have one’s cake and eat it. If you want the speed and the slipstream wind that factors into the apparent wind you don’t need sails that go up and down. All the teams had a Code Zero, that halfway house between a kite and a genny and not one of them carried them once.

Trickle down? It is far too soon for a trickle down. Oh wait a minute, didn’t I read that someone has an ocean racer already on the drawing board?

And as far as David’s last comment about “keeping an elite cohort of specialists in well aid employment”. Is there perhaps a hint of jealousy there? As long as it is some billionaire or sponsor footing the bill and they don’t expect me to chip in, I’m good!

One of the wonders of our sport is its variety. There are boats some people love that would bore me to tears and many people look at my runners, checkstays and symmetrical spinnakers and wonder why it is so complex. Multihullers can’t believe how cramped a monohull is and we single hulled guys wonder why they would want to sail on a floating caravan. Some people clearly love the AC75 and others? Well their feelings appear just as strong in the other direction

One thing is for sure is David & I ever met up for a couple of beers it would be a long night with us both still arguing – sorry discussing – our differing viewpoints as the sun comes up.

Bottom line for me is it is not our game, it is not our money and if it means some people who are only landspeople are attracted away from the dark side to our sport then it can’t be all bad.

Perhaps David and I will just have to agree to disagree. 


The ultimate decisions on the America’s Cup must surely be those who fund it or who actually take part in it. Very much their bat, their ball, they decide. On that note, Sir Ben Ainslie was recently interviewed by Shirley Robertson and quoted in the ‘Seahorse’ Newsletter (and if he isn’t open with a former team member whom he shared the Olympic with back in Sydney 2000, then I don’t know who with) as INEOS Team Principal he stated he hoped the AC75 would remain the boat sailed in the event for the next ten years giving the even the same sort of continuity that resulted in multiple entries of AC32 in the 5th generation of America’s Cup Class. He has a point.

– SS