My colleague, Shanghai Sailor, has offered a characteristically optimistic take on the chaotic negotiations over which city might host the next America’s Cup. But his analysis misses a fundamental point: the assumption that the Cup must proceed in its current form is false.
Grant Dalton and Team New Zealand are in a difficult position of their own making. They have enjoyed their privileged little AC bubble of elite professional sailing for so long that they can see no other way. From the outside looking in, asking for more and more millions to fund a few weeks of extreme sailing seems like the presumption of entitlement.
The city authorities and politicians who’ve been funding the excesses of the America’s Cup for so long are finally crunching the hard numbers. The old extravagant estimates of economic benefits and TV audiences are being re-assessed. Sponsors and governments are now making cool-headed calculations as to how much real bang they are likely to get for their bucks.
At the core, the problem is that AC campaigns have become far too large and expensive. The teams – both defenders and challengers – demand levels of direct funding and infrastructure support that are grotesquely out of proportion with the tangible value of the event.
No doubt this might all seems quite normal to Dalton and his team but to the rest of the world (and its taxpayers) it borders on obscenity.
It’s worth noting that Australia, the nation that first defeated the Americans back in 1983, hasn’t participated in the Cup for 25 years. No club, syndicate or corporation ‘Down Under’ has been prepared to fund a challenge. The government wouldn’t dream of contributing a cent to an AC campaign, or bidding for host city rights.
In my view, to bring the Cup back within reasonable limits we need to re-consider its scale. Do the boats really need to be so complex? Does each team really need 100 staff? Are such extensive on-shore facilities really necessary?
It’s difficult to avoid comparisons with the Spruce Goose. Howard Hughes thought the future of aviation lay in giant flying boats. It cost him millions to discover he was dead wrong.
– anarchist David