Whitbread Wrap Up
First let me say that I am flattered by the amount that has been written about EF Languages’ victory in the Whitbread Round the World Race, most notably in the July issue of this very Seahorse. I guess the realization that is occurring for those of us that participated in the race is how much the public followed the race and therefore their interest. One thing I would like to point out is that an inordinate amount of the attention and compliments in these articles goes to the skipper. The fact is, that to win in anything requires a talented team that covers all the bases well and one in which every member is fully committed to winning. The best example of this that I have seen, is in fact, the Round the World Race. All of the normal requirements of successful sailing exist coupled with the necessity of being self-sufficient in some isolated situations. For this reason all 12 of the crew on EF Language were equally responsible for the win!
Second issue is the reality that I landed in on June 2…the America’s Cup. I have read plenty of nice stories about how good the America’s Cup will be, especially in a newsletter named AC2000, but I feel that there are some glaring omissions in these reports. In my first week back we received notice from New Zealand that their version of the Coast Guard wanted to charge the competitors $800,000KZ to “cover their costs” associated with patrolling the waters off Auckland during the America’s Cup races they are planning on hosting there. Included in “their costs” were capital investments to the tune of $300,000 for new boats which would obviously be used for the event but then remain the property of the local authorities. I think this has been shot down due to strong objections from the participants but like the original pricing of the bases that was set ridiculously high, the fact that it takes strong objection to get to realistic and fair treatment is a bad sign.
The week after that, the subject was charging for airspace over the race course. Still ongoing is the battle over TV production and getting a “clean feed” from AC 2000 who apparently already committed to their sponsors exposure on the “pool feed” that goes to every subscribing country. The Mini America’s Cup is a great idea but when you have to pay Team New Zealand an entry fee and pay all your expenses and then you have to promote Team New Zealands’ sponsors, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Also, these races are scheduled after the racing season down there so the experience is of little relevance.
I really want to participate in this event but frankly these added obstacles are making it very difficult. I have got to believe that by the time you read this in August, the US television deal will be done, not for 200 hours of air-time as reported, but more like 85 hours which is the proposal that is on the table. Hopefully the Kiwi’s will let Louis Vuitton use the words “America’s Cup” in conjunction with the Louis Vuitton Cup so that deal will be done too. We really need sponsors like Louis Vuitton so we should not discourage them. It is just 15 months prior to the start of racing and, at the time of this writing, some very key components of selling sponsorship are still not concrete. All of this was not very refreshing to come back to. Maybe that is not by accident.
Having said that I think the America’s Cup Village is going to be a great venue for hosting the event. It will centralize all the activities around the Cup and create a “Big Time Event” atmosphere. This is a critical piece of creating the commercial value the Cup needs to justify the cost. I think the Millennium will also be a bigger deal than we realize now and many people will show up in KZ because of that.
Coming back to sailing…which is what this is all supposed to be about, I will be sailing with AmericaOne tactician John Kostecki on his One Design 48, Pinta, in the Kenwood Cup and San Francisco Big Boat Series. I am looking forward to sailing in this competitive fleet on a short course and working with John on our afterguard relationship for the Cup. Both Hawaii and SF Bay are on my short list of favorite venues for racing. John and I will also be participating in the Bermuda Gold Cup in October to start sharpening up on Match Racing along with some others of the AmericaOne crew.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge that I am firing some hard shots across the bow of the Kiwi’s but I feel that the whole story needs to be told.