What can we say? The announced new Americas Cup class is a fact. We are going multihull! The newly announced rules will take the Americas Cup into a new era. The event is finally turning a much required corner which it should have taken some years ago. Not only should the new format be more exciting to both sailors and audience, it also should lead to a better level playing field and make it easier for competitors to access.  With some of the biggest changes in Americas Cup history, the organizers have taken a bold step forward.  It is now up to the sailors to prove them right!

In presenting a new format for one of the world´s oldest and most famous events, the Americas Cup, Russell Coutts and friends are taking the Cup to the next level. The introduced changes  are not only introducing a new boat class for the best sailors in the world, they also should create increased fairness, excitement and sustainability, values which are essential in going forward. We will briefly discuss the introduced changes and their effects.  

New spectacular boat class and new annual world series should bring back the fun again! Reflecting on  the 33rd Americas Cup a few thoughts come to mind. Firstly and for all, “let’s not have that one again!” As a result of all the legal disputes the Americas Cup lost credibility and appeal and hence was facing a big danger. Having said so, everybody interested in sailing was in awe when seeing the gigantic and enormously expensive multihulls in battle with each other. A third reflection was that everybody regretted the fact that there were no world series (like in the 32nd AC)  in the build-up to “Let’s create a class and world series that are fair and spectacular”  and this is exactly what they did. Let’s first look at the boat class: a new exciting class of boat is introduced, the AC72 wingsail catamaran, which will be raced from 2012. Simultaneously a scaled down version, the AC45 will also be build, which will be raced from next year onwards and will provide a fast-track for competitors in wingsail technology. The AC72 will be spectacular; with a length of 72 foot, width of 46 feet and with a wingsail of 130 feet high this beast should reach speeds in excess of 30 knots, making it the fastest boat class in the world. As these boats will not be easy to sail this also means that only the best (most fit, strong agile and multitasking) sailors in the world will be able to sail these boats…..and….no automated winches.  Hence this should guarantee that the AC will once again be the pinnacle of sailing; the fastest cutting edge technology boats with the best sailors on it!

Let’s now turn to the world series which will be organized into the run up towards the Americas Cup and which will be mandatory. They will start in 2011 on AC45’s and will be a combination of fleet and match racing, whilst each year an Americas Cup World Champion will be crowned. This should bring back the buzz we witnessed during former America’s Cup events and as importantly improve the connection with fans.

New rules create improved fairness and improved level playing field. We all know what happened during the last Americas Cup. The defender of the cup did define the rules and sadly this resulted in disputes and an uneven level playing field, which severely hurt the credibility of the event. This will not happen again. The future  Regatta Director will be part of an independent organization (thank god, no more disputes)  and will be appointed jointly by the Challenger and Defender.  Hence the Defender has forfeited some of the rights traditionally enjoyed by the holder of the trophy in the interest of making the competition more balanced and fair. Additionally majority approval of the competitors is required to amend the Protocol. Adding an independent jury and a well defined protocol of the 34th Americas Cup with few loopholes at first glance (however undoubtedly a few will pop up) and we have a much better base to start off from.

New format guarantees excitement.  No doubt the new format should be fun. Races will be shorter, faster and furious, which should be fun to watch. But it is not only the boats and future world series that will create excitement, there are lots of other elements that will be introduced to make the event more attractive. Firstly race delays will be minimized due to the new boat (which can sail with low wind speeds) and reliable venues. Secondly for the first time onboard cameramen will be onboard of the competing yachts whilst tracking technology will also play an important role, both should add to the fun and experience.  Thirdly it will be investigated how to better explain all the rules to a broader audience. Moreover geostationary spectator boats may replace the traditional buoys.  Fourthly, the experience will be leveraged through the internet (one global website for all team and racing content, games etc). These elements should attract a younger crowd and create excitement. Russel Coutts phrased  it right: let’s say farewell to the Flinstone generation and welcome the facebook generation, which also explains the move to multihull. He is right. It is clear! We are finally moving from the 20th to the 21st century and are reconnecting…….The youth forms the future and if no changes are being made, the Americas Cup will face the end rather sooner than later. This is also why a new youth Americas Cup will be introduced. It also means that the “older generation” should adjust and be willing to sacrifice; no matter what, they should not fear, they will be around for some time as some of them are still amongst the best sailors of the world and I am sure in the end they all will enjoy it as much as anybody else. As far as I am concerned that should finish the monohull-multihull dispute!

Lower costs, better returns means improved sustainability! The last Americas Cup has been far too expensive as far as costs are concerned. If this would go on, this cost spiral would severely limit the interest in participating and hence reduce the attraction of the race. Hence the organization has taken measures to reduce cost levels. For example on-board crew is being reduced from 17 to 11 (remember personnel cost account for 60% of a campaign), testing periods are being reduced, there will be limits as far as the number of sails, support boats and weather stations is concerned, etc, etc. Moreover the choice for multihull rather than monohull also turns out 20% cheaper (lower draft, logistic costs etc). All in all the costs for teams will range from EUR 40mln for a small team with a reasonable competitive profile to EUR 100mln for a big team. That makes this thing cheaper than some of the campaigns of the 32nd Americas Cup. All of this should raise the appetite of current and prospective teams. There are already some teams that want to buy the AC45 and a number of 8 challengers should not be out of reach, whilst rumors have it that at least one other American team will challenge the Defender BMW Oracle. Can’t wait for it!

So what about the returns? No doubt the last Americas Cup did not bring  sponsors what they had hoped for. In contrast the legal battle between the teams resulted in some negative publicity. This time they should get a better deal for their money; branding freedom, more competitors, increased high adrenaline competition, a world series of races rather than a 3 day event, on board cameras, better spectator possibilities, reconnection to the younger generation and lower costs. The math is simple; lower cost and better exposure means higher returns. Adding the bigger fan-base this should not only be good for sponsors, it should also help the long term future and sustainability of the Americas Cup!  Lets sail!

Slowly the details of the new 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race are being revealed. Dates, ports, rules and routes have recently been revealed and one by one teams participating in the race are coming forward. 6 candidates seem to be sure with another 20 syndicates currently considering an entry. With the announced format changes and the increase in competitors, the newest edition promises to be a blast with all the potential to exceed the success of the last edition.

It is still early days but slowly the outlines of the revised format of the Volvo Ocean Race are beginning to take shape. And it promises to be even better than the Race’s last edition. Closer racing, an increased number of teams, exciting stopover venues with great in-port races and festivities, great sailors and exciting multimedia coverage should lead to a great experience for everybody involved, be it viewer, gamer, sailor, sponsor or organizer. It’s gonna be fast and furious with loads of excitement. Let’s see where we are now…..

Course and date set! The next Volvo Ocean Race will take place from 29 October to 8 July, taking eight and a half months, similar to the 2008/09 edition. A difference however is that the course is slightly longer, set at 39,270 nautical miles rather than 37,000. This time there will be 10 rather than 11 stopover cities. Similar to 2008/09 we will start with a first leg from Alicante (Spain) to Cape Town (South Africa) again passing Gibraltar as well as Fernando de Noronha off the Brazilian Coast; a traditional leg where the fleet has to deal with the famous doldrums. The second leg will go from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, rather than to Cochin (in the last edition). As there is a risk of piracy, the fleet will have to sail around an exclusion zone. Nevertheless this will remain a dangerous leg but with a great finish in store. No doubt Abu Dhabi wants to set itself on the yachting map and we know money will not be an issue here. Next we will go to Sanya in China. No doubt the sailors are happy that they don’t have to go all the way north into the winter of China this time, battling storms etc. In contrast Sanya is the only tropical island province of China, so no complaints from the crews I would imagine. Rather than last time’s very long and tiresome leg China-Brazil, there will now be the traditional stop in between; the fleet will make in stopover in sail crazy Auckland, a stop everybody will agree with and look forward to. The Kiwis will participate with Emerald Team New Zealand in this edition and hence it promises to be an enormous spectacle. From Auckland we will go on to Itajai in Brazil, battling the Southern ocean, always one of the most spectacular legs of the race and also the longest one. Itajai marks of course a change from the usual Rio de Janeiro stop, but appears to be at least as much of a treat. Miami marks the surprising North American stop. Although Ken Read on Puma, the North American entry, might have preferred to go up north a bit further, Miami has the glitz and glamour that fit the race. On to Europe, where Lisbon has the honor to be the first stopover port and this is an honor indeed given that 34 European cities bid for hosting the race. Sailing conditions in Lisbon tend to great and of course the city has a great maritime past. From Lisbon it is on to Lorient in France, home of Groupama. This sound like a short one but this is a deceiving one; the fleet first has to head offshore again, rounding the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores before heading back towards France. Can be a clearly interesting one! Given its great yachting tradition France should be in there and Lorient should be no surprise; it has developed itself in a true European sailing center. The biggest surprise is the finish of the race. After having passed the Fastnet rock, another interesting feature, the race will end in the last edition’s succes number Galway. I had the pleasure to be a guest there during the race’s last edition and one cannot deny it, it was an outright success with more than 650,000 spectators, underlining what good marketing can do to sailing. Clearly Galway hence will be an excellent place to finish! Surprising is that Sweden, the home of the main sponsor Volvo, is not hosting a stopover. All in all the race should offer plenty of variety as far as weather conditions and variety of ports is concerned. For sailors it should be a definite improvement, also underlining that the organisation has listened to them. And as far as the stopover ports is concerned; a good mixture of fun, yachting tradition, glitz and glamour and sail crazyness, whilst simultanously with economically sound benefits! 

Changed in-port format should provide lots of excitement. In the new edition of the race, all ports (including the finishing one – Galway) will host an in-port race, which should be great news for the spectators. A final weekend in a stop-over port will now contain both the in-port races as well as the start of the new leg, which provides for a super weekend. Moreover, it will give both the crew and on-shore team more time to prepare, whilst for the syndicates it will result in cost savings; a win-win situation for everybody. The short course of the In-Port races and the proximity to the stopover harbours and beaches will allow the public to watch the racing up close.

Virtual fun should get even better! We are just at the beginning of convergance of real and virtual……..Although details have not been announced as of yet, I am reasonably convinced the official Volvo Ocean Race Game (produced by United Games) will be even better than last time. In the last edition around 220,000 people participated in a game lasting around 9 months. Gamers had to endure many sleepless nights but also actively experienced what a Volvo Ocean Race really is all about. An absolute highlight could be found in the virtual community steering one of the boats during the last few legs; a true example how the virtual and the real world are converging. Moreover Green Dragon  managed to realise its best result when steered by the gamers, proving the phonomenon of “virtual wisdom”. Hopefully, this will be repeated in the new version of the game. Even without it, there should be plenty improvements to look forward to. I would imagine social media will enter the equation, whilst gameplay and communication features (possibly with the real boats) may also be improved. We have to wait, but it surely will be exciting!

No news as of yet of the multimedia front. We have not heard anything yet of the potential innovations as far as multimedia is concerned. In the last edition we had some spectacular footage of the teams on board shot by the different media crew members of the teams. Additionally some live TV of the starts of the different legs, a race viewer tool, pictures and podcasts, whilst in the mean time the Race has also entered Facebook. It will be interesting to see with what the guys will come up with to increase the Volvo Ocean Race experience. No doubt Twitter will enter the equation and for the remainder we have to wait and see what they come up with. Of course the ultimate would still be to be live on board from behind your screen, watch it when it all happens.

And then the teams…..6 participants so far but more to come…Who are they?

  1. Camper/Emirates Team New Zealand. Camper and Emirates Team New Zealand have joined forces, implying a second footwear sponsor (Puma being the other) is entering the race; good news as yet another B2C sponsor feels it can realise sufficient returns. The skipper and head of the syndicate is one of the icons of sailing, Grant Dalton! It is good news for the race that this 6 times veteran and former winner is returning and undoubtedly he will play a major role. Moreover, as Auckland is one of the stopover ports, expect some Kiwi enthusiamn!
  2. Puma Ocean racing: great to seen Ken Read and his team back. The very distinguished cat will be back and undoubtedly will spice up the race botth ashore and on the water! The team ended the 2008/09 race in second place and hence should be considered as a favourite. For sailing it is good news that Puma extends its focus into premium lifestyle sports, apparently acknowledging that the race offers a good B2C marketing platform. The Puma brand attracts a young fashionable crowd, which is good for the marketability of sailing in the long term  
  3. Groupama: France is back and so it should be! Since the 1993/94 edition no French yacht participated in the race. The formidable Franck Cammas (the fastest sailor around the world, recently having broken the record) will lead the charge with the insurer Groupama being the main financial backer. Groupama has been around a long time in sailing and sees the Volvo Ocean Race as instrumental to develop its overseas business. With Juan Kouyoumdjian (ABN Amro 1, Ericsson 4) designing the boat and stopover port Lorient being the homebase of the team, there will be no lack of support from the French!
  4. Italia 70: Italy is back in the race for the first time since 1993/94. Giovani Soldini is the skipper to watch and with him he will bring a fully Italian crew. The environmental friendly team aims to bring together a group of companies, wwhich will be prepared to support Italia 70 throughout its entry in the next two editions of the Volvo Ocean Race. The Azurri have already acquired the Volvo Open 70 Ericsson 3, meaning the team can immediately start training. The plan is to generate a new generation of Italian sailors and build a national offshore team. Although the guys are probably not a favourite to win the race, they are here to stay and no doubt the Race will benefit from a little bit of Italian flash, design and grandeur.     
  5. Team Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi has been announced as a stopover city, which, no surprise, had to be followed by a home team and no doubt the emirate will come out with a top notch team.  The crew will be selected by the Abu Dhabo Tourism Authority and these guys are far from short of money. Although it has the ambition to include an UAE national in the crew, one can rest assure that the remaining crew members will be the cream of the crop. The team will construct the boat locally and will construct a new marina. With this proposition Abu Dhabi wants to establish itself as a high quality marine and leisure spot to the world and reestablish its seafaring heritage. Hence a lot is at stake and Abu Dhabi has the financial resources to do it properly. 

A sixth team is yet to be announced whilst there are currently over 20 more syndicates that are actively working on entering a team. This means the Volvo Ocean Race is ahead of the number of teams at the same stage of the last race, which is exceptionally good news given the state of the economy. The new rules (see blog article http://www.jkmconsultancy.nl/2009/10/yachting-new-rules-should-guarantee-future-of-volvo-ocean-race/)  apparently seem to do the job, lowering the costs of a campaign. So we have got the New Zealanders, the Yanks, the Azurri, the French and Abu Dabi, all with some very serious names already aboard. Which sailing nations do we miss? To name a few: the UK, Australia, Brazil, Sweden, Spain, China, Ireland and my own country The Netherlands. Undoubtedly a few of the additional names (possibly another Americas Cup team, how about Team Origin?!) to be announced will come from these countries, also in view of some of them hosting stopovers, which should make it more easy to leverage their investments.  Unfortunately there seems to be no Dutch syndicate in the making as of yet, but let’s hope this will change.

Still a year to go……Experience it, it will be worth it! In any case, there is no doubt in my mind, the new edition of the Volvo Ocean Race will be even better than the last one, more close racing, more viewers, more competitors, more virtual reality fun, better festivals, all at lower costs! For the syndicates, sponsors, viewers and virtual players who haven’t decided yet, join!! It will be worth it!

The yachting calendar counts a multitude of different events. After having witnessed the spectacle of the Americas Cup in February and the Louis Vuitton Trophy in March, focus is now turning to the Carribean and to the announcement of the final routing of the 2011/12 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. We have attempted to list the top 10 yachting events in the world, taking into account issues like coverage, price money, quality of sailors and the history or future potential of an event. The list includes different formats of racing, such as single handed, around the world, ocean, coastal and fleetracing. Clearly the list and rankings are arbitrary but they should give an indication on which events deliver the best spectacle and value.

10. Olympic Games: the Olympics are the greatest sporting spectacle in the world and hence they should be part of our top 10. The Games have produced great sailing legends of the likes of Ben Ainslee, Ian Percy and Torben Grael to name a few. Hence the Games should be seen as a breeding ground for great sailors. Adding that the Games are also being watched by many millions of spectators around the world, we have got 2 major reasons why they should be on our list. Having said so, for television purposes the races are not as spectacular as some of the other events listed below, so work in progress we would say.

9. The World Match Racing Tour. Matchracing is the future and that’s why this event is in! It’s fun, fast and furious and hence should appeal to the younger crowd, important for the future growth of the sports. The World Match Racing Tour is attracting great talent with some of the best sailors in the world, such as Adam Minoprio, sailing legend Peter Gilmour and aces like Ian Williams and Ben Ainslee. Whereas the sport of sailing/yachting is still primarily dependent on sponsoring (particularly B2B), match racing should be very interesting for television as well as for hospitality purposes, which should give the sports a good platform to expand and to become more popular. Close to shore, short races, technical assistance such as virtual eye, on-board cameras and on-board interviews make the sport a lot more appealing to not only TV but also to different user groups. Although it is still lacking the tradition of some of the other events, the upward potential has made us decide to include it on our list.

8. Antigua Sailing Week. The Antigua Sailing Week is the biggest regatta in the Carribean and over the last two decades, Antigua Sailing Week has developed into one of the biggest events in the World Sailing calendar. It is a week of races where some of the biggest, fastest and most impressive sailing yachts in the world packed with Olympic, America’s Cup and round the world sailors are competing. Adding the variety in races, the big boats and the great party atmosphere and here we have an event that should not be lacking on anyone’s list!

7. Cowes week; the Cowes week is tradition all the way. Since 1826 it is one of the UK’s longest running and most successful sporting events. With 40 daily races for over 1,000 boats, 8,500 competitors (amateurs and professionals) and 100,000 spectators, it is without a doubt the largest sailing regatta of its kind in the world. With these numbers and this longstanding tradition, it belongs without a doubt within our top 10 of sailing race events in the world.

6 . Louis Vuitton Trophy. Maybe the Trophy has not proven its existence yet but following up on the success of the old Louis Vuitton Cup, it could be a blast! Putting together the exciting format of match racing, Americas Cup Class yachts, some of the best monohull sailors in the world (Barker, Cayard, Ainslie, Bruni) and a large crowd, makes for a great event. Adding large TV screens on site and side events in places such as Auckland, La Maddalena in Sardinia, Nice, Dubai and Hong Kong and you have a great experience that you do not want to miss. As stated before match racing has great potential for the future and that’s why we have included the trophy.

5. Fastnet race. Every sailor has heard of the Fastnet Race. It is one of the most famous offshore yachting races counting 608 nautical miles and taking place along the southern coasts of the UK and Ireland. Weather conditions always play a key role here; either big storms or relatively quiet weather determine a fast and furious or a tactical race. Similar to Sydney Hobart the Fastnet has had its share of casualties, underlining the fact the race is not without danger. With many big names participating and a long history, we rank the Fastnet at 5.

4. Sydney Hobart; say Christmas, Bass Strait, Tasmania, new year and spectacular racing and sailing fanatics filled with passion immediately will answer: Sydney-Hobart!! Without a doubt the Race is one of the most well-known iconic brand names in sailing. With the exception of the Volvo Ocean Race and the Americas Cup there is no yachting event attracting such huge media coverage. The “Bluewater Classic” has grown over the last 64 years to become one of the top three offshore yacht races in the world and now attracts maxi yachts from all around the globe. One of the reasons for the popularity of the race are the unpredictable and sometimes grueling conditions with high winds and difficult seas, sadly having also led to tragedies. Finally a top 10 list should not be complte without a race in one of the most crazed sailing nations, Australia.

3. Vendee Globe The Vendée Globe is a round the world single handed yacht race, sailed non-stop and without assistance. The race was founded by in 1989, and since 1992 has taken place every four years. As the only single-handed non-stop round-the-world race, one can say it is probably the most extreme form of ocean racing, being a serious test of individual endurance. Not surprisingly a significant portion of the entrants usually retire, but the one succeeding waits eternal fame and prey. Names as two times winner Desjoyeaux and Ellen Mc Arthur are just some of the wellknown heroes who succeeded in finishing the race, but there are many more……the Vendee (similar to the Volvo Ocean Race) now has leveraged its race to the on-line community with hundred’s of thousands of participants. This convergence no doubt will further add to the popularity of the Vendee!

2. Americas Cup. And then there is the Americas Cup! Of course the Americas Cup should be on the number one spot! However, we chose not to do so after the recent dismantling of the Cup. Although the actual race in Valencia was awesome to watch and a magnificent display of technology, the 33rd Americas Cup sadly will go into the history books as the one mainly battled out in Court. In this perspective Larry Ellison is left with a big responsibility to regain the status that the Americas Cup should have; the world’s most prestigious sailing event. We trust Ellison and Coutts to be able to do this. Sailing is in their hearts and that’s why we believe the 34th version will be a blast! It is likely to be a multichallenger event, more international than ever before and great for spectators; there will be short furious races, cameras and microphones on-board, leading to an on-board experience and likely a new much more affordable to many boat type. It should excite young people and certainly when the Cup will take place in San Franciso, which will receive a huge economic boost as a result of the Cup. If Ellison and co. is able to do this, the Americas Cup will be the flagship event of sailing again that it once used to be. In that case the Cup will regain the number one spot on our list again.

1. Volvo Ocean Race. The Formula One of sailing! For sailors it is one of the ultimate sailing experiences, tough and asking enormous endurance capabilities. Subsequently it attracts together with the Americas Cup the best sailors of the world. Similar to Formula One team budgets have increased tremendously, limiting the number of campaigns. The new rules should improve this situation and make the race more accessible again. For spectators the race offers plenty. The boats are like race horses reaching enormous speeds in wild conditions at sea offering some good pictures and films taken by on-board media guys. Additionally (similar to the Vendee) the Race has converged with the on-line community that even assisted the Green Dragon in the last Volvo Ocean Race. The Race is attracting huge gatherings in the ports where the fleet makes a stop-over. In these ports a variety of side events combined with in-port races guarantee a great experience and a great boost to economic activity. The combination of the best sailors and boats in the world, endurance, round the world, experience, economic and media impact makes the Volvo Ocean Race the best package in our opinion and that is why it is the number one on our list!

No doubt the list offers plenty of room for debate. Feel free to comment, add or delete events and share your opinion!

bmworacleLooking back at the 33rd edition of the Americas Cup, the conclusion is one of mixed feelings. In disgust over the countless courtcases, fights, manipulation, postponements and enormous egos of the two owners of both syndicates. In awe of watching the magnificent display of technology and raw power of the BMW Oracle and to a less extent Alinghi. And full of enthusiasm when watching the actual race. That pretty much sums it up. Clearly, awe and enthusiasm have taken the upper hand during the last week. In that perspective it is sad to conclude that the 33rd Americas Cup will likely end up in the history books as one of the most controversial ones, very similar to the Americas Cup of 1988, when Dennis Connor won the cup with his Stars and Stripes. It is to hope that, again similar to what happened after1988, the 34th Americas Cup will regain some of its lost reputation, a big responsibility for the parties involved.

The 33rd edition of the Americas Cup is one to remember, a Cup which will go down as one of the most controversial ones in history. Controversial because of several reasons: 

Astonishing display of technology and yachtsmanship. Looking back at both races the image of a monster trimaran with a 68 meters high mast and a highly innovative 223 foot wing sail (easily exceeding the wing of a Boeing 747 airplane) will always be imprinted in the minds of those who have witnessed it. This wing sail was powering this unique piece of engineering equipment at three times the speed of the wind, sending its windward and middle hulls flying well above the water. These were the fastest, most technologically advanced sailboats built in the 159-year history of the America’s Cup. This giant boat made the crew like little midgets, of course safely guided by Jimmy Spithill at the helm. Talking about giants! Spithill, who at 30 became the youngest skipper to win the America’s Cup, has proven his great sailing abilities and absolute dedication (which even led him to take flying lessons). Russell Coutts is the other hero. The CEO of the racing team has done it again, he won his 4th Americas Cup and hasn’t lost a Cup race in 15 years. Moreover, being a true leader he sacrificed himself for the best of the team by not participating in the first race. So far for the positives…..

Disgust over legal wrestling, manipulation and egos. The flip side of the coin is clearly that this Americas Cup will always carry a dark shadow of distrust, a lack of sportsmanship and enormous egos of both syndicate owners. The countless number of courtcases during the last 2 ½ years (and we haven’t witnessed the last one yet) has severely dented the credibility of the Americas Cup and the sport of sailing. Moreover, rumours have it that the SNG (the organizing yacht club) racing committee members refused to raise the flags and participate in the starting procedure of the last race, possibly following instructions of Alinghi. If true, it would be the ultimate of unsportsmanlike behaviour. Let’s hope this is not the case, but I would not dare to bet against it if I hear Alinghi owner Ernesto Bertarelli commenting: “They got a little help from the legal system in New York. That always makes things difficult for us Europeans to get the same advantages. It’s not the Europeans’ Cup; it’s America’s Cup. It’s very difficult for a European to win.” Such comments are childish and make you wonder how the guy has made his fortune. This brings me to the egos of the two owners, which are as big as their ……….enormous wealth I guess. Both business tycoons have prioritized their own ambition over the sport of sailing. Battle should take place on the water, not in court. Bertarelli seems to have the biggest ego. Rather than handing the wheel to his best helmsman, he wanted to steer the boat himself in the first race, showing his enormous cockiness. Moreover, he blamed Ellison to be not in charge of the BMW Oracle. By not helming the BMW Oracle, Ellison at least showed he is the better manager.

From major to sideline event; disappointing economic impact. In contrast to the last edition, the 33rd Americas Cup has not been a financial and economic success. The buzz, the public interest, the teams and the business that was generated in 2007 have not been realized in this edition, which has not helped the Americas Cup brand. Both owners have spend around USD 200mln each on their campaigns, but it seems doubtful whether either will have a sufficient payback. BMW has already indicated they are not happy with this version of the Americas Cup and are re-assessing whether they will continue their support. From a sponsor part of view, it hasn’t been a success anyway. The mudslinging and the battle over every detail of the contest have driven away both sponsors and fans: the 2007 race attracted more than $200 million in sponsorship money, but the 2010 has pulled in just $11 million, whils the competition has certainly lost much of its charm. Only time will tell if the next competition will be able to attract as much interest as the series did back in 2007. In 2007 the Americas Cup was an enormous event; according to Professor Tom Cannon it even was the third-largest sporting event after the football World Cup and the Olympics in terms of gross economic impact. He emphasised that because of the lack of a challenger series, which last time attracted eleven challengers from nine countries along with major sponsorship opportunities, the overall economic impact was probably about one tenth of the 5bn euros ($7bn; £4.4bn) it was worth last time. The long-weekend event was not a draw for TV Companies or advertisers, with the races being shown on the Internet for the first time and the organising budget reduced from a record 230-million to just eight million euros for last week’s event! Additionally the host city of Valencia wasn’t happy either, in terms of what might have been. The 2007 event was a major attraction for tourists, sponsors, clients, business and the media bringing benefits of over two billion euros to the port and almost four billion euros net economic benefit for the city. This year, coverage on Spanish TV was very limited and with the event now finished, Carnival fiestas from Rio, the Canaries and around Spain totally eclipsed the couple of minutes seen about the America’s Cup. That sums it up and should be taken into consideration when organizing the next edition.

Big responsibility going forward. The Golden Gate Yacht Club announced that a challenge has been accepted from the Club Nautico di Roma, and that the Italian club will be the Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup. The challenging team for CNR is “Mascalzone Latino” owned by world champion sailor Vincenzo Onorato. This leaves both him and the defender with an enormous responsibility towards the future and the sport of sailing. It is to hope both parties will make the right choices that the event needs to get back on track. At least both Russell Coutts and team owner Larry Ellison seem to be aware of the responsibility. Whether the next edition will take place with monohulls or multihulls is less relevant. In my opinion there are three essential elements for making up the lost ground:

  1. The Americas Cup should be a multi-challenger event again
  2. There should be upfront agreement on rules and regulations
  3. It should be easier to enter the event

In this perspective Ellison’s comments are encouraging. He is promising an independent organising committee including an impartial jury and umpires, for the next multi-challenger event, agreeing it is important that there is a level playing field for all competitors to bring sponsors and fans back to sailing’s pinnacle event. If Ellison and Onorato practice what they preach, there is hope for the next edition of the Americas Cup. Still being the oldest sports trophy in the world and one of sailing’s biggest traditions, it is the least they can do!

It is sad to see what the Americas Cup has evolved into. Rather than battling it out on the water, the 33rd Americas Cup has turned into a legal tug of war, fought out in Court. Sportsmanship and fair play seem to have long gone and sadly the outcome will contain only losers, including the eventual winner of the cup. That can be seen as a blow to the credibility of the Americas Cup (although it will survive) and the sport of sailing, something both syndicates can take the blame for.

The America’s Cup has always been one of sailing’s biggest traditions, a race between the sport’s best sailors sailing with the most advanced material and equipment. Hence there has always been a lot of money involved. The Americas Cup is the world’s oldest active trophy in international sport. It is a challenge-driven series of match races between two yachts which is governed by the Deed of Gift (a registered trust document in the Supreme Court of the State of New York). In the old days business tycoons from different continents battled it out on the water with some of the most magnificent ships one can imagine. In those days it was a gentlemen sport, where sportsmanship and fair play were the name of the game. No doubt Sir Thomas Lipton was one of the greatest figures in the history of the America’s Cup, challenging the cup 5 times. No wonder he is known as one of the world’s most graceful losers. Unfortunately times have changed and even sailing has become big business. The battle for the 33rd Americas Cup still lies in the hands of 2 big business tycoons. However, where sportsmanship reigned in the old days, this has now been replaced by mudslinging and courtcases. Sad for sailing indeed and even more for the Americas Cup.

Who are these two billionaire tycoons, with unprecedented egos? They are famous US software businessman Larry Ellison with his trimaran BMW Oracle and the Swiss biotech tycoon Ernesto Bertarelli with his catamaran Alinghi. Both gentlemen are not prepared to lose and will do everything to win the Cup, either on but preferably (as it appears) off the water in Court leading to some unprecedented (in sailing that is) legal wrestling. Too bad Thomas Lipton is not around anymore to teach them a lesson or two on how to deal gracefully with such matters. Alinghi is the defender of the Cup and hence is almost in complete control of the competition according to the Deed of Gift.

A brief summary. I realize many are fed up with the whole issue (they should skip the next section), but following is a brief summary on which issues these parties have been fighting:
1.Which club would be the Challenger of Record? Following the successful defense of the Cup in 2007, Societe Nautique de Geneve (SNG, Alinghi)) accepted a challenge for the 33rd Cup from Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV), a newly formed yacht club, created for the purpose of challenging for the Cup. However, the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC, BMW Oracle) initiated legal action claiming CNEV did not meet the terms of the Deed of Gift as a legitimate yacht club. Simultaneously GGYC entered as a challenger for the Cup. After extensive litigation, GGYC became the official challenger.
2. Multi challenger format or not? In the end it was decided that there will be 3 races between GGYC’s BMW Oracle and SNG’s Alinghi 5
3. Dates and venue. Despite various attempts both parties could not agree on a date for the race. In the end the Court ruled that the race has to take place in February 2010. After this, the dispute went on regarding the venue of the race. SNG filed for Ras al-Khaimah in the Northern Hemisphere, GGYC immediately replying this was not in accordance with the Deed. In the end the Court decided the race to be held in Valencia, Spain.
4. Rules of the Match. Disagreements on issues such as measurements, powered winches, moveable ballast, rules during the race were by means of Court intervention finally decided upon.
5. The construction of the boats. The latest Court action in this ongoing saga comes from GGYC, claiming SNG’s sails are not constructed in the country where the competing yacht resides, which is not in accordance with the Deed of Gift. To be continued…..

No winners. Are you still there? This is sadly how the America’s Cup has evolved…….In the mean time both parties have arrived in Valencia where the races (the first to win two races will be the winner) are due to start on February 8, so in less than a month time. Clearly the pestering is going on, the latest being that the appointed infrastructure (marina) is not suitable for BMW Oracle and could create dangerous situations. Nevertheless if everything goes well, we should be done and over within a month time, when finally the battle will take place on the water. Whoever will be the winner of the Cup, it will be a Pyrrhic victory, in fact containing only losers; the two syndicates (think about brand values), the spectators (2-3 races only) and the sport of sailing, which has lost some of its credibility.

It is to hope that all involved parties will get to their senses for the next edition of the Americas Cup; in this perspective the Deed of Gift requires some revisions and questions should be asked what direction the Americas Cup should take. The Americas Cup has always been innovative as far as technology is concerned requiring huge investments. The danger exists that the Americas Cup would be caught in the same trap as Formula One did a few years ago; enormous budgets limiting the potential number of challengers and technology taking over from the sailormen (we do not want to end with unmanned yachts, do we?).

Hence action required! When looking back the 32nd edition of the Cup in 2007 has been great for all parties involved. A significant number of challengers with relatively similar equipment and some close racing. In the end that is what match racing should be all about!

minoprioThis weekend Adam Minoprio and his ETNZ/Blackmatch Racing crew were crowned as the new world champions of the ISAF World Match Racing Championships series, winning the Monsoon Cup in Malaysia, the last race of the circuit. The finals were telecasted live and clearly demonstrated that matchracing is fun to watch and very suitable for television in contrast with for example fleet racing. With modern on board coverage and back-up graphic tools, the viewer is enjoying a live-man-to-man yachting experience. Adding the fact that match racing in the WMRC format should be attractive for sponsors spectators and cities and taking into account the growth of the sports, I believe match racing has a great future ahead.

Matchracing, skill, tactics and savvy required! A match race can be described as a duel between two identically-matched boats with a winner – and a loser. Match racing has its own set of rules, which are slightly different from the regular racing rules that create very close, aggressive competition. It also has on-the-water judging, with umpires doling out “instant justice” on the water. Match racing is tremendously exciting to participate in. And, unlike watching other sailing competitions, match racing can be thrilling to watch. Before the start, the boats vie for control, circling each other and trying to wipe each other off on spectator boats in an elaborate game of cat and mouse. After the start the boats will sail to an upwind mark, round it, hoist the spinnaker and sail to the downwind mark. The boats will round the marks 2-3 times before the winner crosses the finish line. Unlike fleet racing you have only one opponent; hence tactics are quite different and there are plenty of different ways to win a race.

Fun to watch both on television and ashore, enjoy the experience! The format chosen by the World Match Racing Tour is one made for both television and live spectators. A race is relatively short and last around 20 minutes and is packed with action. As the course is short and can be set close ashore, spectators have a perfect view on what is happening. Races are short, fun, fast and furious. Additionally Match Racing is also ideally suited for television. I was commentating the semi finals and finals of the Monsoon Cup this weekend and felt part of the experience, it’s fantastic, it is as if you are participating in the race. There is a bow cam, a mast cam and a cameraman on-board. This does not only result in spectacular views, it also gives better insight in what tactical choices are being made (you can overhear the conversation between skipper and tactician). If there is a collision (and they happen quite frequently), you see it happening with your own eyes and hear the cursing on-board, you are part of the crew. Apart from this, computer graphical software provide you instant information on distances towards the mark, boat speed, laylines etc. Unlike fleet racing, this makes it much easier to see who has the advantage. After a race there is an immediate interview with the skipper, who explains what has happened. Concluding, you barely have time to breathe and it is far better than the coverage of the last America’s Cup. I am sure this is the way how sailing will be televised in the future.

Match Racing should enjoy further growth in the future. Match Racing appears to become slowly more popular over time, but growth should actually accelerate. Firstly, in the current format the sport seems to become more attractive to the public, which should give it a boost. Secondly Match Racing will become Olympic in 2012 for women only but men may follow later. Thirdly, colleges in the US now will finally switch towards match racing and as America is lagging behind Europe, this could be a catalyst for further growth. Fourthly, the attention for Match Racing should also increase as the world’s top yachtsmen are actually participating. There are few opportunities where you see top-notch skippers such as 3x Olympic Gold Winner Ben Ainslee and Peter Gilmour fighting against each other. Moreover Match Racing has always been recognized as the source of America’s Cup sailing talent

Match Racing should be attractive to all user groups. Match Racing has all the ingredients to become more popular. For spectators and television audience the sports is attractive and with the right investments can be put to the next level. For sailors Match Racing is an ideal opportunity to show their skills, whilst offering an opportunity to develop their sports and earning decent money with it. For sponsors, match racing offers a wide array of opportunities. Sponsoring of teams (Emirates Team New Zealand, Team Origin are just a few examples) could easily be leveraged, whilst the events offer great on-site opportunities for client entertainment. Moreover, it also offers a good platform for city marketing, as the sport lends itself ideally for in-port racing and should be significantly less expensive than for example hosting a stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race

If taken to the next level…..The product can clearly be further enhanced and will require further investments. If done properly, it could become a mainstream event and hence should result in very decent returns. Peter Gilmour (who is one of the investors in the WMRT) recently stated that he believes the Americas Cup is a good example; “in 1983 it was just a small regatta off Newport, Rhode Island and it grew to a point that it charged tens of millions of dollars for television rights, sponsorship and so forth in 2007 in Valencia. Nobody would have believed that 25 years ago and I think it just needs a little bit of that same style of thinking. This is the second level down, the second main event of match racing in the world and certainly has a great opportunity to grow and expand itself”. As a start the organisation will extend the number of races in the coming few years. I would not be surprised seeing the sport taking off during these years.

Recently new rules were unveiled related to the next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. Against a background of an economic backdrop and ever rising team budgets seen during the last few editions, Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad and team have done a remarkable job; without having compromised the spirit and objectives of the Volvo Ocean Race, they have created rules that should be acceptable to all main user groups. And contrary to what one would expect in such an environment, the end result is clear and well formulated and has not become a “consensus monstrosity” as we have lately seen in for example Formula 1. As a result the race should get cheaper and more competitive, possibly resulting in a higher number of entries.

Let us first examine the main new rules.
– Boats: the rules limit the number of sails (New pre-race sails limited to 15 for one boat entered the race. Race sails reduced from 24 to 17 per boat) used and the construction of one single boat for each team. A team is permitted to campaign one second generation and one third generation boat. Additionally rules are set related to weight, keel, bulb, mast (a maximum of 2), stacking and testing are set.
– Testing and crew; No two-boat testing before the race is allowed. The number of crew allowed will remain at 11 for each of the VO70 yachts, including a media crew member. However, a female team can comprise a crew of 14. Three crew members to be born on or after 1st September, 1980. An increase of one from 2008-09. No additional crew for port races is allowed
– In-port races and points system: there will be an in-port race in every stopover with no additional crew allowed. Simultaneously the points system will be revised. points for offshore legs will now be multiplied by five, and scoring gates multiplied by two. The in-port races will not attract a weighting and points will continue to be awarded for the best performances over two races to be held on each in-port race day.
– The race will be shorter than the last one

So what were the reasons behind the new rules? What were the main problems the Volvo Ocean Race organisation was confronted with? The main one could be found in mounting costs for the teams. As a result of ever rising budgets it had become more and more expensive to participate in the Volvo Ocean Race, severely limiting the number of entries. In the last race only 8 teams started the race, whilst one of them had to quit because of funding. A second related problem could be found in the wide variety of team budgets (from approx. EUR 10mln for Delta Lloyd to close to EUR 90m for Ericcson), which theoretically should benefit the richer teams; for example the richer teams could pay for a first generation boat, whilst the “poorer” teams” use second generation boats. Given both this background and the economic crisis, it would be questionable whether there would be sufficient interest in the 2011/12 edition of the race. Hence the neccessity for drastic action is explained.

So in such an environment what would (similar to Formula 1) have been easier than just proposing a budget cap? Praise should go to the organisation to not go for this escape route, which would have led to all kind of problems; think of how to police and administer a cap and the many grey areas which are open to interpretation and open to competitors taking advantages out of the regulations, again think Formula 1. Rather than choosing this negative approach, the organisation has come up with a much more positive strategic and lateral solution. By introducing rules that limit what it takes to win the race, it makes winning it more achievable and entry into the race more attractive to a larger number of teams as well as to the sponsors. In fact the organisation has turned the picture around, first working out what is required to win the race and control these elements. Therefore the incentives in terms of performance gains for spending lots of money has been reduced, which could lead to significant cost reduction. Teams can still pay excessive amounts (if they want )but incremental benefits are likely to be much smaller and hence competition should be more tight.

What were the organisation’s key objectives when drafting these Volvo Open 70 Rules and have they been met? And the user groups, should they be happy? Lets first look at the objectives of the organisation:
A. Reduce costs for participating teams. Clearly these rules should lead to significant savings; it is no longer allowed to build more than one boat for a campaign, two boat testing is no longer allowed, the number of sails allowed has been significantly reduced, personnel expenses for the teams should come down and shared services for the teams may be introduced. By containing these costs, it is now believed that somewhere around the 20m Euro-mark is a winning budget. Some teams will do the race well for 15m Euros and for others it will be 25m Euros.
B. To ensure improved safety and reliability of the boats: under the new rules everything has to meet the safety test. The new rules are strict. The biggest message that came back from the designers and sailors was ‘don’t change too much’. The boat is fast and it is strong. The furling headsails introduced are aimed at keeping crew off the foredeck as much as possible, note the foredeck is the biggest danger area.
C. To ensure that the Volvo Open 70 Class maintains its status as the fastest and most spectacular offshore racing monohull. As Ken Reed of Puma phrases it well; theules eliminate the need to have a huge budget teams but it doesn’t do it so radically that this isn’t still the grand prix of sail boat racing right now. Moreover high budgets are still allowed, which still should leave room for R&D, the difference being that the incremental benefits are likely to be smaller
D. To ensure that an entrant can be competitive with a second generation boat from the 2008-09 race. The changes are designed to produce closer racing between the existing and future fleets of Volvo Open 70s and discourage the expensive research and long, slow builds that result in maximized bulb weights (strict limits are set related to bulbweights). The advantages enjoyed by the most powerfully-backed entries have been narrowed and hence the expectations for the lower budget teams should improve

Looking at the user groups, we believe there is little reason for complaints. Sponsors should be happy as their ROI should be significantly higher. Not only should the initial investment be smaller, the returns could turn out substantially higher than before. By having a higher number of entries and by having closer racing, competition should increase and the attraction of the event should become bigger.Sailors and teams should also be happy. The Rules have been designed in close cooperation with the teams and a lot of attention has been paid to safety and the complaints during the last race. The new rules should ensure there is a next race and hence most of the sailors assured from a decent job. The media and audience should also benefit. Closer racing with more boats and leveraging through the new media should lead to more spectacular racing. Finally the race organisation itself should be happy as with these rules, the future of their existence should be guaranteed for at least a few more editions.

In my opinion these rules are an excellent piece of lateral thinking. Frostad and team have been able to come up with a solution which should guarantee the sustainability of the race for both the short and long term without compromising either the spirit or the objectives of the race. That is a great step for the race, great for the sailors and sponsors, and most important it will ultimately improve the contest Having done the race himself a few times, Frostad knows as nobody else what is in a sailors mind and has safeguarded their interest and safety. It again shows sports organisations are often best managed by the people that have been actively involved in the sports. Frostad seems to be well on his way to win yet another race.