What is the America’s Cup Management (ACM) vision for the 33rd edition?
"I think we gained a lot of experience in this last Cup and we want to build on that. Our vision, from the very start, was to share the event with a wider public. We want to give the Cup “verticality”, where popularity is concerned. Football is a sport with vertical popularity; there are people of every walk of life who love to watch it, from billionaires down. I, recently, was talking to an acquaintance in Switzerland, who makes luxury goods and decided to sponsor football. He pointed that everything about the way football is presented is set up to appeal to the lowest base, so he is going into it to appeal to the top echelon of enthusiasts.
We want to give the America’s Cup that same “verticality”, but in reverse. Everything about it, in the past, has tended to be aimed at the top echelon. By bringing in partners, with products for all members of the public, we want to give it a wider appeal."
"Above all, we want to always have it at venues where everyone, whatever their position in life, can have an experience they will enjoy, so the venue is very important. It must be accessible and enable the public to take in the atmosphere and share in the excitement. We know, from those who visited Valencia that once they come to watch they find it exciting and addictive. So, our vision for the next Cup is to give sporting value to every part of the event, by giving the proper weight in the result."
There seems to be a view among some of the yachting fraternity that it is somehow “wrong” to make the America’s Cup a commercial success.
Yes I know, I think there are two different reasons. Firstly, there are some very genuine people, who are steeped in America’s Cup tradition and really feel like that. I remember attending a meeting in 2003, in Auckland, before Alinghi won, and we started discussing the future of the Cup and how it could go forward and some people said “We don’t need any of that, it should stay as it is. We know the people who are involved and we don’t need to encourage more countries to join in, or commercialise it in any way.” These people are very genuine, as I said, but they are away from the reality of what most people want today.
Then you have the people who have tried to make the event a success, both commercially and in popularity, and who failed miserably. c
Of course, your plans are contingent on the outcome of the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) court action?
Yes, by putting this in front of the court Larry Ellison has disrupted everything, but our focus is the organisation of the next Cup, in 2009. Our staff is working towards this. The lawyers are, of course, working on the two deadlines.
Yes, Golden Gate omitted a very important date from the Media Backgrounder that was issued a few days ago and has created a wrong impression of what happened on August 22nd.
The date it failed to mention, under the heading "2007 Timeline" was August 17. Although the GGYC filed suit in the Supreme Court for the State of New York, on July 20, Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) was not served with the papers until August 17.
The response to those papers was scheduled to be answered by mid-September and SNG was working on responding by then. However, just 5 days later, GGYC went into court and asked for the time scale to be accelerated. They want it accelerated for the original suit and they also want to know from SNG the racing rules and the location for the multihull challenge they claim for.
All that happened in court, on August 22, was that the court set a date for hearing whether there is reason to accelerate things. SNG has to reply by September 5 and the hearing will be on September 10. This was not a victory for GGYC, as the impression has been given. Nothing was decided, the court has not taken any position whatsoever, it has just set a date for a hearing and nobody knows what will happen on the date. The court may agree to the request to accelerate, or it may not.
There are some points in the protocol that do seem controversial. What is the motive for being able to turn down entries, for example?
Would you think it wise to have, say, four Italian teams? It is impossible for almost any country to provide sponsorship for so many teams, so if you allow a lot of entries from one country you are likely to end up with no really good entry.
That’s one potential problem, the other is simple logistics. We have 12 bases now and the most we could accommodate would be 2 new bases, so we have to be able to refuse entries. Even if we could accommodate more, there would still have to be a limit on numbers because of sailing schedules and the practicality of race operations, not to mention planning.
Why couldn’t you have explained that in the protocol?
We tried to keep the protocol as short and simple as we could, knowing that there would be precisions to come, as there were the last time, because you can’t foresee all eventualities at once. For example, we couldn’t name a date and place, because we hadn’t finalised things with Valencia then.
We may have made it too short and simple. I believe the text of the protocol is right, but the perception isn’t. Plus, there are some who only want to see what they think is the bad side; the hidden agenda that really does not exist.
What about abolishing the Challengers Commission?
We have replaced it with a Competitors Commission. Anyone who is honest will tell you that, last time, there were a lot of problems within the Challengers Commission; they often didn’t find it easy to agree among themselves and, when they had thrashed something out, they would then come to us. It did not make the dialogue very constructive.
This time, we felt we could shorten the process by having everyone sitting round the same table at the same time; defender, challengers, ACM together. We have already had one successful meeting with the competitors for the next Cup.
And the 90 foot boat?
Designers and sailors are better people to talk to about that.
Thank you, Michel Hodara.
In Valencia, the feeling among most sailing enthusiasts is that the court case is a sad and unnecessary thing, after a great 32nd Cup. Unnecessary, because it hinges on the validity of CNEV and everyone knows the Club had to be formed. Last time around, Agustin Zulueta (Desafio boss) wanted the Royal Barcelona to challenge, Rita Barbera (mayoress of Valencia) and others wanted the Royal Valencia. Impasse, the two clubs couldn't agree on a joint challenge.
So why didn't Zulueta just go ahead and challenge via Barcelona? Money is the answer. Iberdrola, for purely business reasons, refused to sponsor the campaign unless a Valencian Club was involved in the challenge. One month before entries closed, Desafio still had no main sponsor and no club to challenge. The Royal Valencia then suggested that ALL Spanish Clubs challenged and that is how the challenge came to be made by the Spanish Federation. This time round, given the problems that the Federation entry had caused, within the Challengers Commission, and knowing that it would again be impossible to get agreement, from all factions, over a challenge from an existing club that would fit Iberdrola's requirements, it was decided that the sensible solution was to create a club to challenge. To Spanish minds it is as simple as that, nothing sinister at all, and certainly not a reason to go to court.
There is also a strong perception that, if GGYC were to win a court case, Larry Ellison and crew might well find themselves alone on the water, with their large multihull.