March 28: Yesterday we said to Jochen Schueman "Grant Dalton has said that the best thing would be for Alinghi to forfeit and, this morning, Vincenzo Onorato has made a 'How to save the America's Cup statement'." What is your view?
Today we put the same question to Captain Salvatore Sarno, of South African team Shosholoza.
Salvatore Sarno. First of all the situation is really sad, because this dispute has broken what was a very good start for a new America’s Cup that began with Valencia 2007. In my opinion AC32 was the best America’s Cup in more than 150 years, apart from a period with lack of wind, everything went very, very well and it really was the start of a new era.
I really like the vision of Ernesto Bertarelli, the vision to have more teams like Shosholoza, the vision to reduce the expenses in limiting the number of boats and, above all else, in not allowing two boat testing.
You know very well that two boat testing was a luxury that only the multi-millionaire teams could afford, not the normal teams. When I say ‘normal teams’ I don’t mean a team like Shosholoza, because our budget was very small, I mean a normal team in the medium size, a team with a budget of 50 or 60 million like the Germans, like Mascalzone, like the French. To have two boat testing you must not only have two boats, you must have two optimum crews, two optimum sets of sails, two optimum everything, because it is only if everything is of the best on both boats that you can decide whether one boat is performing better than the other one. So, by stopping two boat testing Ernesto Bertarelli already made the competition more open and then his dream to have training sessions, where everyone would train together was allowing the normal team, the small team to save money and give their crew the chance to participate in events against the other teams. I liked that, because I have done a challenge with a small budget.
Now, I want to tell you one thing. I knew that, when the protocol came out, that protocol had to be considered as just a draft, I knew it had to be changed and I was sure that changes would be made. So I was not just shouting ‘This is a scandal.’, because I have met Ernesto Bertarelli; on two or three occasions, during the last Cup, I had the opportunity to discuss things with him and I know what sort of man he is. I was sure that things would be changed and that is why I immediately lodged my new challenge, because I knew that for Shosholoza and for the other teams this was going to be a good thing,
I will tell you something else. The idea of racing with the old boats for the first year and then, in 2009, having the brand new AC 90 was very, very exciting. I’ve told you this before, but I’ll repeat it, my first naval architect, Jason Kerr, and then my new architect, Alex Simonis, were so excited. They both said to me ‘Do not, on Shosholoza’s side, accept any compromise because, for a small team to have any chance of winning the Cup, we must start now with this 90 foot boat. Of course, there was a change to 23 tons, to completely avoid the possibility that Alinghi might have any advantage, but both these architects said we must keep the 90 foot boat, which gives an architect something new to work on, something exciting and, most of all, a chance to win against the big money. When I was talking to the English they were excited too and telling me ‘This is the only way a small team can do something really good, something exciting, something that gives a small team a real chance of beating the big ones’.
Then Alinghi agreed to change some rules, they agreed to change the boat weight to 23 tonnes, so I was really confident that, in 2009, we would have a fantastic competition with this exciting new boat, which would be fast and would accelerate like a sports car and the public would see something they had never seen before.
Anyway, things got deferred and, in my opinion, the biggest mistake was not made by Bertarelli, not by Alinghi, but by the Spanish who have been really naïve in pretending to have a new yacht club, when it was a yacht club that existed only on paper, which was the spark for this whole situation today. I could not believe that anyone, in a sport where hundreds of millions of euros are involved, could be so naïve as to not organise the new yacht club properly.
Now, Golden Gate is no doubt very happy, they are going to sail in the America’s Cup final; they did not succeed in doing that, on two occasions, through racing, but now they have succeeded through a court case. We now have to see what happens; I still hope that Alinghi will win and that Ernesto Bertarelli’s intentions will remain more or less the same because, as I’ve explained, I think his way is the best way. His way is to try to level things and not give too much advantage to the teams that can spend three times, or four times the budget of a normal team.
BYM. You’ve answered one of the questions, arising out of what Vincenzo Onorato said, because he was calling for AC 34 in V5 boats. The other thing he is calling for is the return of Louis Vuitton and LV has made no secret of the fact that they didn’t like the involvement of what you might call “popular brand” sponsors. Do you think the branding of the America’s Cup should be exclusive, popular, or somewhere in between.
Salvatore Sarno. I think it should be somewhere in between. I have enjoyed the presence of Louis Vuitton in the America’s Cup; for me, Louis Vuitton has been synonymous with the America’s Cup, because they have been involved for so long.
Mr Onorato is saying that Louis Vuitton left after they had seen the new protocol. That is not true. I knew, even before we had finished the 32nd America’s Cup, that Louis Vuitton would not be there for the next Cup. The protocol did not exist when Louis Vuitton resigned, it has nothing to do with it.
For me, Louis Vuitton going is a loss, it was bringing some class to the event, but we have to decide whether the America’s Cup is a sport, or an event for billionaires. If it is an event for billionaires, then teams like Areva, or China, or the Germans and myself shouldn’t even think of participating; we are talking about an event for the likes of Baron Biche, or Sir Lipton, for the privileged only.
I think that, in 2008, events like that can’t exist. America’s Cup sailing is among the best and it should be an event where people other than billionaires can participate, even my black people from South Africa, even teams led by someone like me who is just a rich man and not even a millionaire.
I know some people want to go back to a hundred years ago and Bertarelli wants to avoid that. Bertarelli wants to make the America’s Cup an event the public will love and not just a very rich man’s event. That is why he is trying to change some things and I know some people will see things differently, but I believe it is for the public to decide what they like.
I have seen that, in AC 32, the public liked Shosholoza. Why? It was because we were normal; we got a lot of publicity for being normal and not being part of the élite. The public like elite, but they don’t want just élite.