A fascinating article from Richard Gladwell, writing for Sail-World about a new sailing World Series backed by long time America’s Cup sponsor (sorry – partner) Louis Vuitton. Our initial reaction to news like this is – do we really need another sailing competition? but it would seem that a lot of good thinking has gone into the concept, using existing events to create a progression for teams whose ultimate goal is the America’s Cup. Here are some of our highlights of a much longer article.
An final decision is still pending on an extension of the highly successful Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, which will introduce a new world series of sailing regattas using America’s Cup class yachts. Already several meetings have been held with 12 teams from 10 countries being present at one discussion. The shape of the new series is expected to be a combination of recent developments in the America’s Cup, Louis Vuitton Cup, Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, and the Acts sailed in 2005 and 2006 sponsored by Louis Vuitton.
For the first time in the America’s Cup’s 158 year history there is been no Defender essentially controlling how the Challengers can operate in the buildup to the next America’s Cup and the unique opportunity is now there to set up a new game.
The most likely shape of this new competition would appear to be an extension of what was tried in with the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series Auckland. Namely a ten team regatta, maybe 12, using two pairs of America’s Cup yachts from 32 AC.
The first venue in the series is expected to be Hong Kong, in January, followed by Auckland in February or March. Two more regattas are expected to be held in 2010, and it is believed at this stage, that Valencia will not be a venue. One of the venues could be in Africa, and Newport, USA is believed to be a strong option.
Louis Vuitton and their long time emissary, Bruno Trouble, are believed to be the drivers behind the ambitious project. A considerable amount of work has gone into the project, which is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for the America’s Cup family. It was Louis Vuitton who picked up the initiative for the Pacific Series, staged as a celebration of one of the longest running sponsorships in sport, but clearly as a test of a future event.
What the World Series will do is create a new layer of competition that will sit between the World Match Racing Tour and the America’s Cup. This layer, coupled with the supplied boats nature of the competition, will allow new teams to form out of the WMRT and go up the next stage into the World Series, and if they can achieve the results at that level, then they can go into a full America’s Cup program with some confidence.
Obviously from a sponsor viewpoint, backing a new team for a couple of years on the World Series, to see how they go is going to be a lot more attractive than ponying up for a full blown America’s Cup program. So the entry cost into the America’s Cup will be substantially lowered, and teams will be able to build a track record of performance without incurring a massive design and boat program overhead. The cost of competing in Auckland was about USD250,000 per team for the three weeks. While this is not insubstantial, with proper venue selection it should be possible to provide a good return to sponsors. A key to this will be the availability of coverage and use of a web graphics package such as Virtual Eye, on public release, as well as using the same Virtual Eye package for TV, will be a key to the take up by the major networks. International coverage of these events offers huge scope for both television and the internet – far beyond what was possible given the short notice of the Auckland based Louis Vuitton Pacific Series.
Additionally, the organiser’s ability to take the World Series into different continents around the world gives some alignment with other major sporting events, but at greatly reduced relative cost (compared to say Formula 1). Previously any America’s Cup build up series has been limited to one city or one venue or one continent. moving an event between continents does generate interest in the local event and that interest remains for following venues in the same series.
The numbers of spectators at the recent stop overs of the Volvo Ocean Race, should not be lost on sponsors and promoters of the World Series, with up to 500,000 expected to pass through the village at Stockholm. The recent announcements made by the Volvo Ocean race organisers are clearly aimed at making the event more attractive to more professional racing teams – providing certainty around dates and venues.
The Volvo Ocean Race, with professional forward thinking management and an inclusive style is a serious threat to the old type America’s Cup organisation. A new way forward is required, with a professionally organised global event. Louis Vuitton and Bruno Trouble have the record and are currently without peer in this regard, but a green light from both sides in the 33rd America’s Cup is preferred, but maybe not required.