BMW ORACLE have announced that they will announce some announcements on the 13th of September. The defender of the America’s Cup and the Challenger of Record will make public a new and exciting America’s Cup boat class and reveal the protocol to govern the 34th edition of the event at a press conference in Valencia.
Speculation has been rife over the last few weeks that BMW ORACLE has chosen multihulls as the preferred boat for the next cup. While the defender is promoting the change as the result of open talks with all parties, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of public support for multihulls amongst traditional Americas Cup players.
The America’s Cup has always been about the defender creating rules that maximise their chances of retaining the trophy. BMW ORACLE have been cleverly using the promise of billions of dollars of TV rights money and the specter of recent court battles to push a boat rule that gives them an R&D head start of several years over their competitors.
The Defender’s line in the media has been that the America’s Cup has to appeal to a young television audience. While most would agree with this principle, the degree to which you have to change the event is very much up for debate.
TEAMORGIN’s Iain Percy wasn’t pulling any punches on where he stands as a sailor. Taking aim at those who would change sailing to appeal to ‘Generation Y’ (with a side-swipe at the Extreme sailing Series, and bankers) he said:
“I can say though that ‘toss a coin TV show racing’ is not my cup of tea. I have nothing against people doing it, I even have friends who are bankers, but for me it isn’t sport. Competitors in any sport need to have a primary and totally overpowering goal of winning by being better than the opposition, that is what separates boxing from WWF wrestling. That is why grown men cry at a football match and only adolescent teenage boys (who haven’t yet discovered girls) like Hulk Hogan. So that’s how I answer my fundamental question: that sailing needs to be a fair challenge of physical, technical and tactical abilities over a series of races.”
Percy goes on to blame the media for pushing a commercial agenda saying:
Other groups use serial bloggers to represent their point of view…
We’re sure that Iain wasn’t talking about yachtsponsorship.com, but we are quite happy to stop reporting on the ‘Race for Change’ and other TEAMORGIN commercial partnerships if we are somehow compromising the sport by doing so.
Percy is right though – that the America’s Cup is about money. It is either private money, coming from wealthy individuals like TEAMORIGIN backer Sir Keith Mills or BMW ORACLE’s Larry Ellison, or it is money generated by the sport. Whoever is funding it, the cup has to be packaged up and sold.
On the 13th of September, BMW ORACLE will announce a decision that will have massive implications for the sport – one way or another. If they are making a change for the future, and not just because it helps them retain the cup then we expect big things.
We expect that the defender can show real numbers to back up their decision. Real numbers in this case doesn’t mean that potential team owners voted 10-8 in favour of multihulls.
We expect that the anonymous TV executives that are quoted by Russell Coutts have done some quantitative research into the Americas Cup audience and can show that the Generation Y segment will generate more ratings, more advertising revenue and higher lifetime value than the installed (but latent) fan-base.
We expect that there has been some 3rd party polling that shows television audiences, given a choice between basketball, x-factor and the America’s Cup sailed in catamarans, would choose the latter – at least for the organiser’s target demographic.
We expect that those who are the current custodians of the America’s Cup have tried everything they could to maintain the integrity of the product so that it can stand alongside classic sporting trophies like The Ashes, Le Mans, the Rugby World Cup, the Ryder cup or Wimbledon – events that haven’t diluted their format.
We expect to hear teams that have invested heavily in the sport, through events like the Louis Vuitton Cup, the Audi Med Cup and the World Match Racing Tour, in order to stay together through the last America’s Cup cycle come out in public support of the new Boat Class rule.
We expect, whatever is decided, that not everyone will be happy. The America’s Cup is dead – long live the America’s Cup.
More America’s Cup News….