America’s Cup Scales Down To Keep Momentum


The America’s Cup continues to struggle to make its new bright and shiny product accessible and interesting to its various stakeholders. Over the weekend, the America’s Cup Event Authority and the other bodies responsible for the event made significant changes to the schedule and the pricing of the next edition.

Last Minute Price Reductions to Get Teams to the Start Line.

In December, America’s Cup organisers slashed the price of entry for the next edition to lure teams to the event. The original entry fee was set at USD $1.3million which was reduced to USD $100,000. The Performance Bonds were cut from USD $3million to USD $1million. Now the (first?) performance bond has been eliminated altogether, but teams must purchase an AC45 for 650,000 Euro.

  • The AC45 purchase contract (with 50% non-refundable deposit) has to be signed by June 10.
  • The entry fee of USD $100,000 is still payable.
  • Another performance bond of $800,000 is payable in December 2011.

It’s important that the organisers ensure that teams have the funding to be competitive for the next edition of the cup, but that has to be weighed against the prospect of an event where only a couple of boats show up – which would have a big impact on the spectacle and the markets in which the TV rights can be sold.

The compulsory purchase of an AC45 by June 10 is important for the promoters of the first World Series event to be staged in August.

America’s Cup World Series to be an Extreme Sailing Series ‘Me-too’.

In the lead-up to the 2007 America’s Cup, the then organisers created a series of Acts which gave multiple cities around the world a chance to see the boats that would ultimately go on to to compete for the prize. The intent of the new organisers was to create a ‘World Tour’ that would be something special – something that the world’s latent sailing fanbase would book hundreds of hotel nights to come and watch – but instead the America’s Cup World Series will now only feature the ‘mini-me’ 45 foot versions of the wingsailed catamarans.

Described by Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton as “conservative” – the AC45 is being talked up by the promoters and the PR spin is the boat has been “selected by competitors for use in all America’s Cup World Series events.”

There is no doubt that the boats can provide a great event package. The Extreme Sailing Series has shown that their format is exciting and provides a challenge for the best sailors in the world. Now it seems, the America’s Cup World Series will be a copycat version of the Extreme Series, with the only real differentiator being a wing-sail and the America’s Cup ‘brand’.

The first event will be held in Cascais in August. Supporters of the race say that 5 star hotels are booked out all the way to Lisbon as a result, but a quick search of popular travel websites shows that not to be the case. Lisbon, Estoril and Cascais are expected to benefit from tensions in North Africa, which means that the America’s Cup World Series event might also benefit from a slightly higher number of people in the region, but it would be a stretch to say that the cup event is the reason for any influx over and above the media entourage.

ACEA Enforce Digital Centralisation

The protocol for the 34th America’s Cup always stipulated that there would be a central America’s Cup website and that teams competing in the Cup would be required to host their sites on that domain. This requirement has been moved forward to July 1, 2011.

There is nothing odd about this requirement. American sports leagues like the NBA and MLB use this format and even teams like the New York Yankees and Chicago Bulls have to use the centralised system.

The benefit to the America’s Cup is a higher degree of control over the media and communications by teams. The America’s Cup domain will receive higher traffic and higher influence and be ranked better by search engines like Google as a result. Advertising will be able to be sold across the network of sites rather than having to do deals with each team’s website individually.

For the teams though, there could be conflict. The trend over recent years for sailing teams to compete in multiple events and disciplines means that fans of the World Match Racing Tour, Volvo Ocean Race or Extreme Sailing Series will be redirected to the America’s Cup micro-site. Even Oracle Racing, who compete in the RC44 championship presumably will have to consolidate (part) of their website under the America’s Cup domain.

There has been some knee-jerk reaction to this, but the protocol does allow non-America’s Cup content to be hosted elsewhere! The clause says:

51.1. Competitors shall use the domain www.americascup.com as their sole online presence. By 1 April 2011, the Event Authority will provide Competitors with as much space as they reasonably require within the website for exclusive use and control of all their content. Furthermore, by 1 June 2011, Competitors that have existing domain names shall redirect all online traffic to www.americascup.com.

The intent of this Article is to substantially grow the online audience for the benefit of the Competitors and the Event.

51.2 Article 51.1 does not apply to content that is not linked in any way to the America’s Cup in relation to other (permitted non America’s Cup) events.

There are some other potentially nasty parts to this clause for teams. It’s almost unimaginable that by ‘sole online presence’ this clause means that teams have to shut down their Facebook pages, Youtube Channels and Twitter feeds – but stranger things have happened.

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