Alinghi. Tesla. Larry?

I do hope you’ve been following the almighty spat between Nick Kyrgios and Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Tennis Open. The Aussie has been doubling down and doubling down again in a war of words with the Serbian calling him “a very strange cat” whilst Djokovic has responded with seeming dignity but then stepped on a landmine by admitting he doesn’t respect Kyrgios off the court despite the Aussie’s huge charity efforts during the pandemic and the work that his personal foundation does. It’s a car crash in public relations. Fascinating to watch.

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And I was rather hoping, in a Machiavellian way, that we would see a similar war of words at the opening Press Conference of the Prada Cup final but alas not. Luna Rossa sent up Max Sirena, who actually won’t be racing on the boat, rather than firebrand Jimmy Spithill so it was a rather dull affair with more straight bats being played than Geoff Boycott on the opening day against India at Headingley in 1967. That was a snooze, this wasn’t far behind.

Did we learn much? No. Was it entertaining? No. Did we come away with a sense that all is well in the Cup world? No, because the undercurrent was there like the Tigris in full flood raging through Mesopotamia rushing down the Armenian Highlands. Tectonic plates are shifting and the trap door that leads to oblivion for one of these teams is set just days away but goodness me it’s all going on. The Cup rumour mill is in full flow. I’ll come to that in a moment.

Rather annoyingly, and predictably, the live YouTube feed didn’t work as the America’s Cup Event guys shot themselves in the foot in front of a global audience. Poor show. Again. But the re-run uploaded later, confirmed what I trialled here yesterday that preservation is the name of the game in reducing the wind limit from 23 to 21 knots for both The Match and the Prada Cup Final this weekend.

Iain Murray observed that he wanted to see them “racing rather than delivering” the boats around the racetrack and that’s fair enough but Ben didn’t sound best pleased about it. For now, as a Challenger, there’s little he can do about the Italians, Grant Dalton and the event organisers making random decisions and shifting the goalposts at the eleventh hour but you can be damn sure that the memory banks are filling up. When we’re watching the Ineos Cup for the Challengers in 2023, I suspect things will be very different…

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But the behind-the-scenes action is hotting up. It’s a story that is hard to keep up with. The Italian media are widely reporting that Luna Rossa are in negotiations with Ernesto Bertarelli with both La Stampa newspaper and La Gazzetto dello Sport saying that the Italian-Swiss billionaire will be back in the game if the nationality rule can be dropped.

That’s great news for the Cup and its future and I wonder who’s going to make the call to Larry Ellison to entice him back in – especially as he’s just made $12billion off his investment in Tesla. The Cup is chump-change to Larry…and with Ineos, Alinghi, Prada and the Kiwis all in for a World Series and a quick-fire turnaround on the event, he’s got to be tempted – wow this could really start to take shape. And quickly.

Alinghi coming back in would be like a shot in the arm for the America’s Cup. Can you imagine what it would do for the sailor and tech team market? Salaries could be eye-popping. Ernesto doesn’t do losing and it’s been a duller place without him but without Russell Coutts, contracted to Larry, he’s going to have throw some big money around to prise the talent. Would he have the nerve to raid Team New Zealand again? I wouldn’t bet against it. How about a raid on Ineos? Blimey. Hands off Ernie! Or will he just merge into Luna Rossa which looks like the path of least resistance?

You can’t take your eye off the ball for a second in this Cup. It’s all happening. Forget Kyrgios and Djokavic. Auckland is on fire right now. Jungle drums are beating. Stay tuned.

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8 thoughts on “Alinghi. Tesla. Larry?

  1. I wonder how much poaching they’d even feel the need to do, given how the Swiss themselves have started making a name for themselves in pro sailing over the past twenty years, nurtured and inspired, at least in part, by Team Alinghi and their offshore “sister” Spindrift Racing.

    The latest Alinghi rosters in the Extreme Sailing Series were definitely majority-Swiss, about 80% if I remember correctly. If they were to return to Auckland with a similar crew composition, I think it would be a clear sign that the “development team” model of starting a team as majority-foreign and training up local talent to fill in over time can succeed, provided a syndicate survives long enough.

    As we write this, of course, a young Swiss named Alan Roura is in the Bay of Biscay due to finish the Vendée Globe sometime in the next day, his second nonstop solo circumnavigation, two weeks before his 28th birthday. Roura, of course, would have been ten at the time of Alinghi’s first America’s Cup victory.

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    1. I think the AC – especially in these boats – is now so specialised that sailing talent alone isn’t enough. He would definitely need to hire aggressively or merge/buy Luna Rossa.

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      1. Magnus and Kai, I think you both have nailed it.

        Ernesto Bertarelli is not a “halves” man and if he goes, it will be all on.

        The talent pool in Switzerland is also growing in the AC, with a 3rd at the last Youth AC in Bermuda, behind GBR & NZL, and the commitment continues, with 2 boats signed up for the Youth AC in NZ, before it was cancelled. The format of the latter (2F + 2M) should have helped usher in a (long overdue) change to the AC itself, mixed teams. Would help mix the cards and Ineos (and other sponsors) likely very receptive, given the pressure for them to support a womens cycling team.

        The putative date for an AC in Europe (Sept. 2023), would be perfect timing to celebrate 130 years of women’s emancipation, 19 Sept 1893, New Zealand.

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  2. If Bertarelli and Alinghi resume their predation on Team NZ post AC36, then the best antidote would be “Oracle Team New Zealand”.

    Larry has won the cup. He probably doesn’t have the burning desire to win it again. But he did and maybe still does have the desire to “shape the future” of the cup, with multiple regattas, warm-up events etc. Maybe linking with Team NZ gives him he best chance to shape the future of the regatta(s), and at the same time shutting out Ernesto.

    Larry was also liked more by the NZ public than Bertarelli ever was, meaning Team NZ could sell him as a “white knight” to the govt and public. Getting Oracle on board means Team NZ could have some kind of mixed AmCup series based in NZ and the USA with credibility.

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    1. That’s extremely kind of you to say Graham and very encouraging. Thank you. I like getting messages like that. Means everything. Sending you my very best. Magnus

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  3. But will Larry want to come back? He has already run off into the undergrowth with his own foiling cat world series that (if my understanding of the situation was correct) was going to be his intended model of the future of the AC if he had retained it in Bermuda. He already has some of the best sailors in the world signed up (Burling, Ainslie, Spitthall, Slingsby, Outteridge) sailing multiple regattas around the world every year, so why would he want to go back to pursuing a trophy that is only competed for every 3 years that he has already won?

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