Hardball

Welcome to the America’s Cup. For those that tune in and expect a sporting contest, be warned. For those that believe in fairy tales and stories of comebacks with swashbuckling sailors at the peak of their powers, look away now. This isn’t a Disney production. This is a ruthless game played out by win-at-all-costs merchants with Shakespearean forces hiding in the wings ready at a moment’s notice, desperate to strut and fret their hour upon the stage.

Good, honest, decent people have been broken by the Cup game, their fortunes consumed, their egos bruised only to be quickly forgotten, spat out, exhaled like plumes of spray off a foiler at 50 knots. Many have walked this path and vowed never to return. The Cup just turned ugly. Very ugly. As Dennis Conner famously said about the Cup; “Bet on self interest…it’s always running.”

©KOS Picture Source / www.kospictures.com

Overnight, a barrage of press releases have filtered through from Auckland with the Prada Cup Final under threat due to the ongoing Covid situation. This morning Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern declared that despite fresh outbreaks around South Auckland, the alert level will drop from the highest level 3 to level 2 for Auckland City that still means distancing protocols and restrictions on gatherings are enforced.

For the America’s Cup Event organisers (ACE) it’s a difficult situation that they have been wrestling with since the weekend. In a spirit of common sense and assuming consensus, ACE landed on a proposal to delay the Prada Cup Final to the 26th February and subsequently to delay The Match against Team New Zealand by a week to start on Saturday 13th March.

Not so fast says Luna Rossa, the Challenger of Record, sitting at 4-0 up who are throwing up the defence of: Yes we want to race but if the final cannot be completed by the 24th February in accordance with the Prada Cup conditions then all bets are off and whoever is leading the racing at that point will be declared the winner. As it stands today, Luna Rossa wins and faces the Kiwis in March. I wonder whether they would be singing the same tune at 4-0 down. Unlikely but that’s the game. Self interest came thundering to the table.

©KOS Picture Source / www.kospictures.com

To win the America’s Cup you have got to be willing to play the hardest of hardball and to be honest, I have a sneaking admiration for what Luna Rossa is doing here. This isn’t a tea party. It isn’t a race for gentleman racers. It is a brutal game, not a sport, where you use every letter of every rule to your advantage. It’s easy to forget the years this event has lost in the Supreme Court and the Appellate courts in New York. We look back misty-eyed at the Deed of Gift matches believing that they were just an aberration. No, these are the quirky rules that Jim Ratcliffe was talking about. “Them’s the rules” unfortunate as it is from a pure sporting outlook. The dice are heavily loaded.

But there is light amidst the dark. The Cup organisers do have plans in place that would see racing take place effectively behind closed doors and we should see those enacted now. The race village will remain shut down and spectators will most probably be excluded – although quite how that will be policed is a question. Racing, with government approval, could be resumed and this is what Luna Rossa are pushing for. If you’re an Ineos fan, that’s the best outcome to be hoped for although the team did come out with a statement that carried zero weight in the eyes of the Challenger of Record, in support of a week’s suspension in line with the America’s Cup Event organisers wishes. It was almost pointless to issue it – and was a bit obvious with the light conditions forecast for the weekend.

©KOS Picture Source / www.kospictures.com

Racing behind closed doors is a raw deal for Aucklanders and the spectators but these are strange global times. The pandemic is even more ruthless than the participants. It spares nobody and cares not a jot for a sporting contest or anything else for that matter. Unfortunately the die is set. Now the Cup needs to throw its action plan into force and get the racing concluded in whatever way it can. Luna Rossa has made its position very clear and it’s race to a conclusion or award the win to whoever is leading on the 24th February. That’s the hard stop in their book. No negotiation.

The mountain got a little steeper overnight for Ineos but who knows, they may only have to win five races to be crowned winners. Tables have a funny habit of turning.

You can read the two statements here:

America’s Cup Events Press Statement

Challenger of Record Statement

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15 thoughts on “Hardball

  1. Jeez, they’re ahead anyway, they should just cool their jets and wait their turn, the management has a plan and screwing around and arguing during lockdown for a deadly virus is idiotic.

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  2. This blackmail letter has to be one of the biggest own goals by Political Prada. NZ is not like Europe where we have had 100000 deaths in UK alone. NZ has chosen the path of avoiding deadly disease spread successfully and banking on vaccines to get them out. There is no widespread experience of the horror of loved ones dying alone behind closed and locked doors and elderly Alzheimers victims being locked up in their Care Home rooms 23 hours a day with no family contact. I looked up a bit of the history of Prada and the disputes with ACE Ltd. this past year or so on rules, courses, timing of races, equipment and then to add salt into wounds, breaking Agreed Press Embargoes. No love lost between them it seems which probably prompted this insane piece of selfishness in their demands. Well, they can live in their own PR bubble with funny videos of rewriting 1776 history for only so long before the world and its real problems appears in it. After this stunt, it is not so much a case of “The Italians Are Coming” anymore as “The Italians are Carping Again”.

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  3. Magnus, I have just read Jacinda Aherns statement from yesterday and read the Covid situation as reported today in the https://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/americas-cup-2021-divide-over-prada-cup-covid-plans-as-luna-rossa-oppose-delay/NMFEYTYJETGYVB7NKNLF2WF26U/. Jacinda Ahren stated Auckland is at Lockdown 2.5 – ie between 2 and 3. In details, no gatherings of 100 and people together limited to a maximum of 10. As there are 11 crew, who do each team suggest ditching? Jimmy will chuck Bruno straightaway so that is Luna Rossa sorted. Will there be another “Bounty Mutiny” on Ineos with Ben Ainslie gently being slipped off the stern and waving Rita goodbye as she heads for Pitcairn Island at 40 knots?!

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  4. Magnus, the situation on Lockdown in Auckland is changing faster that I can keep up with! No way a journalist life for me! Now it is declared Lockdown Level 2 not 2.5 and that means 100 people allowed to gather as I understand it. Spoils the jokey story for sure. An Italian out there told me that he thinks it is racing from Friday, through Saturday and Sunday if necessary non stop. Sorry about all this changing but I thought I would try to keep it up to date.

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  5. Ineos position will I am sure be completely unrelated to the weather forecast for Friday, Saturday, Sunday being light winds. Comeon…be onest.

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  6. Still unclear whether ACE have surrendered to Prada completely on this but it may be that they grow some and take the legally correct line that a rescheduled date is in fact, still a scheduled date and compliant with the “conditions” which Prada carp on about. there is nothing in the agreement to prevent rescheduling. That’s it in legal terms. If it is not proscribed, it can be legal and ACE can reschedule where there is good reason. They have the discretion to do so in my view.

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  7. Ok, Prada is playing hard here but think the situation on a broader scale. What would happen if new community cases will be found in the next few days and NZ stays in Level 2 or above for the next 2-3 months dealing with a Covid outbreak? We postpone everything untill there will be zero cases? We cancel the Americas Cup? It’s certainly sad to race without public but, come one, we are in the middle of a pandemic and rules where thought exaclty for situations like this one, you just cannot change them during the event.

    The proposal of ACE to postpone untill 26th just do not make any sense since, sadly, there is not certanlty that by that date the situation will be different.

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  8. Ma sei lo stesso giornalista che con cappa e spada doveva mandare a casa LUNA ROSSA in lacrime???

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  9. You should be ashamed to make these claims. Your urge to break the rules speaks for itself. Why should races be postponed and give Ineos an advantage? You can compete behind closed doors, without an audience, as you do all over the world and respect the rules of the cup. Where is the scandal? Perhaps it is not difficult to imagine what the problem is: you are English and the rules do not matter to you

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      1. I probably don’t understand. What is the problem with racing without an audience? I am Italian and I know the problems and tragedies that covid has created. In Italy we were the first to close all activities to the public, including sports. Give me one technical reason why it is not possible in the America’s Cup.

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  10. I have read the article well and I can declare that he is one of the few journalists if not the only one who has admitted that the decision of the ACE makes no sense and has sided in favor of LR despite not being the nation and team closest to him or INEOS UK. congratulations for the article and for the sportiness.

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  11. I feel like, a-la “The Newsroom”, my response to the opening speech of this post should be:

    “It’s not. But it COULD be.”

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