As car crashes go, the last 24 hours in the America’s Cup has been akin to a slow-motion pile-up on an oil-strewn back road in Auckland. Standing on the verge, the chauffeurs, rather than the owners, are shaking their heads with simmering tensions beneath the surface as to just who was responsible. The accident is a clash of cultures too with both sides claiming the moral high ground in getting their point across. Both are right but why they had to broadcast this minor incident to a locked-down world smacks of inexperience in communications and a distinct blindness in seeing the bigger picture for the Cup and the long-term damage these things do. The image reeks.
Benjamin Disraeli, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain coined a phrase that has percolated through echelons of British society and served the aristocracy so well for decades from Stanley Baldwin to Winston Churchill on to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. “Never Complain. Never Explain.” And as the custodians and challenger for one of the most prized trophies in world sport, both America’s Cup Events Ltd (ACE) and COR36, subsidiaries of Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli respectively would be wise to adopt it.
With just three minutes to go before last night’s hastily arranged press conference by the Challenger of Record (COR36), ACE issued a statement to the media announcing that racing would start on Saturday. Great. That’s all they needed to say. Full stop. End of story. But then this:
“Since Sunday, we have worked really hard on behalf of everyone in Auckland and all Kiwis to give COR the opportunity to demonstrate some honour and respect for this country and delay the Prada Cup until we have a greater chance of everyone being able to enjoy and benefit from being back into Level 1.”
“Clearly they have forgotten the words of their leader Patrizio Bertelli at the opening press conference who spoke about how privileged everyone is to be in Auckland without significant Covid restrictions and that therefore everyone has a commitment and responsibility to deliver great sportsmanship and the Prada Cup to be a major sporting event. This plea has fallen on deaf ears and it’s clear that their focus is solely on Luna Rossa taking the Prada Cup rather than the greater good of the country who have worked so hard in order to be in a position to stage this event.”
Okay so there’s an argument to hide behind about maximising spectator interest and the commercial benefits of the event but why take it a step further and antagonise Luna Rossa like that? If you took the temperature of the media yesterday, we were all supportive of the Italian’s position to put a hard stop on the racing on the 24th as is their right to insist. Across the board in the yachting media, the sharpest pens were recognising that the Cup is a game and explaining that to their audiences. Prada are playing within the rules whether anyone likes it or not and good for them. If I was the Challenger of Record, I would have cancelled that press conference (you can view it below) and said precisely nothing.
The media was also supportive of ACE – and have been all the way throughout this fabulous tournament. If they had just come out and said “racing is scheduled for Saturday and we look forward to a terrific conclusion to the Prada Cup Final” everyone would have shrugged their shoulders and moved on. The last thing they needed to do was pour more oil on an already smouldering Italian fire.
Why grown men and women saw this as a points scoring exercise is beyond me. Quite frankly it’s beneath the status of the event and lays further evidence that after this Cup is over, whoever wins really needs to start clearing out the backstage personnel and get younger, more switched-on, more worldly attuned communications people involved that understand the America’s Cup. This has to be the last roar of the dinosaurs. Drain the swamp.
Now, can we just get back to racing please. The Punch & Judy show is over. Nobody won. It’s time to let the sailing lead the headlines and get the sailors back on the podium. Let me do the comms: “Racing is scheduled for Saturday and we look forward to a terrific conclusion to the Prada Cup Final” – there that was easy, wasn’t it?
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