A very small amount of time was spent yesterday being thoroughly entertained by the official website of Formula One. I now know that Mclaren has a large diffuser because they found a rule cheat, the Ferrari livery with its green encroachments is the worst colour scheme ever devised for the Prancing Horse marque, the Renault’s have an enormous airbox above the driver’s helmet housing ducts that should be along the side of the car and Alpha Tauri have cameras pointing at their front wings to measure deflection. The talk in the paddock this year is all about ride rake with the aerodynamicists latest take on physics meaning they are jacking up the rear ends noticeably (and rather ugly) and Lewis Hamilton isn’t very happy about his one-year deal contract extension with Mercedes.
Wow. That’s not a bad dump of information ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix this coming weekend and I literally got that in about four minutes. Conversely I flicked over to the official America’s Cup website and read a poorly translated article entitled: “PRADA AWARDS WITH 150 ALL EMIRATES TEAM NEW ZEALAND MEMBERS” in bold which means very little in the English-speaking world. The story is cracking however with the Prada team giving every single member of the victorious, brilliant, Team New Zealand a silver medal recording their fabulous win and I was left wondering how this magnificent feat of sportsmanship wasn’t capitalised on with, let’s say, a video, some interviews, some photos, a Zoom with Patrizio, a word from Grant etc etc…
We’re into sleeping bear territory. Night night America’s Cup. We’ll put you back in your box, pack you warmly in newspaper and straw, throw in a lettuce leaf and let you sleep tortoise-like until it’s time to wake up. I could literally scream. The Cup is in hibernation now. The hired hands of the event are on their way home. It was fun whilst it lasted. A few new team T-shirts and caps, maybe a jacket or a gilet as a memento of a memorable three months but it’s back to testing the latest Jeanneau or Sunfast now and seeing which way the wind blows on the next edition. Herein lies the problem. The Cup runs out of money and the periphery gets cut. The momentum stalls and relies now on team websites, spurious press releases at random moments and occasional interviews. Amidst the air of deep uncertainty, the Cup puts the shutters up and everyone wonders why it’s so hard to get sponsorship.
The F1 model of a travelling circus is tough to replicate so the comparison should really, I suppose, stop there. There are no manufacturers in the Cup to ensure longevity. No suppliers to capitalise on investment. Sponsors knew the score, made hay whilst it lasted, drank some champagne, got the photos and are left to their own devices until the next cash-call comes. It’s pretty dire really.
Professionalising the Cup wouldn’t take a genius to figure out and when I look at other global sports where I’m interested, there’s a blueprint for doing it. The Tour de France is a yearly three week jamboree but they relentlessly remind me that it’s the pinnacle of cycling and show everything from community-based initiatives through to race footage. The Olympic Games literally doesn’t stop for four years, to such an extent that it’s hard to know when the event is coming up as there’s no discernible ramping up of coverage. Formula 1 goes to sleep for four months every year but is filled with driver commentary, gossip, interviews and intrigue. FIFA endlessly replay the history of the World Cup through their website and social media. American sports are utterly relentless.
The aberration is the America’s Cup and if it’s to be recognised as a true global sports entity it desperately needs to re-imagine how it projects itself to the outside world. It’s not as if there isn’t enough footage, photos, interviews and history that could be drawn upon now is there? Sell the story. Paint the canvas. Show sponsors and benefactors what a terrific event this is with the most physics-defying boats imaginable. Don’t let it be an aberration or a monstrous carbuncle on the sporting calendar. Bring it out of its box and don’t let it sleep for a minute.
And if you need to dangle the carrot of just what sailing in the Solent next summer will be like, see below. Cowes is ready and waiting. The Solent calls…