“In like a lion, out like a lamb,” is the proverb often used to describe the month of March. The earliest citation was Thomas Fuller’s compendium of ‘Wise Words and Witty Sayings’ first published in 1732 but today the phrase is everywhere from Manga cartoons in Japan to Oscar Wilde coffee mugs. It’s apt though for the Cup as sedation replaces mania with only a very small coterie at the top having any idea of the direction. It’s poker playing at the highest level. There are plenty of blocks still to fall into place but the jungle drums around Team New Zealand are noticeably changing their tune.
In an interview with a local news station, one of the Kiwi team’s leading lights and founder of The Warehouse Group, Sir Stephen Tindall, was back at his desk the day after the Cup win determined to start finding the cash to go again and was clear that the team had a desire, as much as feasible, to stand on its own two feet.
Waiting around for government money to be helicopter-dropped is clearly the least attractive option, despite being an option, and you have to think that there must be some serious discussions going on with the China Sports Group, Emirates (who are nailed-on to continue), Omega and Gabe Newell of Steam fame – who I seem to be supporting more and more as my teenage son pillages my bank account for video games. And then of course there’s the cheque-book of Jim Ratcliffe but it would be pretty unpalatable surely, for a Kiwi team to receive funding from a competitor? I can’t really see how that works in practice but can certainly see how that plays out to the Kiwi public.
Meanwhile, Prada and American Magic are pacing the corridors like naughty schoolchildren outside the Headmaster’s office awaiting their fate. Neither likes the situation. It’s pretty uncomfortable. They would like some certainty that the party is continuing in Auckland and sound ready to commit and probably equally likely to pull the trigger on court action should the contest be announced in the UK next summer. On what basis we don’t know right now but Luna Rossa issued what seemed liked a nicey-nicey statement thanking Auckland for its magnificent hosting of the event and ended with the line: “We look forward to returning to racing on the AC75s in the next edition of the America’s Cup.” The well-crafted sentence of “returning to racing” and “in the next edition” leaves the door open to challenge wherever the Cup may be but certainly in the 37th edition – not the 38th – is the intention. It’s not “returning to racing in Auckland” as that would pen the Challenge in. It’s a clear statement that they want in, wherever the Defenders and COR decide to go next. Especially with the AC75s confirmed. Interesting. It’s all in the detail.
Of all the teams, Luna Rossa has the most to lose right now. And although they didn’t win many friends event-wise in Auckland with the way they behaved towards ACE and Ineos, they are surely worth courting. The money they ploughed into the Prada Cup and the cash support for the event should not be forgotten on the back of a few public podium spats, a couple of CNC’s and giving the measurement committee the run around over backstays. That’s small beer in comparison to the cold, hard cash they injected to ensure the spectacle could go ahead. Thank you Patrizio – has anyone really said that to him? The feeling and sentiment that I get is: “thanks but goodbye” and that’s plain wrong. Luna Rossa caught a wave of support and certainly added to the glamour, competition, prestige and colour of the event – it would have been poorer without them and going forward, surely they should be involved?
And with the news across the globe today of the ‘Sweat not Oil” report by the New Weather Institute criticising high-carbon industries from supporting top-level sport and holding Ineos up as the poster-child of the campaign – a claim that it strongly refutes highlighting that they are in the “top 4% of 65,000 companies rated” for “environment, ethics, labour and human rights…and sustainable procurement” – shutting the door to Prada’s sponsorship, backed by someone who has been a patriarch of the sport for 25 years or more, could be a myopic move. It could be a move that comes back to bite the event – and hard.
Not so much as a lamb, March is looking like “in like a lion, out like a lion” and there’s a lot more water to run as decisions get made, politicians start politely excusing themselves, billionaires get riled and the Cup goes squarely into the cross-hairs. It was ever thus.