The Italians think it’s a farce, the Kiwis know it’s a lifeline. The Americans are saying that Patriot ‘deserves a next chapter’ and Jim Ratcliffe has acknowledged the obvious that they need to build a new boat to be competitive. Spithill hasn’t signed but 90% of the Italian design team is secured…quite what they signed up for is anyone’s guess?
The Cup rumour mill is in full swing. Has Simmer retired? Will Ben have a desk job? Is Giles in the picture? Is Deano the only option for Magic? Larry’s confirmed…until he isn’t. Ernesto is a dead cert for 2024. China are nailed on…and Jimmy is going there. Blimey. It’s all going on. And 99% of it is pure speculation. But what’s absolutely clear is that there is real excitement building for the next Cup. The Sail GP circuit will be a hotbed of rumours and we’ve only got 29 days to go until the first series in Bermuda.
The Isle of Wight rumour won’t die. It’s the talk of Cowes at the moment. Everyone knows something. They spoke to so-and-so who’s really in the know and who’s related to so-and-so personally. And he works at that boatyard and they’ve been contacted by someone connected with that team and they’re building new sheds there. Dredgers are being sourced. It’s great. It’s a lifeline of rumour amidst the gloom of the pandemic and there’s a buzz in the air.
Old salts are opining that they’ll never get ‘them things’ down the River Medina and bright minds are starting to think of logistics – where the hell do you house the teams and the bases? Sadly, for the loveliest town on the Island, with the most attuned locals to sailing anywhere in Britian, space is an issue. The most likely scenario is that the boats are based in Portsmouth or over the river in Gosport and foil-towed up to the start line wherever that may be.
Starting them off the Squadron line for a blast around the Island would be the money-shot but if you want fair windward-leeward courses then you’re looking at either going south of the Island or west to Christchurch Bay. Neither is a particularly viewer-friendly option. The Solent itself in summer, in normal times, is awash with boats but it’s feasible with a westerly wind that a course could be set from the Squadron to Lymington and that would be one heck of an auditorium. Short tacking those monsters up the Green and then tide cheating to Lymington would be off the scale amazing. San Francisco on steroids. The Cup deserves an audience. It needs theatre. No wonder the Italians think it’s a farce.
The term ‘farce’ is derived from the French word for ‘stuffing’ – I kid you not – and the Italians have every reason to feel that they are being well and truly stuffed as the Great Game plays out. It’s a shame really as they seem ready and willing to go wherever gives them the best shot of winning but would they sign up to a deal that guarantees a return to Auckland in 2024? Highly unlikely. That’s not the Italian dream. They’ve got their own amphitheatre for farce in Porto Cervo and there isn’t a sailor on the planet that doesn’t think that would be an amazing venue for a future event.
So the probability meter is angling towards a one-on-one spectacle to delight the fans and swell Team New Zealand’s coffers unless an 11th hour deal with the Kiwi government can be secured. Looking at the New Zealand media, the America’s Cup is getting shoved down the agenda. Covid is still a very real issue that they are managing. A new harbour bridge is rumoured to be a priority. Affordable housing is more important. Jordie Barratt is scoring tries at will for the Hurricanes and Private Equity is buying into the All Blacks franchise. Life moves on quickly from the Cup and $100m of public money is better spent elsewhere. I can’t see Jacinda Ardern playing Florence Nightingale to Team New Zealand.
As Bob Dylan wrote, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears” and Ratcliffe’s golden opportunity is looking like the only deal in town. Buckle up for foiling in the Solent but remember, the Waszp’s were there first…here’s Britain’s brightest female sailing talent, Hattie Rogers, just off the Needles on the way to a cross-Channel foil last August…