I didn’t know it, but the slogan ‘Just do it’ is a powerful adaption of a murderer’s last words before he faced the firing squad in Portland and possibly the most famous line in marketing history. Moments after the fabulous Emma Raducanu won the US Open Women’s title at the weekend, Nike had the billboard up in Times Square celebrating Britain’s astonishing come-from-nowhere athlete and tennis superstar with the slogan and the swoosh subtly displayed. Everyone gets it. Nothing more needs to be said.
And as we enter the final few metres of the most critical decision perhaps ever in America’s Cup history, the case for Auckland gets stronger. The Irish bid is being politically kneecapped and starved of oxygen. The Spanish bid has a million problems and is late. Jeddah is standing in the shower ready to tear up $50 bills but everyone, except me, thinks it’s a bad idea. Auckland was always the right choice and difficult, seemingly impossible, as it is to get over the line, the case is immensely strong. Just do it.
Whether it will get the nod as the preferred venue and a can is kicked down the road for a couple of months whilst the fine print is sorted out, is irrelevant. It is the ‘preferred’ choice by everyone from the teams, to the general public, to the commentators and organisers and to the sheer romance and dignity of the America’s Cup itself. It’s the impossible dream but tell me, what’s truly worth having that isn’t worth fighting for? If in the next few hours a missive emerges from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron that says: ‘Auckland always was our number one choice and we are now working closely with the New Zealand Government to make it happen and secure the funding – bear with us’ then the sailing world will breathe a mighty sigh of relief.
And the numbers being bandied around of $200 million to run this are poppy-cock if it’s in Auckland. The infrastructure is there and awaiting a return on investment – you know, the stuff that was lumped into the final bill when the numbers were tallied – and everything is ready to go. Covid will abate as it has done globally with an effective vaccination programme and there’s a couple of years to get that nailed on – New Zealand probably needs a six month effort and an about-face on the elimination stance to get Delta under control. Fast forward to the end of 2022 and New Zealand is rock n roll again – locked and loaded and ready to welcome the world.
The big issue, although it has never been insurmountable in the past, is getting the funds to run the Defence. The IP is all there and let’s face it, the sailors are pretty damned good. So what are we really looking at here to run a campaign capable of winning or at the very least putting up the mother of all fights? $40-60m maybe, perhaps even less? Up the entry fees and go back to Emirates, the China Sports Group, some friendly billionaires and do it the hard way…again. It’s do-able. Just do it.
And with the borders open to travellers again in let’s say mid 2022 or even 2023, throw open that magnificent Kiwi welcome and usher the world in for the build up ahead of a Christmas regatta and the Cup in early 2024. I cannot think of anything, anything, better. Just do it.
Yes the Jeddahrati cash is like a moth to a flame but look at it another way and it’s like a fly around faeces. The politics are dire. So too the politics around the other bidders – all of them have issues and are far less attractive than a fully bought-in, passionate audience that is primed and ready to go again down in New Zealand.
Public sentiment matters as does having a knowledgeable, committed fanbase that welcome the America’s Cup and knows the history as well as just what it means to win. They know and love the late, great Sir Peter Blake. They’ve never quite forgiven Russell & Brad but they’re part of the legacy and very much legend. Grant Dalton divides but my goodness has he conquered and as an observer I just can’t fathom why he’s not sainted down there. And at a sporting level, Pete, Blair and Glenn are as close to sailing royalty as is possible. For the sake of legacy. Just do it.
My firm belief is that if an offshore venue is announced and trumpeted, wherever in the world that may be, it will be a decision that will haunt. It will be a mis-step that the Kiwi public won’t forget. It could well be the end of New Zealand’s passion for the competition and see the start of a dramatic decline. Right now they are the pinnacle in sporting and hosting terms – why would you give that up for anything?
Let’s say they do host and heaven’s forfend, the Kiwis lose in a dramatic final or get thumped in a one-sided regatta, out-gunned by some uber team that’s thrown oodles of money at it. No shame in that. I disagree with Dalton that the 2003 defence was an embarrassment. I quite liked the hula. I looked at that boat and thought, ‘okay they’re trying’ and the light build of the rig might have worked. Remember race one – they were off to the races and PJ Montgomery was opining that they had a flying machine. That’s what I remember. Okay Alinghi ground them down but it wasn’t an embarrassment to us outsiders as much as GD would have you think. If the same happened again, I reckon the Kiwi public would go: ‘we gave it a shot’ and more importantly ‘we did the right thing and hosted it here.’ I’ll say it again: Just do it.
Every man and his dog thinks this is impossible. I like those odds. And I know that Kiwis like them more. For everything that New Zealand is going through now and for all the acres of coverage garnered from whispers and rumour, the right thing to do is host in Auckland. If that’s the case, Dalton, Ratcliffe, Di Nora, Ainslie, Ardern and every two-bit politician or mover and shaker involved would claim a famous victory for common sense and decency.
The sport would thank them, dollars would flow, ROI would be achieved, teams would get a boost like never before and the 2024 America’s Cup would be utterly spectacular. It’s all there. Hope, faith and trust would be restored and massive momentum would be injected into the sporting contest – and let’s not forget, that’s what it’s really all about. Let’s go racing.
Just do it.