New Sensations

Tough weekend for British sport. Hard to watch at times. In the Ryder Cup, the European team wasn’t so much beaten as steam-rollered by youthful brilliance and technical mastery from an American side with talent to burn. Several of the team from these parts looked like they were forcing the issue, playing one more Ryder Cup than they should have reasonably been allowed. Youthful talent matters. Batons were being passed.



And then came the utter schooling of Britain’s poster-boy boxer, Anthony Joshua, who met a hard-as-nails, fired up Ukrainian who had locked himself away in training camp since February in order to produce a boxing display from the Gods.

Aleksander Usyk came out smoking and never tired. As a boxing fan, it was well worth the fee to the satellite channel to witness 12 rounds of pure brilliance, tinged with feint hope that a Joshua haymaker would upset the apple-cart in the dying rounds. It wasn’t to be.



Even the Formula 1 was bitter-sweet. Sir Lewis master-classed it once again but what has really upset the betting odds is that his young Dutch rival in the Red Bull, Max Verstappen, started last on the grid but clawed up to second place. Despite taking the overall championship lead, Hamilton is still second-favourite to lift the title with fast tracks like Jeddah and Mexico being eyed as banana-skins.

So what does all this have to do with a yachting blog and specifically the America’s Cup? Well the talent-game is all on at the moment. SailGP is proving to be the shop window for the Cup but this pesky nationality rule is becoming almost a restriction of trade clause for some big names who would be snapped up in an instant in an open market. Think how you’re feeling if you’re Tom Slingsby or Nathan Outeridge, even Billy Besson. You are firmly on the outside. It’s a rule proposal that has to be amended – and I’m saying this as a British fan where we are holding a lot of aces.

This is what was decreed: “A new crew nationality rule will require 100% of the race crew for each competitor to either be a passport holder of the country the team’s yacht club as at 19 March 2021 or to have been physically present in that country (or, acting on behalf of such yacht club in Auckland, the venue of the AC36 Events) for two of the previous three years prior to 18 March 2021. As an exception to this requirement, there will be a discretionary provision allowing a quota of non-nationals on the race crew for competitors from emerging nations.”



So your choice, if you’re an outsider, is to either spend the next three years in a simulator playing computer games against Ben or Jimmy or head out to China and try to convince a friendly billionaire to put a challenge together. Forgive me for thinking that some will prefer to actually sail and will double-down on their Moth campaign, stick to the Laser for a tilt at Paris 2024 or take the money and the razzmatazz at SailGP. The America’s Cup is poorer for it. Almost destitute.

I can understand why the clause has been mooted but the thing is, the pro sailors won’t challenge it, fearful of being cast as ‘difficult to work with’ if they do. Professional sailing is a precarious profession at best and engenders a breed of characters that daren’t rock the boat. Not one single sailor has come out publicly and said this is a ridiculous situation and that Team New Zealand and the Challenger of Record has got it wrong. Why? Because these teams are powerful and can kick you to the roadside faster than a Mike Tyson in-his-prime left lead. Your card will be marked forevermore and your chances of even getting on a SailGP boat will be dashed. A career in accountancy beckons.


©SailGP

These kinds of ridiculous clauses get passed in a wave of announcements and sit there unquestioned by all like decrees sent down in tablets from on high. It’s like a World Sailing decision – whatever you do don’t criticise it or you won’t get Olympic accreditation. Journalists are the worst at this and most sailing journalists should be shot for their supine attitude to the decision-makers. It’s no good carping after the event.

In the Cup however, there’s no union to appeal to (apart from the powerful Grinder’s Union that seems to have won out again) and really good sailors, at the peak of their powers are restricted from challenging and pushing those lucky enough to have the correct passport or ancient history with yesterday’s teams. It’s bizarre in the extreme and now that it has been stated, is incredibly difficult to row back from.

I don’t really care for the argument that Team New Zealand will present on this. It’s all plain wrong and wouldn’t happen in any other major global sport – especially one that is trying desperately to grow its appeal. What would be sensible, but almost 100% will not happen, is an amendment to this at the 11th hour in the spirit of inclusivity. But the problem is that with all that has gone on in the last fortnight, and the rumours of the Swiss potentially buying their way into the Cup late in the day, is that this is one rule that will most likely be cast in stone. It’s an anti-Ernesto clause. What a great pity.

The 37th America’s Cup needs several elements to be successful. First, it needs teams and it really doesn’t matter where they come from but they have to have entries. Second, it needs to be in Auckland for the Match – that’s a no-brainer and anything else is a sham cop-out. Third, it needs the best sailors vying for the title – not a cliquey elite – it must have the very best in every department. Fourth, it needs racing relentlessly for months on end. Not the stop-start nonsense we had in Auckland with three week delays between rounds. Thrash those donkeys. And finally it needs dynamite comms across all formats married with fabulous photography and live broadcast free-to-air globally – and to hell with what the American networks say.


©ACE / Studio Borlenghi

Get it right and the Cup goes stratospheric. Get it wrong and watch SailGP sail off into the distance – can you imagine what that event would look like if they threw out the foiling cats and went foiling monohull? They would kill the Cup stone-dead. And with Larry’s foresight and Russell’s brilliance who’s to say they’re not planning that already…

Drop the nationality clause or amend it significantly. What we don’t want to watch is aged rock-stars there by dint of birthright and luck. We don’t want to see sailors akin to the European Ryder Cup debacle just passed. We don’t want to see tired boxers who were good years ago. We don’t want to see youth suppressed.

Give us the brightest, fastest, most dynamic sailors on the planet supported by the world’s best in every position both on the boat and shoreside or face the consequences.


13 thoughts on “New Sensations

  1. I was just thinking yesterday afternoon that there are a lot of talented people who suffer under a nationality clause if their country doesn’t have a team— even in SailGP, there wasn’t anywhere for Horace, Wolf, and Black to go without a Team China. I know I saw interviews back in July where Arnaud Psarofaghis said he wanted to be in the AC someday, but if there’s never another Swiss team, what if he never gets the chance?

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      1. I agree with you, but you’d better grab your crash helmet, there are a lot of fanboys (especially here in the US) who love to go on and on about how 100% nationality rules are the one magic bullet that will save the AC and miraculously make it as popular in the US as it was in Dennis Conner’s day. (Never mind that much of the media attention in the 80s and 90s was because Australia II’s victory was a never-before-seen event and much of what followed after was also new and shocking— those were unique historical circumstances that would be hard to repeat.)

        If they want the AC on ESPN again, their problem is with ESPN, so they should complain to them, instead of complaining that Dean and Jimmy spell “color” with a “u”.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Think you got this one wrong. AC has to build viewers as does Sail GP. The names you mention even Russel are unknown to new viewers. They route for the country not for the sailors

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    1. Interesting read on this one Bill. I am very much the other way around – sailors first and I couldn’t really about whether it’s Japan or the Netherlands…very interesting.

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    2. Single-L “Russel” is of course Coutts’ imperfect clone who was created as part of the Valencia Experiments of 2009 and is kept frozen in a lab next to “Ben Ainsley”, “Dean Baker”, “Jimmy Spitall”, “Blaire Tuke”, “Helen MacArthur”, and various other failed clones of famous sailors.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if new fans don’t know about the clones, the project was generally considered a failure.

      /s

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      1. I have a non sailing friend who referred to Ellen Macarthur as “that Stella McCartney woman who sailed around the world.” – still makes me laugh today…

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      2. I think the most hilariously wrong name mistake I’ve seen is “I think he was called Oliver Cromwell?” for “Donald Crowhurst”.

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  3. Magnus i thoroughly enjoy your blog and thoughts, and i understand exactly what you have said re the nationality rule per the swiss, and the available sailors. My thoughts differ however in the pride that is emanated by the winning country and their athletes, imagine the British people getting excited about an event where the British team is made up of French men or women or for that matter any any citizens other than British, and yes the french are magnificent sailors but they are not British. i use as example the early American team with Conner, or the Australian team the NZ team. No country is going to get hyped up about a country team that is made up of members from another country, these teams when they won had the whole country cheering for their citizens children and in Australia and NZ when they won the first time the whole country shut down and watched, PM Hawke’s famous statement in Australia when they won in 83 was any body that was working and didn’t stop and watch was a Bum.The Am’s Cup is between Nations as per deed of gift and total pride can never be achieved when the country boat is crewed by other nations citizens. In my opinion anyway.

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    1. That’s a fair point David. However…with Britain’s poor run now lasting rather a long time, I wouldn’t have any problem if a Kiwi steered a British boat and won!!!

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    2. Maybe *you* wouldn’t be proud of anyone who wasn’t British, but you can’t speak for everyone. If people take a team to heart, if they really care for the sailors, then they’ll be proud of them no matter where they’re from.

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