‘The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting’ is how Sun Zu the Chinese military strategist put it in his writings of the Art of War. He also stated that ‘all warfare is based on deception’ and after yesterday’s massive statement of intent from Ineos Britannia, battle-lines have firmly been drawn.

There was no deception on display – it was a mighty statement of intent that Sun Zu would have been proud of. If subduing was the aim, it succeeded. But with Alinghi potentially partnering with Red Bull whilst scooping up sailing and design talent at a canter, this is starting to have all the hallmarks of an out and out arms race for the 37th America’s Cup.

©COR36 / Studio Borlenghi

Whether it’s all a good thing is debatable and you can argue it either way. I tend towards the positive as more money at the very apex of the sport tends to trickle down and I’m enthused by the AC40 programmes that will create pathways and a future not just for the big-name pilots and crew that will be on the boats but for the shoreside support who will be able to make their name in the lower league before progressing upwards to the works team. But already there is skepticism abounding – oh it’s the salary cap in F1 that’s driving this etc etc…well yes that may well be a factor but sailing as a niche sport is, and should be, a grateful beneficiary. Let’s go with it in the spirit of positivity.

The Alinghi rumour is gathering renewed momentum and that’s a good thing. I’ve long felt that the easiest way in for Ernesto is to just buy the Luna Rossa outfit or at least buy into it and start from there. If, and it’s a big ‘if’, Jimmy Spithill is still on the books then Ernesto gets a Red Bull athlete into the bargain and the Austrian drinks outfit can re-position some F1 resource whilst getting some great branding opportunities alongside the established Alinghi sporting franchise.

I believe that it’s far harder yards for Bertarelli to start anew but would he be afforded ’emerging nation’ status if he did? I’ll bet a few would splutter into their brandies at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron at that one but it could be a wording loophole that opens the door for Alinghi.

©COR36 / Studio Borlenghi

And what of Team New Zealand? They’ve been awfully quiet of late but Grant Dalton is in the Kiwi media doubling down on his insistence that the money can’t be raised onshore, telling the peerless Duncan Johnstone, Sports Editor at Stuff website:

“Congratulations to Britannia and their relationship with Mercedes, it’s impressive. To me, it just gives context as to why we can’t contemplate an under-funded campaign. That’s because this (British) team are not only fully weaponised now as they move forward with their design process, they also have as much money as they need. The challengers know that to beat us they have to do it differently, something that we have always done. Now, it seems we are being hung by our own success.”

Ouch. I have an awful lot of sympathy for where Grant is at right now and the scale of the task ahead of him. It’s quite demotivating to see ‘fully weaponised’ teams before them as they fight for funding whilst dealing with politics, geo-politics too, at every corner.

It seems almost counter-intuitive that the greatest winning team on the Cup landscape is in such a parlous funding state and with more problems than the United Nations. Quite how the Harry Houdini of the Cup will pull this one together and come out of the chains whilst extracting himself from financial suffocation is anyone’s guess but the Middle East is looking more attractive by the minute.

©ACE / Studio Borlenghi

A safe assumption to make is that Ineos, at full tilt for the last six months or so, is rapidly closing the design gap and the longer that Team New Zealand stay in limbo, the worse it will get.

If Alinghi go either way – Luna Rossa or anew – they will traverse upwards on the design curve at pace. The American teams are looking flat-footed but have a habit of late dashes at the top table so can’t be completely discounted but as it stands today it’s looking like the Ineos Cup or the Grenadier Cup, whatever the Challenger selector series will be called, is going to be a white hot shoot-out to decide who will face Team New Zealand. And then all bets are off.

The Great Game is boiling nicely on the stove. The bubbles are starting to form as the temperature rises. The ingredients are being added for a beautiful meal but the big question is just who’s going to start throwing the spice in? It’s coming…that much we know for sure. It’s the America’s Cup banquet and food has a habit of being thrown by the kids around the table. Watch this space.


8 thoughts on “Weaponised

  1. Hi Magnus,

    >> this is starting to have all the hallmarks of an out and out arms race for the 37th America’s Cup.<<

    Has it not always been like this? Now with the inflation and all this money available it is still a bit unethical to outspend the competition. But it had been done since I am following the cup. (1983) There are many examples and the spending of monies just matched the availability and possibilities of the uberriches in the past, or them being outspend, not by money but by clever thinking. Innovative ideas which often you cannot buy.

    I am still a fanboy of the ETNZ-team and do hope that they already have something in the pipeline to surprise us all. If it will be in Auckland, I ´ll be there!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have to say, I’m curious about the Alinghi rumors, this is the first I’d really heard anything since the Cup itself and the usual “Do you like watching it, Ernesto?” “Yes.” “Will you come back?” “Maybe” news pieces that were no different from those run in 2013 or 2017.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes at the moment…Sail-World went with the Red Bull/Alinghi story yesterday and Richard Gladwell is the best AC journalist out there so he must be hearing fact to publish.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Magnus,
    I think the ‘Odds-On Favourite” to win the AC37 Hosting Rights is still Cork in Ireland I think. If you follow Richard Gladwells Articles closely he pointed out in one article a few weeks ago that ETNZ told Cork that they had won the Hosting Rights before the Irish Government put in a temporary stop asking for more time.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. “It’s the America’s Cup banquet and food has a habit of being thrown by the kids around the table”, 60 years ago, and the memory is still fresh in my mind today, the extended family was having a private dinner at my uncle’s very posh restaurant. My brother Dave was sitting a little bit on his own and my uncle Colin, threw a peas at him, my borthere threw one back and within the blink of an eye it was all on, just like in the movies, adults returning to their “inner kids”! Outrageous stuff.

    Which brings me to the point I wish to make, I see nothing “outrageous” nor any indication where this might come from in the Ineos effort. It was, for me, very much “old boys club” and rather boring. A token woman in a spectacular dress putting some sharp questions was the best they could offer for gender equality. Why on earth is Shirley Robertson not a member of the core team? She has demonstrated time and again an ability to innovate and develop as a sharp sailing mind over the years. Not convinced that the ability to pull the most out of an old and heavy, one design dinghy is what is needed here. Glen Ashby is the TNZ key man for me (listen to Shirley Robertson’s excellent podcast at https://shirleyrobertson.com/podcast/) and Nathan Outteridge is the other free agent who I think Ernesto Berterelli should be gunning for. Ineos nearly completely missed (apart from a throw away question right at the end) the ground swell change coming; “Girls not Grinders”. The move to electronics from muscle, which is what makes the future so exciting with sailing skills not grunt power the priority. This is why F1 is so interested, as they move into a future of e-cars. Non of the drivers are muscle-bound heavies, and there is no reason women drivers won’t be mixing it in with the Hamiltons in the future. Means in terms of TNZ, they are an attractive proposition for the innovative e-car industry (Toyota, Hyundai..) and you won’t need a F1 department to mix in, just be able to offer innovative e-technology and cash, the sailing innovation is a given. And the PR will be second to none.

    TNZ has made a habit of “outrageous”, over the past 25 years, and you can bet that they will surprise us again. The others are all in “catch-up” mode, which teams all geared onto pouncing on ideas arising. The espionage teams for sure already assembled. Perhaps, Magnus, you (along with Duncan Johnstone, Richard Gladwell) could run a “spot the spy” competition amongst your readerships over the AC buildup?

    “Weaponised”, yes I agree, but at the moment all I can hear are knives being sharpened..

    Love you blogs: in middle of my own personal health survival fight at the moment, your posts helping keeping me above water 🙂


    Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks guys. My dreams of a WASZP are foiling towards the horizon, almost out of sight but not out of mind. I should have added Magnus, I enjoy just as much the comments at the end of your blogs, and very much hope we can all meet up in person in ’24, wherever this will be.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Is this the end of sailing “teams” in the America’s cup and the start of single handed boats controlled by sophisticated electronics which is manipulated by a land based team. We could always have compulsory pit stops to change foils to make it more interesting??

    Liked by 1 person

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