‘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.
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.
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.
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.