Pole Position

If you’re a Spanish government official sitting in high office with a post-pandemic headache of stimulating economic activity whilst trying to get re-elected, surely you would look at last weekend’s SailGP regatta and be on the blower to Grant Dalton in an instant? Equally if you’re the head of sponsorship for Rolex, you’re on the phone to Russell going: “Can we pay a bit more and fully re-brand this the Rolex SailGP series from now on?”


©Felix Diemer for SailGP

It’s a no brainer. The easiest government decision ever and the easiest marketing decision in the history of marketing. So it’s no surprise to see today that Valencia is, if the Italian media are to be believed, thrusting forward to pole position in the AC bidding stakes. With infrastructure already in place, it’s becoming compelling although legacy headwinds of debt still to be repaid from the last Cup run in 2007 and the tricky problem of the Defender’s fee left to solve, it’s not a cakewalk to getting the nod from Dalton and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

But throw this up at government level and let’s say we’re talking a maximum of €150m all-in, then a giant fudge of inter-departmental accounting co-ordinated with a couple of handy impact reports from nefarious magic-circle accounting practices and the Spanish will be able to claim that the Cup is profitable. The Spanish government historically are very good at clever-accounting – this should be easy.


© Jon Buckle for SailGP

Whatever the machinations of the money, if Spain does succeed then on the water we can strap ourselves in for the ride of a lifetime with some absolutely stunning sailing. SailGP advanced the cause of the Spanish government bid by a mile and whilst hard-bitten commentators such as myself derided the initial bid (it was farcical tbh), there’s a nagging sense that this all-Spain approach might just be the one that succeeds.

And with the Alinghi/Red Bull announcement imminent this week according to sources, you would have to think that Ernesto Bertarelli would be in favour of returning to the scene of his greatest triumph and ultimate defeat.


©Thomas Lovelock for SailGP

A Cup in Europe makes absolute sense for Red Bull, as it does for Ineos and the improved market for Emirates Airlines would most likely have them activating the sponsorship button again for the Kiwis. And if the rumours of a mega deal with Microsoft are true, then the New York Yacht Club would find a far easier pathway to Spain than if Dalton gets seduced by the Arabian states. It’s all starting to make some kind of sense.

But to hell with the politics. Us spectators are in for a treat if a Spanish venue like Valencia (or how about Cadiz?), throws up those big conditions that we saw on Sunday. Sailing in 25 knots of breeze is perfect for the spectacle and we can guarantee the thrills and spills that we so crave to illuminate our sport at the apex.


©Felix Diemer for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

Whilst I would be in favour of a lower wind limit of 15 knots true, I guess that’s unlikely to be imposed but wouldn’t it be great to have a 15-30 knot band for those leviathans to operate within? It’s guaranteed carnage and a race of survival every single day. What’s not to love? The photos and moving images would be off the scale and as armchair Admirals, we would be enthralled at a whole new level of performance so much so that we would actually believe that we had the skill to do it ourselves. That’s top-level, made-for-television sport…and that’s what it’s all about these days.

But back to SailGP…it was refreshingly brilliant all round last weekend. I’m still stunned at what I saw and the enthusiasm from readers of this blog towards the series is infectious. It appeals to all demographics from the kids to the oldies, capturing and enrolling them in the carnival atmosphere.

As a showcase for our brightest talents in the sport and leading the way technically, it is absolutely acing it at every turn. And the female athlete mandate was a masterstroke showing every single naysayer that it can be done. To be honest, the girls were the stand out stars from the show and the inter-play with the grizzled crews, that are looking more and more like muscle-Marys on steroids, was electric.


Nina Curtis – Aussie SailGP ©Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I thoroughly disagree with anyone who sees female athletes on the boats in the America’s Cup as tokenism. SailGP just proved it beyond any shadow of doubt or any reasoned argument. I can’t say how willing I am to die on this hill.

Pretending that all is fine by giving our finest female athletes an AC40 to play with is a giant step forward but it’s a cop out. Quite simply, having a Nina Curtis, Hannah Mills, CJ Perez or Erica Dawson involved in the Cup on the AC75’s would be the giant leap that our sport is crying out for.


©Bob Martin for SailGP. Handout image supplied by SailGP

Their addition would propel the America’s Cup forward commercially and in the public appreciation. If I were signing the cheques, I’d insist on it regardless of what the daft Protocol mandates. Think how well Hannah Mills communicated both on and off the water in Cadiz and trans-play that to the Cup. It’s a whole new world and it would be brilliant. If I were Ineos Britannia, I’d have her at the press conferences facing the media as the public face of the team – what an awesome signal that would be.

With the current dinosaurs in the involved AC clubs and teams in charge, the female athlete mandate is highly unlikely to happen though.

Shame on them if it doesn’t. Missed opportunity.


17 thoughts on “Pole Position

  1. It was exciting on Sunday but outside the spectators on shore it appears very few fans (. Sailors) are actually watching on the live feeds. Am I wrong? I’m not sure Sail GP is commercially as viable as you portray.

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      1. You know, speaking of franchises, it occurred to me that SailGP is only three years old and has already been in a blockbuster movie, there is a Vendée Globe movie and two comic books (all in French), there were two AC movies and several novels, but I can’t think of a notable appearance of the Ocean Race in fiction. Were there any Whitbread novels back in the day that I’m just missing?

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  2. Bill,
    Just to debunk you a little bit regarding the Fans of SailGP not watching the Live Feed:
    Day 1 in Cadiz has 208,000 Views
    Day 2 in Cadiz has 143,000 Views

    That’s surely going to rise!

    The Level of sailing this weekend in Cadiz with the Women onboard definitly did go up a notch. Particularly Nina Curtis on the Aussie Team & Hannah Mills on the British acting as real Tacticians, spotting the Wind, making some good calls, had clear communication.

    Regarding Nina Curtis she is someone who instantly makes the Team go better. I remember her stepping onboard Team Brunel in the last Volvo Ocean Race at the Auckland Stopover for the rest of the Race when Bouwe Bekkings Team where in a world of hurt, unable to get good Results and perform and by the end of the Race they were in contention to win it all. Nina & Wing Trimmer Kyle Langford have known each other since they were kiddos.

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      1. If there was one downside in Cadiz Magnus I think the 24M Wings were the wrong call for Sunday. The Boats looked a little bit twitchy, out of kilter, overpowered at times.

        I think the SailGP Guys who are responsible for what Wing Size to use did not expect that it would be blowing this hard in during Race Time with a 1M Seastate. I have no doubt they will learn from that. The 18M Baby Wings would have been the right call methinks.

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  3. Regarding Alinghi/Red Bull Collaboration: I think you are wrong that something will be announced this Week. More likely is that Ernesto is going to wait until the AC37 Protocol is published in 5 Weeks Time.

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    1. Forgive us if we’re skeptical, it’s just that in the international (post-1983) era there isn’t really a comparable example of a past team being absent for a decade and then returning. A country, yes, a club, yes, but not the same syndicate.

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  4. Agree with every word Magnus, AC37 needs to go at least one better, minimum of two women per team, with the 40’s as a no-excuse developmental class, with gender neutrality already dialed in for AC38!

    One weak point, for my ears, was the commentary team, this for me needs to move up a notch. How about a dream team of Ken Read, Shirley Robertson, Glen Ashby AND YOU Magnus? Ever had the urge to get behind a microphone rather than key-bound to your laptop?

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  5. I don’t know if I really would want a title sponsor for SailGP, there’s a nice simplicity to it just being… “SailGP”.

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