Marioland

Accepted economic wisdom in Saudi Arabia suggests that the break even price of crude oil is $65.7 a barrel. At that print, the economy is balanced and ticking along just nicely. Froth above that level and government departments start to get excited, green lights are lit and grand visions for life beyond the oil economy are enacted. Do the maths yourself on 11 million barrels produced a day in Saudi Arabia and see the affect that a few dollars upwards have.


Salvator Mundi – Louvre Abu Dhabi

Artwork gets bought at auction. Football clubs get snapped up. Architects get hired for grand building plans and sporting events simply can’t resist the riches on offer. Right now West Texas Intermediate futures are trading at $81 a barrel and Vladamir Putin no less is saying that a return to $100 a barrel is “quite possible.” At that point, everything is on. The America’s Cup is chump change at any price.



And with the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix taking place in Jeddah at the beginning of December, the sporting eyes of the America’s Cup will be squarely on Formula 1 and their communications teams to see how they PR their way out of the various political, human rights and greenwashing issues. Sailing is a sensitive niche sport.

But succeed there and Jeddah comes back on the table for Team New Zealand in their global hunt for cash as economies around the world stagflate – that horrible scenario of rising relative unemployment and inflation combined with a growth slowdown. Not an ideal backdrop to have the begging bowl out. Billionaires aren’t and won’t be queuing around the block at the Viaduct Events Centre home of Team New Zealand, sadly.



I’ve long been a solitary voice on the Cup in the Middle East. Yes, Spain would be great on last weekend’s evidence with SailGP. Cork would be a political football and cold. The Middle East would be something very different and the boats would be works of art to rival the Salvator Mundi sitting in pole position in the Louvre Gallery in Abu Dhabi.

In a sporting sense, a regatta off the Corniche in Jeddah at one of the various harbours that the F1 track runs alongside would be something else. It would most likely have to be evening racing – there could well be lights on the boats – as they make the last of the afternoon breeze before nightfall but it would take the Cup into another dimension. In short, they could make it work. And it’s starting to look like the only viable option unless Spain really did get whooped up into a frenzy and get real on the money.


©Emirates Team New Zealand

‘Follow the money’ is the mantra in the America’s Cup and for Team New Zealand it’s a rare commodity at the moment. As the days tick away, it just gets harder and harder to see how they will square the circle without a blank cheque being written by someone – be that a Swiss billionaire with a drinks manufacturer in his back pocket or an arm of the Saudi state. One is more likely than the other.

And the news (that comes as no surprise to any reader here) that Pete Burling and Blair Tuke are yet to sign the standard contracts on offer with ETNZ is not so much a hammer blow as is being reported, but something that was well forecasted and planned for by Grant Dalton.

My sense is that we’re hearing a complete re-working of the truth by the sailors and a mere modicum of what’s really happening. I’d be surprised if there’s even a position available for either of the sailors in the Kiwi line up going into the next cycle as they land back in Auckland from the European season. It might be a bit of a shock to them. I wouldn’t bet against seeing a completely new afterguard in place with new generation sailors already signed and a certain rather good Cup winning Aussie calling the shots – again.


©Richard Hodder / Emirates Team New Zealand

My view is that Pete & Blair have made a catastrophic error of judgement and a public relations disaster awaits them. Like a game of SuperMario, they’re walking on the quicksands of the America’s Cup desert with trap doors of public opinion awaiting below. From absolute heroes to zeroes they could, just could, be about to throw a heap of goodwill under the bus. Sporting status be damned when the lure of the shekel proves too strong but it comes with consequences and their decisions, perhaps already made, are life-changing in more than one sense. The Kiwi public won’t thank them. Their bank manager will. It’s the wrong time to be making moves like this.

Time ticks on however to the Protocol and the expected venue announcement in mid-November and there are plenty now saying that 2024 is a no-no. The delays all round, not least in funding arrangements, are meaning that 2025 is being mooted as more accommodating as it’s looking increasingly hard amidst a crowded sporting calendar to shoehorn the America’s Cup in and get any kind of commercial return from sponsors or networks.

What a shame – but ‘Cowes 2029’ has a certain ring to it…you heard that here first.


6 thoughts on “Marioland

  1. So the implied threat is that they’ll quit if the defense isn’t at home? That’s quite the power move. It’s sad it might come to that, but it might be the best way they have left to express their opinion if their boss won’t listen.

    The truly condemning action, I think, would not be to sign elsewhere but just to sit it out— “Whelp, already won twice, don’t want to go through that mess again, we’re just going to focus on our other campaigns.”

    Can I begrudge them? Not really, I’m getting sick of this whole mess, too. If I had a bargaining chip that I thought might get Dalton to stop screwing around and commit, I’d use it, too.

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  2. Since AC36 you’ve extolled the virtues of a 1on 1 with team ratty, a Cup on the Solent, Cork, the ME, Valencia, the Med and of course your fall back position of Auckland, switching opinions seemingly by the day.

    You now seem to be a firm advocate for Saudi Arabia, from where most of the Twin Tower terrorists came from, the home of Bin laden, the brutal killers of Koshoggi came right out of MSB’s palace, abysmal human and female rights policies. Not to mention bullying their neighbors with their massive military superiority.
    You seem to be able to overlook all of this because of the massive amounts of money which will be lavished on the AC, which I assume you hope some of this largesse will be coming your way.
    Ironic that when all these $M’s of dollars are being grifted by the wealthy, some poor wretch is having his hand chopped off for stealing an orange…maybe you’ll get to see it when you are there, swanning on the Corniche waiting for the 6 knt night races.

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    1. Just to be absolutely clear – this is a non commercial website and I have no ambition to receive any ‘largesse’ from anyone. All of the adverts you see are displayed completely free of charge and I derive no income whatsoever from sailing, the sailing industry or my daily writing. Zero.

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    2. And furthermore, I am not an advocate for anywhere. I would like to see the Cup in Auckland but I could see it working in the Middle East, Valencia, Cork and would love it to be in the Solent. All I am doing is setting out the scenarios and painting the pictures of what each might look like as they wax and wane in the decision process and comparing the AC to other sports that have exactly the same moral dilemma in accepting Saudi money – football, athletics, F1, horse racing, super bikes etc etc…

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    3. Yeah, this blog seems to change its “This is what they are absolutely going to do and it will be great, trust me!” stance from day to day. Methinks the crystal ball needs a good polish.

      I have to say, I don’t share Magnus’s enthusiasm for oil barons in the AC— be they British or Saudi.

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  3. Apologies for touching the ‘ filthy lucre nerve’
    As for not being an advocate for Saudi/ME you start one paragraph with ”I’ve long been a solitary voice on the Cup in the Middle East”…
    As for F1 in SA, both Hamilton and now Vettel have spoken about losing moral compass when dealing with MSB and his ilk..

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