A grey morning on a misty Lake Geneva did little to dampen what was a stunning presentation of the new Alinghi Red Bull Racing Team who brought the Cup alive ushering in a whole new generation whilst keeping a strong link to an astronomically successful past. Make no mistake, having Ernesto Bertarelli back in the America’s Cup, with mega F1 backing by the newly crowned World Champions, is the best news of 2021 and sets a course for AC37 that makes it unmissable, tantalising, exciting and full of intrigue.
Ernesto looked his usual youthful cool as he ushered in the new partnership with Red Bull, no surprise to any readers of this blog, but more importantly, the new generation of Swiss sailors, the flying generation, that have been quietly plying their trade on the European lakes coming through the foiling ranks. Ernesto is in no doubt that they are ready – time will tell on that front.
Christian Horner, the five time winning boss of the Red Bull Formula 1 team was beamed in from Milton Keynes with a croaky voice from last weekend’s celebrations but a clear message that the on-track rivalry with Mercedes and Ferrari will continue on the water. (Did he say Ferrari – I think I heard that.)
Red Bull are very much up for the fight with a budget cap to avoid, a Chief Designer and keen sailor who’s been itching to do a Cup for aeons in Adrian Newey having input and crucially, the huge support of Dietrich Mateschitz, the Austrian billionaire and 49% owner of the ubiquitous drinks brand. Mateschitz and Bertarelli met and very quickly penned a deal such was the Red Bull boss’s enthusiasm and you have to suspect that the lure of the Youth and Women’s America’s Cup were the trigger alongside the determination of Bertarelli.
Red Bull is all about youthful engagement and their sponsorship of extreme sports celebrates this year after year. Their marketing strategy is incredible – no other brand in the world comes close and their entry into a full-blown Cup campaign is significant. The marketing teams at the other syndicates may well as pack up and consign themselves to continuing just doing social media posts. Alinghi and Red Bull will dominate AC37 – no-one else will come close in terms of engagement, branding and positivity. Mark my words.
And the team being assembled is mighty. Based out of Ecublens, home of the Decision Yard where SUI-100 for the 2007 Cup was built, Alinghi is full-steam ahead and as Bertarelli said: ‘we’re already installed and ready to go.’ Plus they’ve been working full tilt with Red Bull for a while who will bring the mechatronics, the F1 process, the aero modelling and the carbon build-set and engineering into play to build the next generation of AC75’s that will be stunning in their detail and attention to aero.
Who makes up the full-team was a question cleverly deflected and kicked down the road. And so it should be. There’s plenty of time for Alinghi now to scoop up additional talent and you have to think that this next Cup, rather like the last, will be heavily played out on the simulators and that’s where the current big name talent may well be hired into doing – sad as that may seem. But if you’re a pro-sailor, competing on the circuit and Ernesto and Brad come along with a big enough pay cheque to play computer games for a few months, you’d be daft not to take it right? Expect some big names joining in that department.
And will Arnaud Psarofaghis be on the SailGP circuit? This is the question I posed at the press conference and was very kindly asked by the Communications Head. The answer was that Arnaud and the team would be looking at every aspect of the programme to close the gap and you’ve got to think that SailGP is the natural place for an Alinghi Red Bull Racing presence – perhaps a take-over of the new Swiss team on the circuit or will Ernesto and Mateschitz just buy a franchise? Has to be worth it.
But the thing that really caught my eye was the tone of Ernesto around whether he would be sailing on the boats. Unequivocally, the answer was ‘no’ – he’s a huge supporter of youth development in Switzerland and recognises that his time at the apex has passed. He’ll stick to racing, competing and winning on the lake. This is a young man’s game now and he’s full-square behind the next generation. Others on the podium, Butterworth, Silvio Arrivabene and Pierre Yves Jorand said the same – it’s all about youth and this is a youthful Swiss team being given the most incredible opportunity. Alinghi Red Bull Racing is the one to watch – it will be fascinating to see how things develop.
And in Brad Butterworth you can feel the old school charm and machiavellian politics already creeping in – it’s great having him back. The inter-play between him and Ernesto was like two old mates in on the joke. Throw in the likes of Dalton, Ratcliffe, Patrizio Bertelli and Terry Hutchinson and it’s going to be so much fun to watch the ultimate wind-up merchant on full transmit with the boss’s backing. Welcome again Brad Butterworth to the big time. The Cup is so much more fun with you.
So the Alinghi Red Bull Team is up and running. It’s the team everyone wants to be a part of. It’s the team everyone is watching. It’s the team of the Cup, the story of the Cup. It’s everything and they just put the world on notice that they’re gunning for AC37 with a firepower that you just can’t and won’t be able to ignore.
The Alinghi Bull will be a heck of a prospect. The Cup just got interesting.