Could the AC40 programme eclipse the main event? That’s the intangible question that’s at the back of everyone’s mind in AC37. Let’s look at it on face value. First up you’ve got Youth Teams and Women’s Teams from all the confirmed syndicates who will drive more eyeballs of the generation that actually matter, with far more relevant back-stories, and will be sailing these boats like they stole them. We’ll have more crashes, capsizes and dinks than you’ll ever see in the mother ships and the leagues that will emerge will be stuffed with bright, young, achingly cool, good-looking talent that will be fully social media ready and thrust into the spotlight. It’s going to be brilliant.
Throw in the branding of people like Prada, Red Bull, Ineos even and goodness me, even the partially sighted can see that this one is going to take off like a rocket. What’s not to love – and I mean absolutely love?
The athletes will be fitter, faster, wide-eyed and shorn of the grizzled professional demeanour. They will be taking their enormous opportunity with both hands, learning on the job, and with no expectation of utter excellence. The Youth and Women’s America’s Cup will be the one to watch, more than at any other time, and we’ll see the future unfold before our eyes. With a global circuit planned and the boats ponied around like throw-away items, the America’s Cup 40 Series will be coming to the doorstep and selling the main product like never before.
Make no mistake, these things are absolute weapons. They are scary-fast on every point of sail and can you just imagine the match-racing skills that will be honed? We’re going to see the speed generation came through so fast that it will be breathtaking.
In Formula 1, you’re pretty much done by your early 30’s and replaced by the next teenage sensation simply down to the fact that your reaction skills wane along with your desire. It’s a natural evolution that’s vital for sport. Yes the old stagers, the Lewis Hamilton’s and Fernando Alonso’s, hold on for the pay-cheque with experience to bear but they’re old hat in the global sense and profile of the sport. Mark my words this will happen in America’s Cup yachting. Within one cycle, AC37, the current stars will have youthful brilliance breathing heavily down their necks and that’s vital for the future.
As I say, it’s brilliant, and I’m delighted to see the media announcement from the Cup organisers today that the AC40’s are coming along at pace despite the holiday season down in the land of the long white cloud. Such has been the radio silence down under, we were starting to worry. The latest move by Jacinda Ardern in reverting to type and over-reacting on the global pandemic is more than a worry to the venue announcement and newsflow around AC37 but the fact that McConaghy Boats is at full tilt building eight of these weapons is good news indeed.
Dan Bernasconi and Richard Meacham from Team New Zealand are delivering a step-change in design from the Te Rehutai blueprint and that’s exciting. Southern Spars are doing the rig and North’s are applying their genius up aloft. Delivery of the first boat to the Kiwis is scheduled for August with boats tripping off the production line ever five weeks afterwards so by the beginning of 2023 we should have the first flickers of a fleet and a racing schedule penned in to die for. Exciting times and all credit to those involved for thundering forward with this. It’s happening and it’s going to be spectacular.
But I come back to the sailors and the excitement that will be generated by the coming generation of female and youth athletes. This is undoubtedly the stepping-stone to seeing female athletes onboard the AC70’s, bridging the experience gap that was identified as the organisers toyed with mandates in the new Protocol. It’s probably wise and I certainly know of some outstanding female foiling talent that is eyeing the AC40 circuit with huge interest. And with the Youth America’s Cup, we’ll see male athletes hopefully combining with their female compatriots onboard and taking the whole apex of the sport to the next level in the same vein as SailGP. All round it’s a positive.
The works teams of Alinghi, Ineos, Magic, TNZ and Prada will have expanded programmes to knowledge-share and can you just imagine being a 20-something getting that level of training and input? Whoever gets on those teams will have resource like never before and the learning-curve will be about as steep as Mount Thor.
And what further excites me is that once a plateau of experience is established, we will then see raw talent emerging with the youngsters doing things just ever so slightly different, ever so slightly better, ever so slightly faster and that’s where the Cup evolves. Real skill will be honed and the next superstars of our sport will be found in a blaze of social media fury and razzmatazz.
The AC40 circuit will be far more than just the trainer boat and a necessary headache for the main teams. It has the potential to be THE stand-out of not just this cycle but every single one going forward. The visionaries, the Ratcliffe’s and the Dalton’s, are in full flow on this and it’s remarkable what’s being built in plain sight. Fabulous to see, exciting to project and absolutely vital to the future of the America’s Cup.
Now let’s get that venue done.