Long Haul

The confirmation that the New York Yacht Club’s challenge for AC37 has been accepted filtered through the airwaves yesterday ending the speculation around the wording of ‘intention to challenge’ with a sub-text that re-assurances around the venue have been made. Those pesky, boringly complicated hosting arrangement contracts that have been swinging in a cacophony of pandemic induced confusion, delay and mis-information are now close to the announcement stage and we can expect a truly global AC World Series anchored to a European Cup venue to be unveiled in short order. And then the real fireworks begin.

©COR36 / Studio Borlenghi

It’s an unenviable position that the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron finds itself in, knowing that whatever they decide, wherever they send the Cup under the guidance of their sporting team, will be controversial.

The home supporters will be miffed if it’s overseas and there could well be interjection by m’learned friends in New Zealand, commentators will find fault with European venues and the politics of hosting fees will thunder into view. It’s all a hill of beans. All the club can really do is distance its membership, officers included, from the decision and sail on regardless. Trust in the visionaries.

©COR36 / Studio Borlenghi

Whichever way the cookie crumbles, AC37 is a nailed-on success, amplified by the involvement of the New York Yacht Club. To think that they could have been sitting on the sidelines whilst a Youth and Women’s AC series unfolds would be almost unconstitutional. It would be like Ferrari sitting out of four years in Formula 1 or the New York Giants deciding that the NFL wasn’t for them anymore. Unthinkable when you think about it.

The America’s Cup is the New York Yacht Club and one day, the Auld Mug in all its glory will return to the clubhouse. Fifth Avenue will have a ticker-tape parade again. What a day that will be. And with American Magic they’ve got the kernel of a winning outfit, a long haul programme focussed on the prize, and a nucleus that is highly investable by America’s largest corporations and swashbuckling elite.

The rumour of a mega-money Microsoft deal hung in the air under the previous committee all summer as they danced around participation and to my eyes that makes a whole lot of sense. The Cup is such a data rich game these days that it’s deeply attractive to the hugely bright minds of the software world who have a cloud-based AI computing product to promote like Microsoft Azure.

Throwing the computational and analysis resources alongside what is a chicken-feed cheque in terms of building a carbon shell and doing some CAD designs, is a logical move for Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, who one would expect could be drawn into the complexity and intellectual challenge of the Cup with relative ease.

Combining Microsoft’s talents with Airbus in the America’s Cup, and let’s not forget they signed a big deal in December 2021 to marry the Airbus satellite technology with Azure Orbital for Microsoft’s Azure Maps offering, is a dream partnership. Getting that over the line is key to American Magic’s outcome in AC37.

©COR36 / Studio Borlenghi

And if it is to be a Microsoft/Airbus approach, that’s very different to how Ineos, Alinghi and perhaps Prada are going to be approaching the design and aero challenge of this Cup with the involvement of Formula 1 teams all ducking the budget cap and directing resources to sailing. Tantalising and glamorous as that sounds, I rather suspect reality, practical reality, is very different to what we assume.

If Magic is looking at this from a data POV then they could be ahead of the game with the might of Microsoft behind them and let’s be honest, who would be better at nailing the aero game than Airbus who were doing aero long before Formula 1 was even dreamt up and has systems to die for? If you look at this through a lens of pure science, American Magic potentially holds a lot of aces.

Plus there’s the Tom Slingsby rumour that simply won’t die. My advice, for what little it’s worth, is to pay up for Slingers, give him whatever he wants, get his signature and get him on the boat with Paul Goodison. What Slingers will do is not only drive like a demon but crucially, alongside Goody who is dynamite and at his peak, it will give the team the fear factor alongside being a huge mental fillip for everyone in the syndicate.

Knowing that you’ve got the absolute best steering is one heck of a psychological boost and with the teams so small onboard now, every crew-member needs to be and feel top drawer. American Magic could be on the cusp of something very special in this cycle.

©Brett Costello for SailGP

Now, I’ll be honest, I don’t have them as favourites at this stage. I personally think Team New Zealand are still up on the design game having not stopped since the end of the last Cup, with Ineos closing the gap rapidly but I can’t take my eyes off Magic. They’ve got something of the romance about them. The store of goodwill is enormous – it’s a well, it’s the Hoover Dam, and if they go about this Cup in the way that I expect and dive down the big computing route then they are the ones to watch.

Plus there’s the ‘T Hutch Factor’ and it was nice to see that he’s confirmed in the lofty role of ‘President of Sailing Operations’ – I love the American-ism of that title. In Terry they have a top flight operator who will guide and cajole with a casual ease, navigating this team through the off-the-water politics and into the heat of competition with the consummate brilliance of a model CEO. What Terry gives is far more than he takes and he’s a huge plus for the American challenge. Great to see. A logical appointment.

©COR36 / Studio Borlenghi

The stars are aligning for American Magic and it’s the team to watch. One thing I am certain of is that the New York Yacht Club will field brilliant Youth and Women’s Teams as American sailing is far healthier at this level than many realise with some very bright talent coming forward and some excellent initiatives and drive coming from US Sailing. The club itself is par excellence at encouraging the next generation, it’s absolutely in their DNA and always has been, and I’m looking forward to seeing what plans they’ve got and what talent rises from within the Magic programme.

But the greatest thing is that the old boys supping the Brandy Alexander’s in the comfy green leather chairs at West 44th Street can rest assured that their club is back and squarely aligned with the future of not only the apex of our sport but sailing’s future. It’s exciting. It’s right. It’s everything to have the New York Yacht Club back in the Great Game.

Watch this space.

9 thoughts on “Long Haul

  1. I’m wondering if Gabe Newell is helping TNZ behind-the-scenes, would make a interesting counter to the Microsoft/Airbus deal 😉 (very speculative as I haven’t read anything for a year about Gabe and TNZ , but …..)


    1. Yes they are very quiet about Newell’s involvement. I certainly feel the pain on a monthly basis of contributing to his wealth via his gaming platform with my teenager…would be great to have him involved.


  2. Looking out yesterday evening on the relentless curtains of English Channel South Westerly rain drawing across our lounge windows, we decided to put another log on the wood fire and settle down to binge watching the entire AC36 Prada Round Robin Series between 14 January and 17 January 2021. We can thoroughly recommend it, if one has the time. Fast forwarding to all the actual races, including American Magic vs Luna Rossa and the interminable light airs displacement race (faster actually than the equivalent monohull displacement race would have been!) and even watching he the aborted “wind shift” race between Ineos and Luna Rossa on day 2. Taking out the excitement of the moments of competition of just over 1 year ago, and leaving behind the personal partisanship and gloating over LR which can skew ones impression of actual events, it was plain to us from what we saw, that Ineos as a boat was not the objectively faster boat out of the three Amigos, American Magic, Luna Rossa and “Rita”. The difference to us was the way in which the boats were sailed and who was sailing them. If for example, the personnel had also been changed between boats and then the races run again, as per a hypothetical total “Round Robin” of crews, as per Japan taking over the GB multihull that had chopped their nose off in the recent SailGP event, then I think Ineos (the boat) would not have won as many races as they did. Ineos made up for lack of boat ability by being the best at decision making over the water. Spithill excelled over Barker because of Jimmy’s experience in making vessels fly rather than “point” (although Ainslie/Scott made one the best decisions overall vs Luna Rossa which was to include rounding the mark in displacement mode at a key juncture, thus throwing all “principles of play” rulebooks mandating maximising fly time out of the window). I write Ainslie/Scott because listening keenly to the conversations and free flow of information between Giles and Ben in the Round Robin races, it was clear as a bell that Ben had the best information to work with on the day. It was as successful a partnership as one of those Rally Car driving ones such as Colin MacRae and Ian Grindrod or Ari Vatanen and David Richards. Of course young people might barely recall Vatanen or MacRae now let alone their co drivers which is a shame. To have some fun, watch the co drivers reaction to Vatanens driving in the Paris-Dakar race in the early 1980s. To see how important those partnerships are, just see how the results alter for the worse when a good partnership is broken. Which brings us to one of the key deciding factors in these new AC37 boats; it is so important who the decision makers are in flying these craft and that includes co drivers/flyers/tacticians. Slingsby in American Magic would be maximising the NYYC chances of success on current form of his role as a skipper. But what of his partners in his success in fast foiling multi crewed boats? We concluded it likely that Slingsby would want to bring some of his team with him from Australia if it were the case he was asked to join American Magic.


  3. Magnus! The NY Giants play (American) football, their league is the NFL, not the NBA.

    Randy Needham (Rando) From mobile 201-259-5831 replies to “Rando@Needhams.us”


    1. Funnily enough I published it and then thought: “that’s not right!” So unfortunately the email that is distributed picks up the first version but the web copy is right now! For heaven’s sake I was a Knicks and Giants fan when i lived in NY!!! Doh!!!


  4. Do you suppose this might be Rome Kirby’s time to shine? If they want to advertise a young American who’s already an AC veteran, has led a team, is intimately connected to Newport, etc.


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