Le Corbusier, the genius Swiss-French architect, told a truth when he said: “Allow me to state here how much I love Barcelona, an admirable city, a city full of life, intense, a port open to the past and the future.” And so it is, a mighty glimpse of the future with the Catalonian capital getting the golden nod from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron to host AC37 in September and October 2024. This has taken some guts and tenacity to get over the line but it’s the absolute right choice. It’s the classy choice. And it opens up the America’s Cup to a world of opportunity to grow its allure, build for the future and unite the sailing world like never before.
Congratulations to Grant Dalton who hung tough amidst a hellish backdrop, skirting with the fall from saint to sinner and supposed pariah status back home. Personally, I think that’s way overdone, but for every winner in this race, there are abundant losers. For the likes of Cork, Malaga and Jeddah that tried but came up short, it’s no harm done but for New Zealand I have nothing but sympathy.
I acutely, wholeheartedly understand the disappointment and the hurt that the home supporters must be feeling and no fancy, clever words from me of brighter futures will change that. It’s a kick in the guts for sure and this wound will take time to heal. The only positive I can find is that your blooming team is the biggest roadblock to anyone getting their hands on the Auld Mug and on paper, on form, you’re nailed on to defend. If you do, I sincerely hope it comes back to Auckland in 2028. It’s not a right but it should be a given.
As the news came through, staged-managed one hopes not to coincide or conflate with the SailGP marquee event in San Francisco but two days ahead of schedule, and slightly rushed as the rampant Spanish media leaked it early, it landed to a sigh of relief – the kind of relief you get when you find out the plot-line having watched 12 episodes of a boxset. It’s been an epic game of global dart-throwing, of rampant jingoistic opinion and division such is the catty nonsense world we inhabit today. But we’re there. It’s done bar the shouting.
But…and there’s a big but, it’s still hard to draw the dots to the eye-watering sums of cash that need to be found to truly make this happen. Is there a plot twist to come just as the credits start to roll?
Yes, I’m well aware of the Barcelona 2040 vision, ambition and their massive list of big-name supporters. Yes, I can see the famous corporate names that litter the roster. And it’s truly lovely that the Government of Catalonia, Barcelona City Council, the Port of Barcelona and City Hall have all come together in an ‘unprecedented alliance’ but this is the America’s Cup and money doesn’t talk, it screams. I can’t hear the scream. Yet. I struggle to find the waterfall of loot and I’m myopic to the magic money tree. Gaps will need filling but for now that’s just details…we may never know the truth.
I do expect it to happen though. Funding will be found and the Spanish are past-masters and truly world class at the art of the fiscal squirrel with opaque financial structures coming as second nature, just ask the football team, so let’s not dwell too much on that for now.
In sheer sporting terms, the stage is now set for the mother of all battles at the very apex of our sport with new faces, new teams, bigger personalities and a giant wall of media. Barcelona is the pitch and the players are looking fit and more than up for the fight. The runway is laid and it all starts coming to fruition quickly. The hibernation is over and now we can all sit back as relationships deteriorate (they always do), the good play ugly and the ugly play good. The Great Game, as I call it, is on.
And bang on the button of the hurried venue announcement came a flurry of news from around the Cup world. First up Alinghi Red Bull Racing came out of the traps with the announcement of its title sponsor, Tudor Watches, (put my name down Ernesto on the wait list for one please) and then revealed the worst kept secret of all that they had acquired Te Aihe, the Kiwi’s first AC75, which the Kiwi lads painted navy marine blue and gave the game away as it left the ETNZ shed for the container.
But the crucial thing here is that Alinghi will be on the water in July, racking up those 20 permitted days of training for new entrants into AC37. Those will be long, long days as they seek to eke the maximum performance and learning from the permissible allocation. Fascinating to see how they go. Youth, talent, nous and the Alinghi juggernaut – what’s not to love?
And then came the rumour that the French are looking at a tilt again with Stephan Kandler attempting the resurrection of his K-Challenge syndicate. Oh how cool would it be to have the French back in the Cup? They bring so much to the sport – that ‘Je ne sais quoi’ of ambition, brilliance and flair and why not? They’ve got the number one rugby and football teams in the world. The holy trinity awaits. An America’s Cup entrant, fuelled with the passion and pride of that fabulous country would be the best news we could wish for. I hope it happens. It should.
All afternoon, the phone’s been buzzing and ringing, texts coming in, WhatsApp has been overloaded, rushed calls from international numbers – there’s nothing like the America’s Cup to awake the senses. It’s brilliant and it’s happening. Now let’s get those boats back out there, thrash them donkeys, rocket-launch the Women’s and Youth AC40 gangs and showcase the sport in the most digital, media-on, all-on fashion to the widest possible audience.
The try has been scored. Now for the conversion.