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Gladwell's Line- Media crunch in the America's Cup

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World.com/nz on 17 Jun 2014
Oracle Team USA skipper, James Spithill with Emirates Team NZ's Dean Barker - Media Conference, 34th America's Cup Carlo Borlenghi/Luna Rossa© http://www.lunarossachallenge.com
The America's Cup has dominated the sporting and general media, in New Zealand at least, for the past week, polarising fans and others.

Team New Zealand scored an own goal, with a media conference at its base in the Viaduct harbour, Auckland, last Friday, Black Friday, which resulted in a lot of skewed and sensational reporting.

The media group at the conference were split in two - those that were focused on the sailing and getting the Team's view on the new Protocol, and those more interested in the Team's financial state.

Oracle Team USA's attacks on their opponent were without precedent. While they could have been understandable in the context of a media conference at the AC regatta, at this stage of the America's Cup they were nonsensical.

This is a time when the Defender, if they are genuinely trying to create a more commercial event, should be working with the teams to improve the event. Instead, it transpired that they had not even spoken to the last Challenger, and instead had used television and radio interviews in NZ to attack Team New Zealand. To what gain?

The attacks were backed up with social media grenades from two of the US team.

What was achieved?

For sure Oracle has succeeded in rattling Team NZ's cage, and has managed to drop them in it with the NZ Government funders, forced a rift with many of the NZ public, and couldn't have done more to get a top competitor out of the next America's Cup.

Time will tell if they have succeeded.

Team NZ erred in the media conference, by answering question on their financial state, and particularly questions on funding and sponsorship applications. They should have completely closed down that line of questioning, as has always been done before.

Few in the general media understand how the funding and sponsorship cycle works in the America's Cup, and they amply demonstrated that ignorance on Friday.

Calls for New Zealand to get out of the Cup, start an alternate event, publicly declare team salaries and expenditure just demonstrate again that lack of America's Cup background knowledge - and their readers, viewers and listeners deserve better.

Even more disturbing is the tendency, quite prevalent overseas, to run a dramatic, cliche-ridden introduction to a story in order to pull the viewers' attention, when the report that follows is quite balanced and accurate.



The Protocol for the 35th America's Cup was announced, or rather emailed, early last week. It did contain some very serious flaws. Several of these were quickly addressed a couple of days later, and now the document is more workable - particularly given the mechanisms that are there for changes.

The document is still remarkably short on timing, and doesn't even say the year the next America's Cup will be held, let alone the dates and venues for any of the preliminaries and the Match itself. There would be a lot of blanks in any sponsorship proposal relating to the 35th America's Cup, and going to a potential backer looking for money in 2014 just makes a Challenger, and the Event, look half-arsed.

Oracle Team USA did cop a lot of criticism over the loaded document, particularly as much of what they had accused former Cup holders, Alinghi, now seemed to be in the 35th Protocol.

It is easy for the media and others to recall the lofty ideals, and volumes of indignant assertions, made when Oracle were the Challenger, and in hot pursuit of Alinghi through the New York legal system. We hoped for better. In the first edition of this Protocol, Oracle seemed to have out-Alinghied Alinghi. Suddenly all Oracle's legal umbrage in 2007-2010 sounded rather hollow.

Turning the other cheek, Team New Zealand came out on Black Friday and said that the amended Protocol (Version 2) was now workable. A statement that has now been acknowledged by Russell Coutts. Hopefully, this sorry saga has finished, although the damage had already been done to Team New Zealand.

But in the final analysis, what doesn't kill Team New Zealand will make it stronger.

Moving on:
While the hard words were being said, and motives were being questioned, Most media missed the fact that Oracle lost another three of their First XI America's Cup winning crew.

A total of five who sailed USA-17 to victory, in September, have gone to other America's Cup teams. Those who remain are the Australians, Kiwi Joe Spooner and the sole US national, Rome Kirby.

Oracle suffered a further major loss in Dirk Kramers, a top designer, whose Cup experience extends back to 1977 and is a three-time winner of the America's Cup. He has joined the British challenger, Ben Ainslie Racing. Oracle's three-time Cup winner Jono Macbeth (NZL) goes with him as BAR's Sailing Team Manager.

Three of the Oracle sailing crew went to Italian Challenger, Luna Rossa, who are now geared up with over 80 in the team, and look to be in full operation.

Another leading US sailor - twice and current World Foiling Moth Champion Bora Gulari (Michigan) has also signed for Luna Rossa.

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