If you had the chance to talk to just one person about the America’s Cup, it would undoubtedly be Russell Coutts, not only because the Kiwi skipper is the most successful one in the 160-history of the event with four wins but, most importantly, because he’s the CEO of Oracle Racing, the current Defender.
VSail caught up with Coutts in Cascais, right after a tough, long but successful day on the waters of the Portuguese city. Katusha, the Russian boat where Coutts is calling tactics, is leading the RC44 fleet races with 24 points, 14 points ahead of second-placed Team Aqua:
VSail.info: Two years have passed since you won the America’s Cup in Valencia and we are now more or less a year and a half before the next match in San Francisco. The top management of the America’s Cup Event authority went recently through a major change. Why do you change one organization roughly halfway through its mandate? Does it mean they failed in their job?
Russell Coutts: No, not at all. Richard Worth is now focusing on television and venue deals which is actually what he was doing prior to San Diego. Most of the broadcast deals are for the AC Word Series so far, with the exception of NBC in the US and, I think, TV New Zealand and one or two others that include the America’s Cup.
All the others are just for the AC World Series. He now has to go and work on the deals for the America’s Cup.
I think that side of things is in a really good position right know. You must have read we announced the deal with Mediaset in Italy. Those channels, like Mediaset in Italy or Sky Sports in the UK are now taking live programming. Ten hours of live programming for an AC World Series event is a fantastic achievement, considering we have being going on for less than twelve months. The goal from the start was to create a better television product and I think there will be another broadcast arrangement, fairly major, pretty soon. This is a big step for the sport and broadcasters are now agreeing they are prepared to cover the sport live. This has been a major achievement but Richard has now to go back and finish those broadcast contracts.
It was a good strategy actually not to give them the rights right through to the America’s Cup because now everyone agrees the product is worth a rights fee. We can now start negotiating television deals appropriate for the coverage because the quality of the coverage is very good.
VSail.info: So, right now, would you state you are satisfied with the current situation of the America’s Cup?
Russell Coutts: There are, obviously, parts I’m happy with and parts I’m still unhappy with.
VSail.info: Such as?
Russell Coutts: The big focus right now is to bring more commercial partners. We have some excellent partners right now. Louis Vuitton has been a fantastic partner for years now and still continues to be. Obviously, Puma is a great achievement and we expect to have more to announce soon. We had a very good offer recently in one of the key categories but I can’t say more than that at this stage. Things are starting to move now but there is still a lot of work to do.
VSail.info: Is Larry Ellison happy with the current situation of the America’s Cup?
Russell Coutts: Yes and no. He’s very happy with the television product and he considers it a major step forward. He would have liked us to have had more commercial support today but you know, in a way, perhaps the time line was a little optimistic from day one because we didn’t have a television product. If you haven’t got a television product it’s hard to sell the event to commercial sponsors. Now that we have that and we have real numbers in terms of valuation and so forth we are in a much better position today than we were six or seven months ago.
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by Pierre Orphanidis
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11:49 AM Sat 31 Mar 2012GMT
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