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Playing the long game

by Mark Jardine 23 Feb 12:00 PST
INEOS TEAM UK after bowing out of the PRADA Cup © Harry KH / INEOS TEAM UK

As a Brit I'm of course sad that INEOS TEAM UK didn't progress to the America's Cup match. I'd have loved to see Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott square up against Pete Burling, Blair Tuke and the rest of Emirates Team New Zealand, but it wasn't to be.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team fully deserve their win. They sailed beautifully, won the majority of the starts, and their AC75 was simply faster than Britannia. They celebrated on Sunday, but it's straight back to work again for the team as they have the daunting task of taking on a Kiwi team which is rumoured to be extraordinarily fast. 62 knots is the figure which is talked about as their top speed recorded so far, with their main foils being 30% smaller than the Italians. For the sake of sailing let's hope it's not a clean sweep.

Most successful America's Cup campaigns are built over a long period of time. Prada CEO Patrizio Bertelli started the Luna Rossa Challenge in 1997 to compete for the 2000 America's Cup, defeating AmericaOne in a tight challenger series final, where they lost to defending champions Team New Zealand in the America's Cup match itself.

Bar the 2010 America's Cup, where no challenger series was held, due to extensive court action and the 'Deed of Gift match' between the monster multihulls of Alinghi and ORACLE TEAM USA, and the 2017 series in Bermuda where they withdrew out of protest about the switch to the AC50 foiling catamarans, Luna Rossa have mounted a challenge for every America's Cup since.

With Sir Jim Ratcliffe taking such a keen interest in the America's Cup, this is Britain's chance to build a long-term challenger, which builds on the successes and learns from the failures of previous campaigns. Together with Sir Ben Ainslie they form a formidable and incredibly determined team which has the potential to bring the cup home, but they'll need to play the long game.

Respect

We've all had points where our temper has been tested over the past year, and in Auckland things have been no different. The America's Cup is renowned for seeing disagreements end up in court, but the past ten days have seen the spats play out publicly.

Firstly, when the Auckland three-day lockdown was announced Sunday last, the timing of the resumption of racing was a matter of hot debate. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (the Challenger of Record) wanted to continue as soon as possible, while the America's Cup Event (ACE) and INEOS Team UK wanted to wait until the Covid-19 Alert Level in Auckland dropped to 1. As we saw, racing took place last weekend under Level 2 restrictions, but the momentum of good-will built up around the event, with the rescue of American Magic's PATRIOT in January, was lost.

The final straw was when it looked like Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott were going to be excluded from the final PRADA Cup press conference. Thankfully, sense prevailed, and there was mutual respect between the sailors, but those behind the scenes need to think about how sailing is portrayed to the wider global audience.

Virtually there

Nestled on the weekend between the PRADA Cup final and the beginning of the America's Cup match is the virtual RYA Dinghy Show. Seen as the season-opener for the UK, the show is the must-attend event for every super-keen dinghy sailor and is an eye-opener for first time visitors, especially those who come from overseas to take a look at the diversity of the British dinghy sailing scene.

The 2020 show took place just before the first lockdown in the UK, at a time when we were being told to use hand sanitiser and elbow bump instead of shaking hands, but was still a huge success. The biggest problem the show has had though is accessibility. Alexandra Palace in North London is a fine building, steeped in history, but is hard to get to from just about everywhere unless you live on Muswell Hill, and in 2021 the show was set to move to a new venue.

I've not been a great fan of online shows, but I believe the virtual RYA Dinghy Show has the potential to break the mould. The enthusiasm of keen clubs, class associations and commercial exhibitors, combined with the vFairs virtual events platform, presents a unique opportunity and could be a winner. With people not having to make the journey to the show, attendance could be higher than the physical event and attract visitors from around the world. Wherever you are in the world, you can register for free to attend the show here.

Of course, the key element of socialising and catching up with everyone face to face will be missing, as it has been from many parts of life, particularly in Europe and the USA, and I'm not in any way suggesting that the show should be virtual moving forwards, but a hybrid of physical and virtual elements could increase the reach of the event.

In many ways we've already evolved to a hybrid approach on YachtsandYachting.com and Sail-World.com, interviewing exhibitors and sailors, publishing videos and photos, reporting on the Concours d'Elegance 'Boat of the Show' and more in previous years, but I'm sure this can be extended through further use of technology.

A big thankyou

The entire team at Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com have been blown away by the readership growth on the websites in the past few months. Things have come a long way since we started our sailing websites 25 years ago and we recognise that what we do wouldn't be possible without our many contributors and readers - thank you for choosing our websites for your sailing news fix. We're evolving what we do continually, and your comments and feedback drive us forwards.

Fair winds and stay safe

Mark Jardine
Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

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