HAMILTON, BER – If you were in Bermuda at the prizegiving or watched it on TV, you could not have helped but notice that the winners were presented with a Louis Vuitton duffle bag – the "Keepall 55 Bandoulièr" as LV calls them. I thought it was a very nice gesture by the prestigious French luxury brand founded in nearly the same year that the AC began (1851). Louis Vuitton has stood by the AC through thick and thin since Bruno Troublé (FRA) had the brainwave to formalize the challenger selection series in 1983 and convinced LV to sponsor it.
LV and Bruno provided the challengers with some much-needed organization and promotion, a race committee that actually had money to operate, judges that had somewhere other than my table desk at USYRU around which to hold protest hearings (yes, your Ed. and other Americans were on the challengers' jury in the early 80s), and a few proper parties, to say nothing of donating the eponymous Louis Vuitton Cup to present to the winning challenger.
For the record, and contrary to a report on another sailing website a few days ago (since corrected), Bruno has had nothing whatsoever to do with AC35.
I thought it was a very nice gesture on LV's part to present the bags, and was frankly astonished to see some of them being tossed into the crowd at the end of the ceremony by a few ETNZ team members who, presumably, were caught up in the moment – or do not have an LV-loving partner or teenager; mine would have killed me had I done that. I hope and assume the Kiwis were not making a statement against LV vis-a-vis Prada, the sponsor of their new Challenger of Record that would be announced within the hour at the final press conference. Prada, of course, is an LV competitor.
So the LV Keepalls may or may not have been flying off store shelves, but they were flying off the AC35 stage. What are they worth? To some, apparently, what you pay for them. To buy one in an LV store? That would be $2,200, thank you very much. Plus tax.
Prizegiving photo above courtesy of Richard Hodder of Emirates Team New Zealand.