AUCKLAND (#1115) – New Zealand won the rights to host the March 2021 cup, after beating [Larry] Ellison's Oracle Team USA seven to one in Bermuda last year. But instead of launching another challenge for the America's Cup, Ellison and his right-hand man, former Team NZ skipper Russell Coutts, have launched a rival competition, Sail GP. Unusually, Sail GP will use repurposed boats from the previous America's Cup, with the yachts being rebuilt and rebranded by Warkworth-based Core Builders Composites. The firm, formerly known as Oracle Racing, is 100 per cent-owned by Ellison, the 74-year-old founder of software company Oracle Corp and Forbes magazine's 10th richest billionaire. Coutts became a director of Core Builders Composites in July, and the company has successfully negotiated a two-year extension to its Callaghan Innovation research and development grant. It received $1.5 million of government funding in 2016 and almost $1m in 2017. –Nikki Mandow, writing in this (Wednesday) morning's New Zealand Herald in an article headlined, "Larry Ellison's Kiwi funded yacht company launches rival regatta to America's Cup." Full story.
But wait, there's more. After the click-bait headline, the article gets to what many would say is the meat of the matter, and rather Grade A meat at that – at least for the Kiwi economy....
Core Composites spokesperson Susan Lake isn't worried about taking taxpayer money for a company owned by an American worth US$58.5 billion ($88.8b). She says the company employs more than 100 staff, including 60 permanent workers and seven apprentices. The economic impact for New Zealand from Core Composites' work has been $17.65m since July last year, and the company has spent $13m with other New Zealand businesses over the same period. Callaghan Innovation's Melanie Tuala says the benefits for New Zealand include "a growing skilled industry, student jobs, related supplier R&D industries, and tech and skilled workers now moving innovation into aviation, space, construction and the general marine industry." Other New Zealand companies supplying the SailGP project include Warkworth-based MS Engineering, advanced composite company Pure Design, carbon fibre mast/boom company C-Tech, and Auckland-based Doyle Sails.
While ETNZ's Grant Dalton (NZL) has, so far, remained mum on the matter, Laurent Esquier (FRA/USA), CEO of the COR36 (the Challenger of Record organization for AC36) gave Sailing Illustrated this quote after SailGP was launched in London two weeks ago....
Moreover, Richard Gladwell, the esteemed editor of the New Zealand edition of Sail-World.com, was also positive about SailGP and it's impact on the America's Cup when he was my guest on last week's TGIF with TFE webcast. Richard made the point that SailGP would eventually lead to more AC teams as SailGP will allow a team like the newly announced Aussie outfit led by Tom Slingsby (AUS) to prove their prowess on and off the race course – meaning in both the sporting and sponsorship sense.
So you be the judge. Will SailGP be good for the America's Cup? Or will it "take the wind out of the sails" of the Cup?
Richard Gladwell live via Skype on SI's TGIF with TFE webcast last Friday. Watch a replay here.