The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series event took place along the Hudson River this past weekend in New York City, featuring six high performance catamarans from Japan, France, England, New Zealand, Sweden and the USA vying for points to win the coveted America’s Cup which will take place next year in Bermuda.
The victors were Emirates Team New Zealand, the youngest of the six teams racing whose primary sponsor is Emirates Airline from the Middle East. Other competitors included four-time Olympic medalist Sir Ben Ainslie of Great Britain whose team Land Rover BAR placed fifth. Ainslie is hoping to be the first British team to bring the America’s Cup back to England since 1857.
The two-day event in New York City marked the first time in nearly 100 years that America’s Cup racing occurred in New York. Additionally, the last time a British sailor was competing for the coveted America’s Cup trophy in New York City was in 1920.
“The last British person to sail here was Sir Thomas Lipton so I feel quite honored to be here competing for the America’s Cup,” said Sir Ben Ainslie. “New York has such a massive legacy when it comes to the America’s Cup and we are just in awe of the crowds who came out to watch us race here.”
Although Sir Ben Ainslie did not win this past weekend, this is just the beginning to the build up of the actual America’s Cup that will be fought for in Bermuda next year. Each race does count, however, and currently the youngest team, Emirates Team New Zealand skippered by Glenn Ashby, has the most points on the scoreboard going into the next event in Chicago in June. Team Oracle is currently in second place and Ainslie's Land Rover BAR team is in third.
The New York event is not only a competition but is also an opportunity to engage with the team sponsors who witnessed firsthand the crowds of nearly 75,000 New Yorkers lined up against the shores of Battery Park to watch the sailing in action close at hand. The racing was televised globally by the BBC, NBC, major Asian, Australian, French, and Middle Eastern media outlets taking part.
Part of the idea of bringing America’s Cup sailing to the shores of cities like New York – where it once was held miles offshore – is to essentially become ‘big billboards ripping around’ joked Nathan Outteridge, the skipper for the Swedish Team Artemis Racing in a recent interview. In other words, sailing sponsorship has to deliver a return on investment in order to survive.
The current defender of the America’s Cup is Team Oracle, whose syndicate head is billionaire Mr. Larry Ellison. Most of Oracle’s sponsorship money goes to fund research and development on the boats, and the salaries to pay for a fairly small team. When Mr. Ellison won the cup in 2013, he wanted the 165-year old competition to be more accessible to the public while also focusing on the speed of high-tech boat design. The idea is to make it more affordable for other teams as well and exciting.
According to Americas Cup event authority spokesman Will Chignell, on average, global sponsors see every dollar they spend return $7 worth of quantifiable brand exposure in their key territories. The sponsors put their brands on the sail, the boat, their gear and during events like the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Series in NYC, they are taken to the starting line on VIP boats, or feted in the America’s Cup Club put together for their exclusive use. They are treated to an intimate knowledge of the America’s Cup history, lore and its current personalities, meeting influential Europeans, financiers, moguls like Ellison and others like sponsor heads from Softbank, the Japanese telecommunications and technology company. “Softbank feels they have seen an exceptionally good return on what money they are putting in,” said Dean Barker in an earlier report, the New Zealand America’s Cup skipper who is now the head of the Japan challenge.
This summer, the World Series event will take place in Chicago in June, then move to Portsmouth, England in July then on to Japan in September. The actual America’s Cup happens in 2017 in Bermuda. For the country of Bermuda, which will spend roughly $40m dollars to bring the event to the island nation, the build-up has already created jobs and a higher profile for the country among the international community and a great upswing in tourism and visitors to the country.
“We are an island in the middle of the ocean but sailing is in our DNA,” said Bermuda Premier Michael Dunkley. “We also have the best sailing conditions in the world. The sailors have moved to our island to prepare for the 2017 event and have gone out of their way to get involved in the community. There was an immense amount of organization that needed to take place but we are eagerly looking forward to hosting it in 2017.”
Louis Vuitton has been working with Snapchat to amplify promotion of the event in recent weeks.