ACEA CEO Stephen Barclay looks back over the nine America’s Cup World Series events

20/04/2013 - Napoli (ITA) - America's Cup World Series Naples 2013 - Race Day 3

20/04/2013 - Napoli (ITA) - America's Cup World Series Naples 2013 - Race Day 3

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What a finale! Naples delivered huge crowds (again), great weather and exciting competition.  Proof, if any was needed, that this in-shore racing in fast boats with the world’s best sailors is what the fans want.

As I have written before, it is also what the sailors want because the best excel when they are pitted against the best.  To illustrate the point, there have been 6 different winners of the 9 fleet racing competitions and 4 different winners of 8 match racing competitions.

I believe a couple of comments from Roman Hagara and Ben Ainslie after racing on Super Sunday put the level of competition into context.

To Roman’s comment: “I feel I’m finally ready to race now,” Ben replied: “Yeah, I thought it didn’t look too hard on TV but needed an event to get up to speed.”

And look at Emirates Team New Zealand dropping back as Dean had the team focussing on their AC72 preparation while the opposite was the case for ORACLE TEAM USA with their enforced AC45 training following the AC72 mishap.

The America’s Cup World Series has also provided career opportunities for young talent.  Draper, Outteridge and Burling came into the events via Team Korea and have subsequently been picked up by Louis Vuitton Cup teams.  Additionally, Charlie Ekberg helmed Artemis Racing in Naples (Charlie is the team’s Red Bull Youth America’s Cup skipper).

Naples also showcased a new-look China Team.  Four Chinese nationals on the five-person boat, skippered, coached and led by Mitch Booth.  I recall that Mitch left the helm four times on Saturday to assist his team mates – for a couple of them it was their first regatta! We saw Xu Lijia, China’s Olympic Laser Women’s Radial gold medalist, practicing with the team and out on the boat as a guest racer. This is a team with one eye on the future.

The same could be said of Energy Team. Bruno Peyron put together, and held together, one of the few truly commercial teams.  Having Yann Guichard skippering for Naples following Loick Peyron’s move to Artemis Racing proved right with Yann getting fast starts around 80% of the time. His 4th placing on Super Sunday highlighted how quickly he came up to speed.

On the event side we have learnt a lot since the first America’s Cup World Series in Cascais, Portugal in 2011. The Naples 2013 model is how a city, a promoter and the ACEA can work together for the benefit of all.

According to local media, Naples hotels experienced an occupancy rate of 85% (up from 43% during Easter).  Local officials estimate nearly 1.5 million fans visited the 4km waterfront over the course of the week, while over 300 journalists and photographers covered the event (representing 178 outlets from 12 countries).  The America’s Cup World Series Naples was broadcast in Italy on RAI TV, where early returns showed Saturday’s 600,000 audience (peaking at 750,000) beat the F1 qualifying session into a distant second place.

Local promoter ACN paid ACEA an event fee and supplied various components of the event village and in return received local sponsorship rights including local television rights and concerts.  59 local sponsors paid varying levels of sponsorship / licensee fees to access the crowds.

ACEA in turn benefited from an event fee paid by the local promoter and reduced on site footprint due to key features being provided by the local promoter - the result being reduced shipping costs.

As I said, this was a model of how city, a promoter and the ACEA can work together.

So, while we now look forward to the Summer of Racing in San Francisco, we also look back on an America’s Cup World Series that delivered great competition, fantastic TV pictures, new stars, huge crowds (some now ticketed) and a model for how we collaborate with cities and promoters.  The foundation stones are there for the winner of the 34th America’s Cup.

Stephen Barclay
CEO, America’s Cup Event Authority
@stephenjbarclay