After the craziness of New York, don’t expect things to get easier in The Windy City

New York was more than slightly crazy, it was fully fledged crazy! Even with all of the insanity on the water, the same couple of teams keep coming out ahead. If I were a competitor I’d be saying “That was a fluke! It was crazy! That was luck of the draw!” And isn’t it strange that Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA are consistently right there. Land Rover BAR has certainly had their moments. Chicago will be difficult, but things are possibly becoming more predictable…

I was quite nervous that New York was going to be just another event happening in the biggest city in the world. I was very, very surprised and thankfully wrong! Good for New York! Even on Saturday, which was a complete washout breeze-wise, there was an incredible number of people. The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series always puts itself in a bit of a tough spot with its time restrictions for television and its location restrictions for helicopters, security and everything else. Some people complained, but they couldn’t just move the race course around the island, it’s not possible. We’re committed to time and space because there are so many other variables that none of us can ever imagine. But even without the perfect race track and with a flukey wind blowing across the channel, the same teams keep winning.

Chicago, as a venue, will potentially impress and surprise people. Some of the diagrams I’ve seen of the race locations show that it could be really fun for spectators right off the Long Docks. That said, the most wind I have ever seen in my whole life on a sailboat has been in Chicago: 70 knots. To think that you’re going to a cute little lake to zip around and have fun, like your grandparents, is not necessarily the case! You can get really steep waves there, it can be windy and rough – it can be nasty. But hopefully the weather prevails and we’ll finally get a series with the races and schedule going off on time. We’re due for a good weekend!

It’s interesting to see how each team has its own level of expectation. For example, I think Groupama Team France were thrilled to come in third in New York, whereas Oracle Team USA were devastated, in a way, to come in second. There’s no question that Ben Ainslie and his supporters have very high expectations. But if you follow America’s Cup tradition and history, expectations from your most avid supporters tend to be far overblown, almost unreachable. So it’s a big job for skippers and CEOs of these projects to manage those expectations. And I think they have to be managed, because if you just come out every other day and say “We’re going to win the America’s Cup, we’re going to win all the regattas, we’re the best, look at us” – OK, maybe it helps raise money in the short term – but for the long term, you’re setting yourself up to be in the serious hot seat given any little hiccup. So I’m sure all these guys are figuring out how to manage expectations as they go, and they’ll have to keep that high on their list of daily priorities.

Bring on Chicago!

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