Seeking a Synergistic Relationship with the America’s Cup

Published on February 17th, 2011

By Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt editor

As entries get submitted for the America’s Cup, the cynic in me slots them into three categories:

  • Those that can legitimately compete to win.
  • Those that are leveraging the event for a payday.
  • Those that are leveraging the event for a cause.

The way I see it, for the America’s Cup to be a watchable event, it needs to be a legitimate competition. Viewing fast boats is not enough to sustain interest. It’s not knowing who will win that makes a race worth watching. So I am eager to see teams entering into the first category.

The Argo Challenge is actively fundraising in hopes of entering the America’s Cup by the March 31st deadline. The premise of the team is to demonstrate that a crew of sailors and athletes with physical disabilities can compete in the event. So according to my categories, this puts them in the third one. Is this what the America’s Cup needs? Absolutely, according to Lynn Fitzpatrick, Chief of Communications & Marketing for the team:

Lynn_FitzpatrickThere is no question that the Argo Challenge and the America’s Cup should have a synergistic relationship. Antonio Spinelli and others conceived Argo, because they believed that the America’s Cup is the most visible sporting event in the world in which to demonstrate that people of varying abilities are exceptional athletes. They can play a game of chess on the water as well as those who have been identified as the “best sailors” to sail “the fastest boats”.

Lars Grael goes toe to toe with the best helmsmen and skippers on all types of boats, and there isn’t a single person who has sailed against him who would ever count him out in a regatta regardless of the type of boat – Tornado, Star, 6 Meter or IRC. Lars thought long and hard before agreeing to join the Argo Challenge and did so on one condition: To quote Lars, “The team cannot be looked upon as bears in a circus. We must enter the America’s Cup to win it.”

Statistics vary, but one in six Americans is disabled. That’s a much larger population (approximately 54 million) than the US sailing community. There are countless networks, organizations and companies that serve the disabled community. The Argo Challenge represents a tremendous opportunity for the America’s Cup and sailing to be leaders in the international sports community and touch a large portion of this under represented global population.

Numerous accomplished able-bodied and disabled athletes and sailors have expressed interest in joining our team. Our rule is that you have to be able to do your job as well as an able-bodied athlete to be considered. Recognizing how powerful these boats are we fully expect to be a mixed team of able-bodied and disabled athletes and sailors, especially during the early development and training stages.

Brilliant lawyers, scientists, finance and marketing professionals have volunteered to join the Argo Challenge while we are in this intense fund-raising period. They have joined because they believe in everything that this team can accomplish and the inspirational message that we can send to the world. Our goal is to win the America’s Cup and there is a lot that we will accomplish along the way. We know that the disabled community will win as long as we make it to the starting line. There are far grander prizes to be achieved by the Argo Challenge than winning the America’s Cup. We will try our best not to let our fans down.

There is no question that Argo, ACEA and other teams are under pressure to raise awareness and funding in a very short period of time. Despite that, we are ensuring our potential sponsors and our alliance partners that a portion of everything that we raise will be repatriated to the disabled community. In some cases funds will go to disabled sailing. In others, resources will go to empowering the disabled community and celebrating its members’ performing arts, fine arts, sports and other accomplishments and objectives. WeCanUCan!






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