Russell Coutts on cutting costs, losing the lawyers and the future of the America’s Cup

Published on October 9th, 2013

After every America’s Cup, the conversation turns to what changes will occur for the next edition. With so many changes that occurred with the 34th Match, the future forecast is more intriguing than usual. Here Russell Coutts, CEO of defender Oracle Team USA, shares his immediate thoughts with SportsPro on the outlook…

We can’t take a step backwards. The racing was so spectacular that we’ve got to keep the same concept. If you look at the America’s Cup brand, that is where the brand needs to be in the future, in my view. It was spectacular racing, it captured the non-sailors’ interest and we have many, many examples of media interest that is unprecedented in our sport. We’ve finally got a product that is user-friendly on television and compelling.

We can’t take a step back but we’ve got, simultaneously, to address the cost issues because the cost of these teams is completely out of line with commercial sustainability. The main thing to address is the number of personnel on each of these teams. The personnel is somewhere between 50 and 60 per cent of the running costs of the teams, so we simply have to find ways to reduce the number of people on-site in these teams. We can do that in a variety of ways.

We could consider making some of the components one-design, which would probably make the racing more compelling as well. I emphasise ‘some’ of the components because there should still be a technology element – that’s a part of the brand – but it should be technology that doesn’t absolutely destroy the racing, so that we can still keep the focus on the athletes and teams.

We can, for example, also share resources. We’ve started to develop that concept with the America’s Cup World Series, where the teams, rather than have all this duplication with each team having their own cranes and lifting facilities and sail lofts and maintenance facilities, share a lot of equipment. That is a significant cost-saving, we’ve proved that. It’s an area where we’ve been learning last time but we can expand that into the final race format to make it much more cost-effective for the teams. The real big ticket expense item is personnel and the high cost personnel are the designers and the sailors; you need to somehow address the number of those that are on-site with the teams.

More: Russell continues on about his future, the future of the AC World Series, and the trouble when publicity hungry administrators and lawyers pull the focus away from the sailors.

More, more: Winning skipper of the 34th America’s Cup, Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill recently shared some thoughts on if a Nationality Rule was established for the 35th America’s Cup. He did not discard the possibility of sailing for his home country of Australia, but said that “people should be on the boats based on talent, not the color of their passport.”

More, more, more: While it would be assumed that the America’s Cup would be hosted again in San Francisco, we have come to learn the defender seems as adept at change as they are at stability. Erik Simonson of has done some sniffing around, and has learned that the City is operating within a 90 day window to make their pitch. Read on for his full report.

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