Harken Derm

What a Billionaire Owner Thinks About the America’s Cup

Published on July 22nd, 2015

When the America’s Cup evolved toward multihulls, the impact extended beyond the race course. Where before the team owner had the option of joining the crew, that option is now eliminated.

Among the people now watching from the owner’s box is the man funding the Artemis Racing America’s Cup challenger, Torbjörn Törnqvist, who spoke candidly to Matthew Sheahan of Yachting World. Here are some excerpts…

On his position with the team.
My main contribution is in the management. Management is about making the best of the people who work for you, and you will only be remembered for what has been achieved.

I’ve seen many examples of things going wrong in business because people are insecure and need to have control. This doesn’t bring out the best in teams and often means people just keep quiet and are afraid to speak out; conflicts are then created. There are many America’s Cup campaigns that have ended in this way. But Iain (team manager Iain Percy) and I share the same philosophy in that you need to let people flourish.

I’m delighted if someone in my organisation does the job better than I can. When I was younger I probably would have minded. But that’s how you achieve things, particularly now when Cup sailing is changing so rapidly. You cannot fall back on history. People carry too much history with them in this sport, we made that mistake (in 2013) and that’s why we failed.

On the future of the America’s Cup.
Obviously I’d like to win the Cup and am spending huge amounts of money to do so. But is it really justifiable to spend this type of money? It’s not. In some ways it’s a bit of an ego trip and it’s not in keeping with the times. I feel a moral responsibility to fight to make this Cup accessible. Although I can afford it, such high costs are not good for the sport.

With such complex and high-performance boats, skills would still be required and the Cup would still be extremely difficult to win. But with the current high costs, sponsors are not coming forward. They don’t want to be seen splashing out money on what they think are the wrong kind of people. It is also a little ridiculous when you have some of the richest people asking for sponsorship.

The costs need to come down and the teams run on a more commercial basis for the event to go forward. I don’t think the Cup will be fully commercial and you will still have individual sponsors. But today it is simply too expensive and it’s not taking the Cup forward.

On Larry Ellison, owner the defender Oracle Team USA.
I now understand a bit more about what drives Larry Ellison and I honestly believe that he truly wants to make the Cup sustainable, affordable and special. Of course, he’s a winner and doesn’t want to give up. But the Cup is his legacy now, he wants to show that the Cup can be special.

He thinks more about the future of the Cup rather than what it takes to win it. He could outspend anybody if he wants to, but it’s not as simple as that. He’s behind this new move, I’m sure of that and in doing so he’s reducing his own chances. But he’s doing it for the future of the Cup.

Much more to this interview… click here.

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