Can the America’s Cup be forgotten?

Published on December 11th, 2023

Bill Canfield, past President of Virgin Islands Sailing Association, longtime regatta director, and father of a notable competitor (Taylor), offers this take on history and the sport:

I believe history will look upon United States President Nixon’s term of office, which today is remembered only as a scandal, very favorably. A few of his achievements included opening China, ending the Vietnam War, ending the draft, starting the EPA and Clean Air/Water Act, lowing the voting age to 18, initiating Title IX (women’s sports), minimizing organized crime, landing on the moon, provided Indians self-determination on the reservations, and desegregating southern schools.

In the same vein, I am curious how sailing historians will view the accomplishments of Larry Ellison, Russell Coutts, and Grant Dalton. After comparing the recent America’s Cup and SailGP events, I’m fully of the opinion that Dalton will be given credit for destroying the most iconic and treasured event in sailing along with its fabled history.

Conversely, Ellison and Coutts will be revered by giving sailing a new exciting look as their SailGP sports league involves multiple countries through a large number of scheduled yearly events being sailed by the top names in the sport.

The America’s Cup Preliminary Regatta Jeddah lacked drama, spectators, proper social media coverage, excitement… I really could find no positives. All you saw of the sailors was their heads sitting in chairs. No movement or sailing skills were visible. They might as well be playing video games.

SailGP, on the other hand, celebrates sailing with high drama, close racing, interesting back stories, colorful fast boats on a tight course. All the events are well attended in fun destinations, and the actual coverage is improving with each event. They are starting to develop a real fan base with team ownership and top-notch sponsors.

It appears that financier Ellison will spend and spend until Coutts gets all the teams sold and the kinks eliminated. The only thing that drives today’s AC is how much money Dalton can jam in his personal pocket. If the event does move to Saudi Arabia, I believe that will truly be the end despite Wheatley’s dramatic prose. Time will tell…

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