Red Bull to back Youth America's Cup
Close to St Marks Square in Venice this morning, so the sponsor for the Youth America’s Cup was unveiled in the form of Red Bull. With its slogan ‘Red Bull gives you wings’, getting the Austrian energy drink company and its powerful brand to back the wing-powered AC45s and 72s has been about as good a brand-sports property ‘fit’ as you can get.
Red Bull has previous in sailing. They were a backer of the Swedish Victory Challenge for the 32nd America’s Cup. They are a long term sponsor of Austrian Tornado sailors Roman Hagara and Hans-Pieter Steinacher’s (who won gold at the Sydney and Athens Games), an arrangement that has continued through to Hagara and Steinacher’s participation in the Extreme Sailing Series. Hagara and Steinacher were present at today’s presentation and are obviously keen that Red Bull back an Austrian entry in a future America’s Cup...
The Youth America’s Cup has been a project close to Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill’s heart. He was fortunate enough to be first given the helm of an America’s Cup boat in his late teens by Australian Cup team backer Syd Fischer and at the tender age of 20 for the 2000 America’s Cup, he was the event’s youngest ever helmsman. With BMW Oracle Racing’s victory in 2010, Spithill, then aged 30, became the youngest skipper ever to win the America’s Cup.
At this morning’s presentation Spithill was clearly fired up about Red Bull coming on board to back the Youth America’s Cup. “This is one of the biggest days ever in the history of the America's Cup," he said. "I think today will be remembered in the sport as one of the key milestones for the event. For too long AC sailors like myself and other guys here today have been asked a simple question by youth sailors liek the four standing next to me – How do I get involved in the America’s Cup and what’s the pathway? There has been no clear path for young sailors to get into the America’s Cup. But today that has changed – with the help of Larry Ellison, Russell Coutts and more importantly Red Bull, Red Bull is giving wings to these youth sailor but also with the event that will be happening on the race course in San Francisco right before the America’s Cup. I can’t wait to see these guys get out there on San Francisco bay and show what they can do. It won’t be too long before they are out there pushing the rest of us.”
In a statement Spithill subsequently added: “Breaking into the America’s Cup is hard. I was very fortunate when I was 19 to get a break with the Young Australia team, which allowed me to get into the game and get noticed. But this is going to give many more young sailors the same type of opportunity. We are talking about literally turning tradition on its head by opening up the America’s Cup to younger sailors, rather than it being closed off and difficult to get a foot in the door.”
The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup will take place in August-September next year in San Francisco around the time of the Louis Vuitton Trophy and America’s Cup themselves. The format will be fleet racing, not match racing.
The event is open to up to ten national teams of six sailors, aged 19 to 23 in 2013. Teams can apply for entry to America’s Cup Race Management beginning this summer. One team per country will be accepted and each crew member must hold a valid passport of the country their team represents.
Equipment, including the AC45 platform and wing, will be supplied to teams who have their entry accepted.
Ben Ainslie, skipper of Ben Ainslie Racing said: “The Red Bull Youth America's Cup is a great new initiative. When I was a kid I had two aims, to win an Olympic medal and the America’s Cup. The route into the Cup has always been tough, but this will give a whole new generation of sailors the opportunity to get into the America’s Cup early in their sailing careers.”
Nathan Outteridge, skipper of Team Korea said: “I think the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup is a great chance for younger sailors to explore the avenue of the America’s Cup. Up until now, it's something that's been so difficult to get in to. I feel lucky that I was in the right place at the right time to be approached to be here with Team Korea. To get on to one of these teams has been nearly impossible until you're in your late 20s or early 30s, so this gives young sailors that chance. I think you'll see a lot of talented sailors come out of this."
Chris Draper, helmsman, Luna Rossa: “I wish I was younger! This is really good news for youth sailors. The change to catamarans means the teams are already looking for younger people, with skill on fast boats. The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup will bring the best young sailors from around the world to one place – San Francisco – where they’ll be able to show us all what they can do.”
Russell Coutts told us that Red Bull coming on board was fantastic not just for the event, but for the sport in general. “These boats [the AC45s] really suit younger sailors in many ways. It is maybe not so good for me, but good for the sport! We’ll see these young sailors come in and ultimately take control. This is a great thing for sailing coming in and supporting youth sailing to this level. It is obviously going to bring it to a new level.”
At present Red Bull has no plan to back a boat in the America’s Cup itself, says Coutts. “That is obviously their decision, but they have looked at what we are doing with the America’s Cup and they like what they see, so here we are today..."
However Red Bull is now also a 'team partner' of Oracle Team USA and you will notice that the Oracle crews will be wearing Red Bull-branded helmets.
We tried to get to talk to Red Bull about their thoughts on sponsorship in sailing but “they wish to remain in the background” we were told.
It also remains unclear how the existing Cup teams, the AC45 teams and the Youth AC teams will integrate.
The Notice of Race for the Youth America's Cup is available here.