It now appears that our information regarding the high-level talks in the Desafío base in Valencia were largely correct. According to an article by Spanish journalist Pedro Sardina, Iberdorla, the Spanish utilities giants and main backer of Desafío Español, has assessed the possibility of joining the 34th America’s Cup but decided no to go ahead.
Sardina is probably the best connected Spanish sailing journalist, befriending the decision-makers in the sport. In his article he publishes an interview with a “high-ranking Iberdrola manager” that prefers to stay anonymous but given Sardina’s connection it probably is someone high up in the hierarchy that has direct knowledge of the issue. As always, the translation is mine:
Pedro Sardina: What’s going on with the America’s Cup?
Iberdrola manager: Absolutely nothing.
Pedro Sardina: Are you sure?
Iberdrola manager: As sure as I know that you and I are talking right now.
Pedro Sardina: This is not what we’re hearing through the grapevine…
Iberdrola manager: And what is the grapevine saying?
Pedro Sardina: That you are thinking about it and that the “old rockers are back”.
Iberdrola manager: Who are the old rockers?
Pedro Sardina: [Manuel] Chrivella and [Gerardo] Pombo.
Iberdrola manager: No. This is not acceptable right now.
Pedro Sardina: Be honest. Have you ever thought about taking part in the catamaran race?
Iberdrola manager: Yes. It is true we assessed the possibility, but…
Pedro Sardina: But what?
Iberdrola manager: Iberdrola has many business interests in the United States and there was a possibility we would try a new challenge [Desafío].
Pedro Sardina: Promises by Ellison?
Iberdrola manager: No. It is true that Oracle are very interested in us joining the 34th edition, but Larry Ellison hasn’t promised us anything. Not only that, we haven’t even talked to him.
Pedro Sardina: So, it was [Agustín] Zulueta’s idea.
Iberdrola manager: It all went very well, honestly, with Agustín and as a result, we must, at least, listen to what he has to say.
Pedro Sardina: And if I tell you that you thought about it twice?
Iberdrola manager: I would admit it’s true. Twice or maybe more.
Pedro Sardina: What were those two occasions?
Iberdrola manager: The first one, that we discarded almost immediately, was to sponsor the Greek team. Iberdrola is a Spanish company and regardless of what sport competition we might enter it has to be with Spain. It can’t be any other way.
Pedro Sardina: And the other one?
Iberdrola manager: Start the Desafío Español but to do that we would need to have two more partners, at least. It’s too much an investment knowing we can’t win.
Pedro Sardina: But Cristóbal Grau [Valencia sports counselor] doesn’t think that way
Iberdrola manager: You know perfectly well that today and with the current format it is impossible to take the Cup back from the Americans.
Pedro Sardina: The Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV) has now been forgotten?
Iberdrola manager: I think it doesn’t exist any longer but I’m not sure.
Pedro Sardina: Was the ridicule so big?
Iberdrola manager: I don’t consider it as such.
Pedro Sardina: What was it then?
Iberdrola manager: Let’s just drop it and forget the bad things of the past.
Pedro Sardina: Do Pombo and Chirivella have any chance in convincing you?
Iberdrola manager: This can’t work, believe me. Don’t go on with that issue.
Pedro Sardina: But they boast the old rockers are back…
Iberdrola manager: This is the first time I hear it and I’m surprised. Our only liaison is purely formal. We remain in the sport of sailing and we have to have smooth communication with the people in charge, especially now that the [Spanish] Paralympic team is in our base.
Pedro Sardina: What about the Soto 40?
Iberdrola manager: We have now been sponsoring boats and events in this sport for many years and we’ll keep on doing it. Having a boat in a top-level circuit is of interest to us.
Pedro Sardina: What happened with the GP 42 last year?
Iberdrola manager: You have to ask Agustín.
Pedro Sardina: I’ve already done and he says there wasn’t enough money to do the entire MedCup circuit.
Iberdrola manager: He had a budget for all the projects. If he had too many of them he should have known it.
Pedro Sardina: Will they do the entire Circuit this year?
Iberdrola manager: Yes, this is what we agreed, and the Copa del Rey.
Pedro Sardina: There are no Soto 40’s in the Copa del Rey.
Iberdrola manager: He says that the MedCup yachts will also be in the Copa del Rey.
Pedro Sardina: How much will the Soto 40 campaing cost?
Iberdrola manager: Agustín must tell you that. I’m not authorized to reveal that number.
Pedro Sardina: So, it’s a definitive no to the 34th edition of the America’s Cup?
Iberdrola manager: Nothing is ever definitive, but right now there is absolutely nothing.
Pedro Sardina: Sure? Look, you have until the end of March to join.
Iberdrola manager: Stop being such a pain. Today there is absolutely nothing, really.