Mea Culpa. I have to admit that I precipitated into declaring Alinghi’s entry in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race a done deal. However, our very reliable and authoritative Swiss sources at the beginning of the year were overly enthusiastic over the prospect of a Swiss team, backed by Ernesto Bertarelli, dominating offshore sailing. That’s where the alleged announcement date came. Everything was supposed to go as planned, the official entry was a matter of days or weeks and a press conference was to be held in Geneva on the day of Alinghi’s 10th anniversary since winning the America’s Cup in Auckland.
An important factor we learned last week shed some more light on what the true situation might be. A few months back, we were told Brad Butterworth would be in charge of the team and that Bertarelli would provide the funding. That seemed to be the ideal scenario. Butterworth would be able to snatch the best sailors, early enough before someone else tempts them as with the new one-design VO65 yacht, experienced sailors will now come at a premium and will be able to command hefty salaries, twice or even three times as high as last time.
However, it seems that things weren’t as rosy according to other sources. It appears that Bertarelli didn’t want to fully fund the team but just provide a strong initial backing that would then definitely have to be complemented with additional corporate sponsorship. Under that alleged deal, Bertarelli was willing to provide half of the target budget, rumored to be set at 30 million euros. So, the Swiss billionaire would give Butterworth 15 million euros but the kiwi skipper would have to find the rest.
The Volvo Ocean Race, unlike the America’s Cup, doesn’t hold such an irresistible appeal to rich sailors, basically for a very simple reason. They can’t be onboard. Their idea of sailing doesn’t include spending three weeks cramped with ten more sailors inside an uncomfortable, cold and wet yacht that is hammered by the winds and waves of the southern oceans. There is nothing wrong with that and it’s understandable that if they decide to give some of their fortune, at least they have to have some fun.
Apparently, Bertarelli’s intention wasn’t to make any money out of that but since he wasn’t going to be onboard, he also didn’t want to lose either. Will now Butterworth be able to find the other 15 million euros? Time will tell.