ISAF is demanding $1 million because of event sponsorship

America’s Cup cash dispute

The organisers of New Zealand’s first defence of the America’s Cup in 2000 and sailing’s world governing body, the International Sailing Federation, are conducting public warfare over the $1million fee that ISAF wants to charge the Kiwis to permit unlimited advertising in the event.

Such a charge is levied normally in top level events, with 50% directed straight back into the sport. To the New Zealanders this a poor return and in a open letter, Tom Schnackenberg who is the design co- ordinator of the defending Team New Zealand syndicate, argues that the next America’s Cup does not need to be sailed under the auspices of the ISAF at all.

Changes in the design rules means that the ISAF no longer proves a chief measurer and that there are other means to resolve disputes long before they reach an ISAF appointed jury. The one thing the sailors really rely on, says Schnackenberg, is the racing rules and they are seriously flawed. “In match racing, the racing rules are an important part of the tactical arsenal. Two boats are disputing the same stretch of water,” he explains.

He is not alone in believing the current racing rules are not working in minor events and will unravel seriously when exposed to the intensities of the America’s Cup. But what has thrown flames on the fire, is Schnackenberg’s follow-on suggestion that the sailors and umpires involved in the next Cup should draw up a new code, thereby doing away with ISAF involvement totally.

This prompted a robust, almost bullying, response form ISAF president Paul Henderson. Clearly Henderson can not countenance any thought that sailing’s biggest event should no longer be an ISAF franchise. “I feel we are approaching the same confrontation that happened when a group of elite golfers decided to form a separate world tour so as to optimise their earnings outside the world body. They were informed that they had complete right to do so but would lose their right to compete in events such as the Masters, Ryder Cup and British Open.”

Henderson threatens similar sanctions against any sailor or official involved in a breakaway America’s Cup, principally a ban on Olympic participation. His response to Schnackenberg, bounced around the world by email, is surprisingly personal, but Henderson’s maintains ISAF offers value for money for its services as well as ploughing back vast sums into the sport. “Asking for a fee from the America’s Cup equal to the retail cost of one set of sails per syndicate seems to me to be more than reasonable,” he states.

Henderson and Ireland’s Ken Ryan go to Auckland later this month to discuss the matter: so far, compromise does appear to be on the agenda.