Venezia Challenge: Serious America's Cup challenger or publicity stunt?
The 34th America's Cup is still in its infant stages. BMW Oracle won the 33rd edition of the world's oldest sports trophy less than 5 months ago in Valencia, the first official press conference took place in Roma less than 2 months ago while the first draft of the governing rules was published a mere 5 days ago. Finally, the official challenging period still hasn't opened and will run from October until next January.
There is, obviously, a number of teams despite lacking the official stamp as challengers have stated quite often their intention to do so, such as Emirates Team New Zealand, Team Origin or Artemis, to name a few. So far, technically speaking, the only team to have challenged BMW Oracle, is Mascalzone Latino, the Challenger of Record. The other Italian long-standing America's Cup participant, Luna Rossa, hasn't made any official announcement and its owner, Patrizio Bertelli, hasn't publicly voiced his opinion on the draft protocol, or any other issues concerning the 34th America's Cup.
Yet it is from Italy that, out of the blue, came the news about a potential team for this edition of the trophy. It appears that a businessman from Milan called Carlo Magna was mandated 2 years ago by the then mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, to create an America's Cup team in order to represent the historical Italian city, called Venezia Challenge. Apparently, the project didn't go through until last Tuesday when a press release was sent announcing that an Italian lawyer called Emanuela Pulcino had filed an application in the Milan Chamber of Commerce for the registration of the trademark of "Venezia Challenge". According to the same release, the trademark "refers to categories 12 (vehicles, apparatus for locomotion by land air or water) and 25 (clothing, footwear, headgear)." There is practically nothing more in the release other than a statement that according to "reliable sources" it is almost certain a yacht with the name Venezia Challenge will take part in the 34th America's Cup.
Very little is known of Carlo Magna and our Italian sources don't have any further information on him or the alleged team. They do have a website, www.veneziachallenge.com (obviously) as well as a twitter account www.twitter.com/Venezia_34AC. Is this for serious or just a publicity stunt?
One aspect that might reveal the seriousness (or lack of it) of the alleged team is their apparent discontent with the entry fee and performance bond required by BMW Oracle, 1.5 million euros (not dollars as put in the statement) and 3 million dollars respectively. This translates to roughly 5 million dollars, far higher than the 50 thousand euros Alinghi was requiring 2 years ago in their effort to have as many teams as possible, probably hoping this would play in their favor in the long legal dispute against BMW Oracle. I can't believe that anyone serious enough to join the top sailing competition in the world would have expected the entry fee not to be at least over 1 million dollars! It is not the TP52 circuit.
Here's what Carlo Magna stated to the Italian news agency Adnkronos (the translation is mine):
"We believe that the draft protocol is essentially positive", states businessman Carlo Magna, who together with his business partner Emanuela Pulcino is in charge of Venezia Challenge, "although we consider that the US$ 1.5 million inscription fee and US$ 3 million bank guarantee do not seem consistent with what has been previously stated by the Defender on cost containment measures. We understand, and appreciate, that the objective of the Defender is to select Challengers with a high technical level, but there is a risk that this choice limits the participation only to very "liquid" owners and discourages emerging projects, such as Venezia Challenge, that come with the intention of having more companies joining the project."
"We learn with pleasure, though", continues Magna, "that there is a sensitivity towards the return on investment for the sponsors and partners, as well as the choice of an organizing independent authority (called America's Cup Race Management, ACRM), neutral management (the Regatta Director will be designated and appointed by the WSTA) and the powers of the independent Jury."