America's Cup 2017: Torbjorn Tornqvist praises 'natural leader' Iain Percy

 

A British double Olympic gold medallist stood proudly with the America’s Cup in the capital of Sweden on Tuesday vowing to throw everything into bringing the “auld mug” to Scandinavia and to ensure a growing Swedish input.

In San Francisco, Auckland, Sardinia, Portsmouth, and Paris jockeying continues as modifications are made to the structure of the next event in 2017, possibly even changing the boat, but Iain Percy, who also has a silver in his collection, and the backer of his Artemis Racing team, Torbjörn Törnqvist, were adamant about two things. First that a current split venue proposal should be rejected and all the elimination and finals racing should be staged in one venue and second that decisions that have been delayed for too long should be made and made quickly.

The entry deadline having past – although there are always provisions for late entries – the defender’s organising America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) did not name the teams which had entered and said it would take until 20 August to assess full compliance.

So far, Team New Zealand has publicly announced its entry and said it has been accepted and the entry fee of $1m. paid into an escrow account at the International Sailing Federation plus a further $75,000 for running costs to ACEA. Britain’s Ben Ainslie Racing announced its intentions at a gala launch staged at Greenwich. The Prada-backed Luna Rossa has proudly been showing visitors round its new base camp in Cagliari, and the Swedes, in the same position as the Kiwis, have publicly mounted their horse and are off at a gallop. The French have yet to leave the parade ring and it is not known whether a darker horse may also be in the saddling enclosure.

None of them knew whether ACEA would duly announce the runners and riders on Wednesday San Francisco time and Percy would only commit himself to saying “we expect something in the next week.”

He has come a long way from being just a feared competitor in the Olympic boat park, as was his both contemporary and successor, the recently knighted Ben Ainslie. “Iain is one of those people who does not have to demand a leadership role, it comes naturally,” said Törnqvist.

Percy, who has an economics degree at Bristol, just says the next cup will be “the best spectacle of any sport” but adds that it is the personality of a team which has six Olympic gold medallists which is at the heart of its motivation. One of those gold medallists is the Californian Rod Davis, won for the United States to which he added a silver for New Zealand and, as well as some significant forays into the top end of Italian sailing, he has been at the heart of Team New Zealand as its coach. His transfer is a notable move.

Percy does not mention the death of his Olympic partner, Andrew Simpson, in a training session last year. He does not have to. That bit of motivation is permanently etched on his face and transmitted through his eyes.

That, after that, the team ever made it to the elimination races in 2013 “was our victory” says Törnqvist, who acknowledges that the holder and defender, Larry Ellison’s Oracle Racing, is “on a different page” from the challengers but Percy says that they are all talking much more since Australia’s Hamilton Island Yacht Club withdrew from its lead role.

What none of them want to see is the event dragged back through the New York courts and for the focus of the action to switch firmly to the race track and away from wrangling over the event’s format.

“We welcome debate but we also believe that certainty over the direction of the event is more important and that decisions which contribute to that certainty and are needed quickly,” said Percy. “We believe that all the ingredients of the most successful America’s Cup ever are all there. Artemis Racing thinks it is time to get on with it.”

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