With two university degrees, an MBA and work experience in London and Madrid before returning to her native Barcelona, María del Mar de Ros took a look at the Olympic sailing as Mónica Azón's sparring partner for her Rio 2012 campaign at ILCA 6. Jordi Xammar I ask for your help to form the team for the Youth America's Cup 2013 and when they finished they decided to continue with the project to get into professional sailing on foil boats. His plans were precipitated by the offer to enter SailGp before the conclusion of the Tokyo Olympic campaign. But it was a train that they did not know if it would happen again and they decided to get on. María del Mar de Ros requested a leave of absence from work and jumped in.
How did you find the circuit?
I was surprised by how professional it is, it is like a company. I come from the world of banking and financial consulting, a sector that is considered top in its level of demand, due to its attention to detail and client relationships, and I discovered that working at SAILGP was the same. Russell Coutts is a person with a very cold entrance, but then he shows passion, he always showed us that he wanted a young team and that he believed in us.
Does it depend a lot on the SAILGP central organization?
Yes, until we buy the franchise we are totally dependent on them. I owe myself to Larry Ellison and Coutts. Now all teams depend on SAILGP except Great Britain who bought their franchise and Denmark. The Danes have a hybrid system, as they provide significant patronage and have rights that are different from ours, but also from Great Britain. Logically we adapt the project to the Spanish market. I intervene by proposing or giving my opinion to general SAILGP issues directly related to Spain, such as the choice of television channels, etc. For example, we were able to have more simulator sessions by cutting other games.
How do they make decisions in the Spanish team?
I have autonomy to choose the people of the team, but in terms of the crew Russell has to give his approval. He has his opinion and, even if he does not impose it, his point of view is always logical. He wants the best for the circuit and each of the teams. Internally, we make decisions jointly with Jordi Xammar and Florián Trittel. The three of us form the core of the team, and three is a number that avoids “you or me” decisions. I have good professional training and work experience in management, but I don't know as much about sailing as they do. My dream is to form a structure and people in management, so that if I retire they can move on. As a team we are very close, very well embedded, we are a pineapple. I don't know what makes this unit exist, but it is one of the strengths of our team, something that others recognize and envy.
How long do you have to continue being financed by SailGP?
At the end of this season we have three more. Every year we must meet sales targets, although at any time they can do without your team. They know the peculiarities of each team and act with knowledge of the facts. At first they wanted skippers to be the CEOs of their teams, but they realized that it doesn't always work. We and the Frenchman are teams with a CEO who is not a skipper. Parallel to the sports competition, the CEOs have an equally stressful economic competition. If you do not own the franchise, your survival on the circuit depends on the possible arrival of new teams, and if your team is in the last places in the ranking, which considers sporting and financial performance, you can fall, stay out.
Shall we talk about figures?
SailGP's initial contribution 7 million dollars to cover all expenses, including our proportionate share of the expenses of the circuit , registration, boat and material rental, in addition to the expenses of our team. The main sponsorship entitled to the team name is 4 million, and there are other smaller sponsorship categories. We have a lot of pressure to get the money that will ensure us stay in the circuit, because they have many proposals from teams from all over the world to enter. We must try to be the best placed in the ranking of sports and financial performance. Ownership of the franchise costs about $ 20 million. My idea is to be able to sell shares of team ownership, the circuit is growing and has more and more value, and in a short time team ownership will also be worth more.
How is your search for sponsorships going?
I think that after the event in Cádiz people opened their eyes. It was very difficult for us to be received to present the project, because they did not know what it was. They equated it with the typical sponsorship of a regatta team, and this is not just sailing, it is like F1 or MotoGP, it has a lot of showmanship. The pandemic did not help us either, but it is true that now they are more receptive and we hold quite a few meetings. Having an event in Spain helps to convince companies, even that we do the event in a certain city whenever it is technically possible. For the first event in Cádiz we had proposals from many Spanish cities.
What will the immediate future of SailGP be like?
For the 2022 season they are 10 events planned, and we talk about 16 in the next one. We are studying how to shorten the times of assembling and disassembling the boats to be able to move the “circus” from one venue to another faster. The calendar is geographically structured to minimize transport times between events. It will be quite intense, but in motorsport they have been doing it for years. It will cost a little more, but there will be much more visibility and opportunities for sponsors.
Will the sports format change?
Hardly, maybe some small retouching is done, but the essence is the same. We want the regattas to be short, the habits of the youth have changed. For them, a video that lasts more than a minute on social media is long. One of the concepts of SailGP is entertainment, that the competition is also a television and digital show, we want everyone to understand it. Stadium sailing, short regattas and even a vocabulary that, especially in Spain, differs greatly from nautical terms, are necessary to achieve this.
Is the crew still the same?
Now, in a post-Olympic year, we hope to make the crew more stable and totally Spanish. We trust that Jordi Xammar can join as a skipper as soon as possible, and the others are all following. Florián Trittel, Diego Botín, Joan Cardona and Mateu Barber. The woman is scheduled to be Tara Pacheco and Andrea Emone as a substitute. But we are very aware of the reserves, due to possible injuries and affectations of COVID 19. Joel Rodríguez is a valuable wild card when he covers several positions. Ñeti Cuevas-Mons will continue to replace the two starting grinders.
Will Cádiz repeat as host in 2022?
Yes, we signed for two seasons and we will be back next year. We are very happy with the acceptance of the event and the success of the public. For the future we will see, from the beginning we have had many other interested cities, but we chose Cádiz. The local authorities are very satisfied. But right now the possible venue for 2023 is a distant issue. Also, except in the United States, there have not been two events in one country.
What would change SailGP?
Honestly, all the topics We thought they could be improved, they have worked and they are becoming a reality, I think we are on the right track, there is a good strategic plan. The issue of giving women more visibility has already taken shape with the appointment of a person in charge. The idea is to create a parallel league, but my criticism is that women already have a greater presence on board, that they begin to occupy key positions. We have to give them tools, because if they are not at a disadvantage with the current crew members. It seems to me that, if only one woman can travel to each event, if the second girl on the team suffers a problem, she will not be able to make the substitution. But I am not radical because the effort that has been made and the new project are generous.
Is the entire organization group very masculine?
Although some women have positions of certain importance, it is true that it is a very masculine world. The hard core of SailGP is made up of a woman and three men. Of the ten team leaders I am the only woman. But the most complicated thing is that they are all successful sailors, and when they talk about technical issues in a meeting, I previously consult with Jordi to prepare it. At the management level I have no complexes, neither because I am a woman nor because of my professional experience. Among the team leaders I do not perceive poses of superiority or contempt.
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