The second part of our interview with Taylor Canfield and Mike Buckley, founders of Stars & Stripes Team USA – the second American team announced as challengers for the 36th America’s Cup in New Zealand in 2021.
YRL: You have partnered with the Long Beach Yacht Club in California for your America’s Cup challenge. Tell us how that relationship came about?
Taylor: Well again it stems from that win at the Congressional Cup. [Earlier this year Taylor and Mike won the Congressional Cup at Long Beach YC after beating a crew from the NYYC American Magic America’s Cup syndicate] It’s probably my favourite event in the world. The yacht club does a tremendous job putting on this amazing event and it’s all member driven.
The community there really just digs deep and gets it done and they put on a show and a spectacle for the rest of the world. To us, that really resonates with what we’re trying to create with our campaign where we are trying to make it as inclusive as possible.
There’s no better yacht club than Long Beach Yacht Club to welcome us all in for the Congressional Cup and I think for this project moving forward as well.
YRL: When did you finally become confident that you were going to be able to get your submission in before the deadline when we saw that flurry of eight challenges all arriving on the final deadline day.
Mike: I think we were always confident that we were going to get there. Although it appeared that we submitted right at the deadline, we had been in close communication with the Defender [Emirates Team New Zealand] and the Challenger of Record [Luan Rossa] for the last year.
So it certainly wasn’t a last-minute entry. Our boat has been under construction and our small design office here in the States has been hard at work. But we know we have a lot of work left to do to make sure that we’re sailing in Auckland in 2021 and with the best team and the best boat and the best people that we can possibly find.
And we know that raising money is a huge part of that. So the fundraising will probably never stop. And I’m sure that most of the other teams are probably in similar shoes.
YRL: Going forwards now how are you going to split your time? Are you two going to focus on the sailing while somebody else fundraises?
Mike: I think as the founders of the team we will always have our fingers on the pulse of the business operation. And I really love that side of it and so does Taylor – getting out there and meeting supporters of our vision and this team and this movement. So I think we’ll certainly be heavily involved in all aspects. But at some stage there will certainly be a shift in focus to the sailing side.
YRL: Did you two get offers to go and sail with other teams in the interim period when you were trying to put this deal together?
Mike: You know, I think there was some opportunity to do that, but we were really focused on our vision and on the movement that we believed needed to happen here in the US to get American sailors back in the America’s Cup and try to get the America’s Cup back to America.
So all along, that was our entire focus – how can we get an all-American team fighting to win the America’s Cup? There just wasn’t another option out there like that and that’s what we loved.
YRL: Certainly the all-American aspect of your campaign really seems to have struck a note with US sailing fans.
Mike: I think that that’s why Americans love the Olympics or why a lot of foreign countries love the soccer World Cup. It’s about national pride and there’s nothing better for that than watching the Olympics. You wouldn’t turn on the Ice Luge or Gymnastics if it wasn’t about national pride.
Here in America when that stuff is on at the Olympics you can’t keep your butt in the seat. You’re cheering and you’re going nuts because that’s your country and we’re all proud of that.
So we thought it was a pretty nice tie in for us and our number one value is to be authentic. I think that that’s a big reason why we’ve seen all the nice comments on social media and in other places which has been incredibly humbling for us.
YRL: To what extent are you going to take this all-American angle? Is this going to be a completely all-American team, right from the sailing team right through to the boat builders and everyone else involved?
Mike: There is not a chance in this world that our sailing team will not be all-American.
YRL: And the rest of the team? The rest of the infrastructure around the sailing team?
Mike: Yeah. As an all-American team our goal is to help bring up new American technologists, new American yacht designers, new American athletes, boat builders – you name it. We are making every possible effort to make that a reality.
Taylor: We’re looking to make the country excited about it. It’s bigger than just the two of us sitting here speaking with you, it’s about bringing everyone in and trying to be as inclusive as possible and get other Americans involved. Because we’ve had this void for a few years now, so we’re looking to put this country back on the map in this sport.
YRL: Are you finding that you’re getting traction with commercial organisations who want to align with that message?
Mike: Yeah. The outpouring of support we’ve received post launch has just been unreal. And we’ve got some major brands that are interested in talking with us and working with us. We are just really excited to continue to explore what’s out there and hopefully we find a couple major sponsors that want come on this journey with Stars & Stripes Team USA.
YRL: Mike, you alluded to it right at the beginning – that the hard work really starts now. What have you guys been doing since you launched and what’s the timeline going forwards?
Mike: In the last week I think I’ve spent just about every hour of everyday on the phone. Taylor’s been working hard honing his foiling skills and we were out on the water together yesterday.
We have been building out our organization, because you can have the best sailors in the world, but we need to have the right organization behind us to make sure that we’re there in 2021 with the right pieces in the right places.