PARIS — Louis Vuitton is reentering the sailing sponsorship race.
The luxury goods brand next year will host an international yachting event in Auckland, New Zealand. Called the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, the event will be held during New Zealand’s summer, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 14.
“I think the world of sailing will be really excited,” Vuitton chief executive officer Yves Carcelle said at a press conference here Monday.
The move marks a return to the sailing calendar for Vuitton, which withdrew its 25-year sponsorship of the America’s Cup qualifying races last year, citing its overly commercial approach. The America’s Cup, yachting’s top prize, remains plagued by legal wrangling between biotech billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, head of the Swiss syndicate that currently holds the cup, and Oracle’s Larry Ellison, who has mounted a series of court challenges to Bertarelli’s plans for the next series.
All participants in what was known as the Louis Vuitton Cup are invited to contend for the Pacific Series, which has the backing of the New Zealand government, plus the New Zealanders who won the 2007 event and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
Auckland was selected thanks to the welcome it gave the America’s Cup in 1999 in addition to Vuitton’s commercial interests in the country, which it entered in 1991. There are four Vuitton stores there, including two in Auckland, one in Christchurch and another in Queenstown. Neighboring Australia is also home to many Vuitton boutiques.
While specific products will not be created for the series, some best-selling Vuitton Cup pieces may be reintroduced, Carcelle noted.
Selected on a “first come, first served” basis, six to eight teams will compete in the one-off competition, said Bruno Troublé, the Pacific Series organizer.
Emphasizing this is not a new version of the Vuitton Cup, executives said rather than another competition of technological prowess, teams in the Pacific Series will sail in the same two yachts, which will be as technically identical as possible.
Three or four regattas will be held daily following a two-mile, hour-long course between the port of Auckland and the Rangitoto Volcano, with viewing points provided for spectators on land.
Executives declined to disclose the level of investment. “It’s less than Valencia,” Carcelle joked, referring to the city that hosted the final Vuitton Cup.
Meanwhile, a book feting the Louis Vuitton Cup’s quarter century, a retrospective of all seven editions, will be published next month.