Sailing: Top Gun on water with flight key to America’s Cup fight

FILE PHOTO: A rainbow appears on the Auckland skyline featuring Sky Tower in New Zealand, July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo

January 15, 2021

By Alexander Smith

(Reuters) – Kitted out more like fighter jet pilots than sailors, three crews from Britain, Italy and the United States begin a series of dog fights this week to claim the Prada Cup in New Zealand.

At stake for INEOS Team UK, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team and New York Yacht Club American Magic is the chance to challenge Emirates Team New Zealand for the 36th America’s Cup.

While the America’s Cup may be the oldest trophy in international sport it has always been a design-led race, with the AC75 class of “foiling” monohulls which the teams have developed for this event now at the cutting edge of engineering.

Critical to how the teams fare in the Prada Cup, which begins off Auckland on Friday to decide on who gets to challenge the Kiwis in March, is how they “fly” the futuristic craft.

The AC75s lift out of the water on hydrofoils and have already hit nearly 50 knots (93 kilometres per hour), testing the limits of their 11-man crew and making helmets, body armour and emergency breathing apparatus essential to safety.

Racing was curtailed in 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic, but a short December World Series event which included the defenders gave a glimpse of how tight the two-boat battles might be as teams hone sails, hulls and foils to eke out extra speed.

Although the home team won overall they were beaten once by American Magic, led by veteran Terry Hutchinson, who came second and go into the Prada Cup as favourites ahead of Max Sirena’s Luna Rossa and INEOS Team UK.

The British had a disastrous series aboard Britannia, wrestling with technical problems which prevented them from finishing some races and meant they were at times much slower.

“It’s a development game,” skipper Ben Ainslie said after losing to the Kiwis, and in a series of practice races this week the British have shown much improved boat speed and stability.

The Prada Cup runs from Jan. 15, when American Magic race INEOS Team UK in the first encounter, to Feb. 22 and is followed by the America’s Cup itself from March 6 to March 15.

(This story corrects spelling of Hutchinson in paragraph 7)

(Reporting by Alexander Smith; Editing by Toby Davis)

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Key Crow signs three-year contract extension

Adelaide defender Brodie Smith has signed a three-year contract extension with the Crows.

The 28-year-old is now tied to the club until the end of 2024.

The ever-reliable Smith has only missed one game in the last two seasons playing across half back and pushing into the midfield.

“I absolutely love this footy club and I’m so happy to be signing on for another three years,” Smith said in a club press release.

“We’re building a really strong culture here and it’s exciting to see how quickly our younger guys are developing and driving the standards, pushing all of us to get better every single day.

“I can’t wait to see their continued growth this year and play my part in helping them to improve wherever I can.”

Smith has played 183 career games for the Crows.

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The two young key forwards with bright futures according to Harry Taylor

Star Geelong defender Harry Taylor announced his retirement following the 2020 season.

Taylor played 280 career games for the Cats, including two premierships in 2009 and 2011 and has played on the great key forwards of the game since entering the league in 2008.

With his wealth of knowledge, Taylor named the two young key forwards across the league he rates highly.

“I think Eric Hipwood is going to be a really good player. He’s young at the moment, but certainly has a lot of tricks,” he told Sportsday WA.

“With a little more development he’s going to be a really tough player to play on.

“Aaron Naughton, whether he stays forward or back I’m not too sure, but he’s just got something a little bit different about him when I played on him a couple of times.

“You just get a sense that this guy is going to be something pretty special.

“There’s quite a few of them out there and I’m a little thankful I don’t have to play on them anymore.”

Hipwood has played 94 games for Brisbane and kicked 137 goals, while Naughton has played 53 for the Bulldogs and kicked 49 after starting his career in defence.

The 34-year-old was also full of praise for long-time opponent Josh Kennedy and his game.

“In more modern times, I think Josh Kennedy is one of the more outstanding forwards more from a selfless point of view and what he does for his teammates,” Taylor said.

Taylor is confident he left Geelong’s backline in a strong position going forward and is confident they can fill his void.

“I walk away, specifically when I think about the backline, I came into a very, very strong backline when I started and I leave a very, very good backline in 2020, which is really satisfying,” he said.

“It probably made the decision a little bit easier as well. I didn’t feel like I was letting the team down by retiring.

“I felt like the boys, particularly in the backline, are ready to go and will certainly be fine without me there.”

Taylor has signed with Northampton in the Great Northern Football League in WA for 2021.

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Irish whiskey makers eye Asia as COVID hits key US market

TOKYO/SHANGHAI — Irish whiskey makers, reliant until now on coronavirus-hit Europe and the U.S., have sniffed opportunity in Asia.

Walsh Whiskey entered the Asian market early 2020 to expand its core brands, Writers’ Tears and The Irishman. The company formed partnerships with distributors in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

The Irish whiskey maker had earlier started to sell its products in Malaysia, but moved into large-scale exports to Asia as regional governments seemed successful in containing the spread of coronavirus.

“Asia does appear to have better control of COVID than other regions globally. That relative stability helps new products like ours,” Bernard Walsh, managing director of Walsh, told Nikkei Asia, adding, “This is a long-term investment, and we appreciate that Asia is composed of a diverse set of economies operating at different speeds.”

The company is focusing on making a strong impression — especially in Japan, the biggest market in the region. He called Japan the “jewel in the crown” of Asia.

Walsh joins other Irish whiskey producers vying for the lucrative Asian market, such as Hyde Irish Whiskey.

Hyde too considers Japan to be an important market. Hyde CEO Conor Hyde said, “Japan represents an exceptionally large whiskey market, and even a small shift of overall whiskey sales to Irish could offer substantial volume growth.”

Ireland is one of the world’s five greatest whiskey-producing countries. Scottish whiskey, one of the world’s most recognized, generally has a smoky taste. Irish whiskey is known for its smoothness and mellowness.

Asian consumers, however, are largely unacquainted with Irish whiskey, with the drink making up just 0.04% of total whiskey consumption by volume in the region in 2019, according to Euromonitor.

Japanese and Scottish distillers are considered the big players, with about 5.9% share each in Asia. Irish spirits are categorized as premium spirits. For example, Hyde No. 3 The Aras Cask is priced in Japan at around 5,500 yen ($53.12) per 0.7 liter.

Even as Japanese whiskey makers such as Suntory look overseas, worried about the aging population of their home market, Irish makers see opportunity in Japan.

Joe Moore from Bord Bia — the Irish Food Board — told Nikkei that also Japan’s population is slowly decreasing, and research suggests that young people are drinking less than previous generations, there is a focus on “less but better.” He added that “Irish producers are focused on the premium categories and in general aren’t targeting the lower-valued categories on offer in traditional bars.”

Yasuhiro Ueda from Nihon Shurui Hanbai, a Tokyo-based liquor wholesaler, agreed with Moore, saying the “consumer is looking for premiums and something unique.”

The wholesaler began introducing Irish whiskey early 2020, choosing Hyde as its first brand. Ueda said, “Hyde is different from other Irish whiskey in its taste and focuses on its barrel,” which matches consumer demand.

“It is too expensive to enjoy every day, but Hyde was delicious,” said a self-employed man in his 30s, named Chiba, who bought his first Irish whiskey last spring. “After work sometimes, I want to drink something premium even if the price is high.” He said he had not drunk beer since shifting to whiskey some time ago.

He is the sort of young Asian customer that Hyde hopes to attract. A Hyde representative said the company is targeting male and female whiskey fans roughly between the ages of 25 and 45.

CEO Hyde, who is also the founder of the company, said, “We project that Asia’s increasing population, income growth levels and relatively early recovery from COVID [compared to the U.S. and Europe] will help to rapidly increase Hyde Irish whiskey sales in this region over the next five years.”

Hyde is aiming for 20% annual sales growth in Japan over that period.

Hyde Irish Whiskey Conor Hyde said Asia’s “increasing population, income growth levels and relatively early recovery from COVID” will help its company sales. (Photo courtesy of the company) 

In China, a new market for Hyde, the company is aiming to sell 5,000 cases in 2021.

China has a small and evolving group of wine drinkers who are turning to whiskey, John Isacs, a food and beverage critic with over two decades of experience in China, told Nikkei. “In particular, the single malt, a common whiskey, has become fashionable in the past two years in China’s first-tier cities among wine-loving, cigar-smoking and well-traveled businesspeople.”

He added, “Irish whiskey is not the mainstream, as it is a different animal, as its distillation progress is slightly different. It doesn’t have the prestige of Scottish or Japanese whisky.”

As in many other businesses, cracking Asia’s biggest market is big challenge.

To win market share, Isacs said, whiskey sellers needed to reach out to young cocktail-drinkers because “they are the future.”

Rather counterintuitively, the higher price for imported whiskeys could actually be a draw for affluent Chinese consumers who want to be associated with premium brands. “People in the 35 to 45 age range make a statement with [such products],” he said.

In China, the market for spirits is dominated by white wine and baijiu, distilled from sorghum, and affluent drinkers of Western spirits traditionally opt for brandy, including cognac.

But that did not stop Bord Bia from pushing Irish whiskey in the Chinese market.

“Young drinkers are now looking for something new, and a lot of them are turning to whiskey and new brand spirits,” said Dale Breheny, Bord Bia’s marketing adviser.

Both Irish whiskey and Irish cream received a boost recently when they were included in an agreement between the EU and China that should protect them from counterfeit products from 2021. Under the agreement, Irish whiskey and Irish cream liqueur have to be produced in Ireland.

Irish whiskey accounted for about one-fifth of total alcohol exports to China in 2019, and it has grown by over five times in the past five years, according to Bord Bia.

Even so, it is considered new in China among traditional drinkers who prefer baijiu, which is often served at social gatherings and weddings. To penetrate further into the market, Bord Bia will focus on markets in first-tier cities, including Shanghai and Shenzhen.

“This is a growing category,” said Breheny. “We don’t need to [convert] drinkers from other categories. I don’t think the baijiu drinkers are going to change what they drink. There is space for everyone.”

For Irish whiskey makers, the U.S. market has been the biggest export destination for a long time. According to the “Irish Spirits Market Report 2019,” based on a market study by beverage research company IWSR, the largest export market for Irish whiskey — including Irish cream liqueur and the country’s traditional distilled beverage poitin — was the U.S., at 42% of the total. Outside its home market, the biggest markets after the U.S. are global travel retail, Russia and the U.K. 

However, the coronavirus pandemic paralyzed the economies of all these important markets, and makers are trying to diversify to the East because, “as the situation regarding coronavirus is relatively calm in Asia, the level of [whiskey] consumption is normalizing, especially in China and Japan,” Moore told Nikkei. “Consumption hasn’t reached that of previous years, but the market condition is recovering.”

On top of that, Irish companies “have been working hard to diversify their markets due to Brexit,” Moore noted, referring to Britain’s divorce from the EU.

Another Irish distiller, Origin Spirits Ireland, is also trying to expand distribution in Asia, after it started to sell in Singapore and Japan. Managing Director Patrick Shelley told Nikkei that it aimed to be among the top 10 brands in Asian whiskey markets by mid-2022.

Shelley said, “Asia has the potential to become the largest market for Irish whiskey in the next 10 years. Irish whiskey is still relatively unknown in Asia, but its style and taste appear to appeal to the Asian palate.”

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Personalised experiences the key to customer loyalty

Australian small businesses have been through a lot this year, and there’s never been more focus on honouring customer relationships and building loyalty. With businesses adapting to new ways of working and Australian consumer habits evolving, it’s never been more important for businesses to leverage insights to understand the changing needs and expectations of their customers.

Anticipate your customers’ needs

Personalisation and consistency have always been central to a great customer experience. There are now added elements to consider, like health and safety, but the basic principles of superior customer experience – ensuring they feel understood and valued – remain the same. The method of delivery, however, is changing. The proliferation of eCommerce, which has seen record online sales in recent months, means a good customer experience is about providing effective, memorable services across all your sales channels.

Online stores can use search and purchase-based data to personalise the customer experience. For example, when shoppers are recommended products that are tailored to their previous activities on the site. These recommendations, that align with your customers’ interests, are what they expect to see when they visit an online store today. Be careful not to overwhelm them, presenting too many options can lead to “analysis paralysis” which often results in purchase anxiety and a rise in abandoned online shopping carts. The next era of personalisation is about simplifying purchasing decisions for customers, using technology to serve hyper-targeted experiences and products aligned to their needs and wants.

Develop deeper customer relationships

Truly understanding customers is about knowing what they want, their pain points and even their goals. Many brands now use profiling tools, like surveys and quizzes, to understand their customers better and use those insights to fuel their sales funnel and develop a more personalised strategy. For your small business, this is crucial. Whether through email, an online survey or a simple question at the point-of-sale in your store, if a customer can see your business is taking the time to better understand what they want, their loyalty will grow.

Provide options that make customers feel safe

Right now, personalised experience can also simply mean meeting them where they are, both physically and in terms of their shopping mindset. Since the onset of COVID-19, consumers have varying comfort levels with how they are able to shop so providing a variety of purchasing options will meet their individual needs. While some shoppers are more than happy to shop in-store, others might prefer options such as click and collect, or ordering online for delivery. No matter their preference, one consistent factor that needs to be front of mind for businesses right now is providing contactless payments. Recent research from Square revealed that almost one in three Australian businesses turned effectively cashless during the pandemic as staff and consumers alike shunned cash handling.

Nurture your existing customers

To cater to the needs of contemporary consumers, many of whom are active across multiple channels, many businesses are now pursuing an omnichannel strategy that blends physical and online strategies to engage their loyal customers. Google research found that 90 per cent of global shoppers search online prior to visiting a store. That’s why implementing tools that will streamline your operation, from marketing through to point-of-sale, and enables you to capture data at every touch point is crucial.

With insightful data, you can develop stronger recommendations that make customer decision-making easier, ultimately unlocking better retention and more loyalty. Delivering products and services in a targeted way, based on information from strong customer relationships, will be key to success for small businesses across Australia as we recover from the post-pandemic economic downturn.

Chris Rich, head of customer success, Square Australia

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Key moments from the National Cabinet press conference after meeting on UK coronavirus strain

National Cabinet has agreed to a range of changes to try and prevent as much as possible a more infectious strain of the coronavirus, originally from the United Kingdom, finding its way into the Australian community again in the future.

At the moment, 80 per cent of Australians overseas are in countries that have confirmed cases from the new strain.

While health authorities had considered blocking flights from countries where the strain is, they didn’t recommend the Government go down that path.

“That would be a very significant step, but it would have meant not just one country — it’d mean the whole world,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Here are five of the key changes announced today.

International passenger caps reduced

Starting in the coming week, the number of international arrivals allowed in to New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia is halving.

NSW will now accept 1,500 a week, while Queensland and WA will accept 500 each.

South Australia’s weekly cap of 600 is staying put, as is Victoria’s, which is still running at a lower capacity of 1,120 a week after their second wave outbreak.

As for the other jurisdictions, they’re still working out their arrangements with the Commonwealth on a case-by-case basis.

The Prime Minister said it would take a little while for the numbers to drop given some flights were already booked in for the coming few days.

Crew and passengers on all international and domestic flights will have to wear masks.(Reuters: Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Masks while travelling mandatory

While some airlines and health officials have already been recommending people wear masks while they travel, it’s now mandatory.

“That includes passengers to wear masks throughout international flights, crew to wear masks,” Mr Morrison said.

He said it was going from a “should”-wear basis to a “must”-wear basis.

Children under 12 are exempt.

Tests before and after flights

From now, anyone from overseas coming back to Australia will have to have a rapid COVID test before they leave and prove they’ve returned a negative result.

If they test positive they — and any of their close contacts who are also planning on flying home — will be banned from boarding a flight back to Australia.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said this was something the Government was already doing on the flights it’s organised to the Northern Territory, with 15 people being turned away recently after they tested positive.

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The key Bomber that must lift in 2021

Nick Dal Santo has run through his New Year’s resolutions for Essendon, highlighting where they need to improve in 2021.

In particular, he has zeroed in on midfielder Dylan Shiel. After a strong start to 2020, Shiel dropped away and nearly missed the Bombers’ best and fairest top 10 altogether.

“Dylan Shiel to be an All-Australian quality midfielder (in 2021) – he is at his very best.”

“I think if he’s anywhere near that, they’re in a really good position as well.

“He came 10th in their best and fairest last year – is that staggering?

“Is there a solution to be the All-Australian midfielder that he should be?”

Under new coach Ben Rutten, Dal Santo urges the Bombers to build a game style that can be executed consistently.

“(They need to) have an identity in regards to a game style that is (their) own, that is consistent and one you can relate to as a Bombers supporter,” he said.

“As a supporter, you don’t know who they are, you don’t know what their ball-use is like, you don’t know how they defend, you don’t know who’s doing what at any particular time.

“Be who you are, find your identity.”

Dal Santo is excited to see how trade period recruit Peter Wright fairs in this Essendon line-up, feeling he could step immediately into their best 22.

“The last one is Peter Wright. He is your new focal point,” he said.

“You got him as a focal point and you have other players in that forward line and he doesn’t need to do a lot of ruck because of Sam Draper.

“But he is their focal point going forward and they have been desperate for this kind of role.

“You’ve got Jake Stringer who’s that hybrid role, you’ve got Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, you’ve got Devon Smith, you’ve got all these smalls that can work around him, but you just need a bail-out option when you are under pressure and that midfield has been under pressure for a long time.”

Wright did not play a game for the Suns in 2020, stuck behind Ben King and Sam Day in the pecking order.

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Publisher Correction: Key role of chemistry versus bias in electrocatalytic oxygen evolution

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    Australian citizen and campaigner for ex-Muslim women Zara Key arrested in Tanzania

    An Australian woman who has renounced her Islamic faith and campaigns globally for women’s rights has been arrested and charged in Tanzania, the country of her birth.

    Supporters of Zara Kay say she was summoned to a police station in the city of Dar es Salaam on December 28 then held in custody for 32 hours.

    In 2018, Ms Kay founded Faithless Hijabi, an organisation which supports women who have been ostracised or abused for leaving Islam.

    The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims believes that while in police custody, Zara Kay was questioned about the work of the organisation and why she left Islam.

    Ms Kay is understood to have been charged over a satirical social media post critical of the Tanzanian President’s handling of COVID-19, as well as not returning her Tanzanian passport after gaining Australian citizenship.


    The Monash University-educated activist is also believed to have been charged with using a phone SIM card not registered in her name, a charge which has been used to prosecute other high-profile cases in the country.

    In a statement, the Coalition of Ex-Muslims has called on the Tanzanian Government to immediately drop all charges against Zara Kay and allow her to leave the country

    “The constitution of Tanzania enshrines secularism as a state principle and recognises freedom of expression and of conscience,” it said.


    Authorities are believed to have confiscated her Australian passport before bailing her on December 29 and ordering her to return to the police station on New Year’s Eve.

    Concern is now growing for the activist’s welfare, with supporters saying she was hospitalised with Generalised Anxiety Disorder which has been exacerbated by her time in custody.

    A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) spokesperson has confirmed consular assistance is being provided to the Australian passport holder.

    “The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to an Australian in Tanzania.”

    “Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment,” the spokesperson added.

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    The key takeaways for global markets in 2020

    Stocks have established one record after another while economies have had to deal with another wave of COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths that has surprised most in terms of intensity and speed of spread while complicating the journey to vaccine-induced herd immunity.Explanations

    Chasing price action

    Unless you are, as I am, a great believer in the overwhelming influence on markets of ample and predictable central bank liquidity, particularly from the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, it has been difficult to find a durable narrative to explain and predict this year’s exceptional price action in financial markets.

    Indeed, rather than narratives leading market action, market action has led to a series of consensus explanations that often proved serially inconsistent.

    I can think of several examples, including the three conflicting political narratives that were embraced widely by market participants in the middle of the year to “explain” consistently rising stocks: High prospects for the re-election of President Donald Trump with a lower-tax, less-regulation agenda; a divided government that would keep it sidelined and allow business to flourish unhindered by interference; and a blue (Democratic Party) wave that would result in huge fiscal stimulus that would significantly boost demand.

    The dual liquidity phenomenon


    This year investors experienced illiquidity in what are the biggest and traditionally the most liquid markets and liquidity in usually illiquid segments. Specifically, March will be remembered as the moment when even flows in US Treasury bonds, the benchmark of all global benchmarks, were disrupted sharply.

    A few weeks later, the Fed’s intervention in markets, including surprise purchases of high-yield securities, injected liquidity far and wide and induced “cross over” investors to venture well away from their normal habitat.

    By the end of the year, the deep belief in an everlasting “central bank put” has meant that, of all risks facing investors, those associated with liquidity have returned to being the most underappreciated.

    The search for risk mitigation

    The more central banks have succeeded in repressing market yields on “risk free” government bonds (and confronted investors with little to no income and adversely asymmetric price risk), the more investors have searched for new and more attractive ways to mitigate risk – so much so that a growing number of market commentators commented during 2020 on the prospective death of the traditional 60/40 stock-bond portfolio.

    Many investors, and particularly those facing negative yields on government bonds, have ventured to other areas of the fixed-income market in an attempt to offset the risks associated with their considerable equity positions.

    What started as purchases of short-maturity investment-grade bonds – on the correct premise that the Fed has put them under a protective umbrella with its own buying – has evolved to include debt with significantly higher default risk, such as high-yield and some emerging-market bonds.

    Others have adopted more of a basket approach, adding gold, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to what traditionally consisted just of government bonds.

    The lack of emerging-market accidents

    Emerging economies have found themselves in a perfect economic storm because of COVID-related disruptions. Because of the global economic “sudden stop” and the geographically uneven recovery that has followed, many have seen export revenues collapse, tourism earnings disappear and inflows of foreign direct investment evaporate, with some even facing the prospects of outflows.


    Yet, with the exception of pre-existing condition countries such as Argentina, Ecuador and Lebanon, the vast majority of emerging markets avoided debt defaults and significant restructurings. Indeed, with liquidity returning quickly to financial markets, and with investors encouraged to search aggressively for greater yields, a record level of EM bonds was issued at exceptionally low risk spreads and overall yields.

    Combined, and unlike what most have faced around the world, these five factors add up to a year that has given investors a great deal of what they could wish for – especially in terms of handsome returns with notably low volatility outside of a few weeks around March that seem to have been quickly forgotten.

    They are also factors that speak to the dominant market influence of central banks, which anchors an unhealthy co-dependent relationship that most investors are keen to continue regardless of the declining benefits for longer-term economic and financial well-being, together with mounting collateral damage and the spread of unintended consequences.

    This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    Mohamed A. El-Erian is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is president of Queens’ College, Cambridge; chief economic adviser at Allianz SE, the parent company of Pimco where he served as CEO and co-CIO; and chair of Gramercy Fund Management. His books include ‘The Only Game in Town’ and ‘When Markets Collide.’


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