You can tell a lot about the importance of the recent America’s Cup World Series event in Naples by who was there and who wasn’t.

As I write, the final ACWS regatta was about to begin so I can’t tell you who won. But from the entry list of nine teams in AC45 catamarans, we can deduce that for the Defender and Challenger of Record - respectively Oracle Team USA and Artemis Racing - the outcome in Naples was not top of their priority list for April. This did not escape the notice of Grant Dalton, the head of Emirates Team New Zealand, who some weeks before Naples had this to say: “We will be there with a full-strength crew. Is it just us or does anyone else think it is hypocrisy that neither Artemis nor Oracle is sending their A team to Naples? These are the teams that said Emirates Team New Zealand wouldn't support the ‘future’.”

Where Oracle and Artemis were each fielding two teams in last year’s regattas, in Naples there was just one apiece. For the first time at the helm of the Oracle boat was Tom Slingsby. As multiple Laser World Champion and last year’s Olympic Champion in the singlehanded hiking boat there is no question that the 28-year-old Australian is one of the most accomplished sailors of his generation. But he’s not their ‘A list’ helmsman. That continues to be James Spithill, who was not in Naples.

Spithill and the bulk of the Oracle crew remain hard at work training on their AC72, as does nearly all of Artemis Racing. While last year’s star signing, 49er Olympic Champion Nathan Outteridge, is busy testing a modified foiling AC45 on San Francisco Bay, the Swedish AC45 in Naples was steered by 23-year-old 49er sailor Charlie Ekberg. A virtual unknown, Ekberg was being crewed by a number of familiar faces from the ACWS circuit, albeit in their capacity as crew of the Team Korea AC45 over the past two seasons.

While Team Korea paid the US$200,000 entry fee last year to enter the Louis Vuitton Cup with an AC72, not only was the 72-footer not built but there was no Team Korea on the start line in Naples. This is a shame for a team that had little money yet spent very wisely on hiring young talent that often showed the big teams the way round the track. Thanks to the small teams who came to do battle in the AC45s over the past three seasons, the ACWS has opened the door for a whole new generation of talent to compete at the highest level.

But to pick up on Grant Dalton’s gripe at the top of the story, for the ACWS to survive, and thrive, it needs to be seen as a grade one series in its own right, with the very best sailors seen to be on the start line - not too busy testing for another more important event. It would be like Red Bull pulling Sebastian Vettel out of a Formula One Grand Prix event so he could fly to the US to compete in the Indy 500 for a weekend. If the rest of us are expected to take the ACWS seriously, so too should Oracle and Artemis. The fact that they have remained testing in San Francisco highlights the dilemma that faces all America’s Cup holders. Oracle, and Russell Coutts specifically, have great ambitions to revolutionise the Cup. But when push comes to shove, the only thing that really matters to any Defender is winning the next Cup. And that’s why the A Team weren’t in Naples.