Remember when the Kiwis were the young, underfunded upstarts of the America’s Cup world, with right on their side as they took on the Big Bad Americans? Remember the withering criticism leveled at Larry Ellison when, in the wake of “The Comeback” on San Francisco Bay, arguably the most exciting Cup regatta ever, he staged his 2017 defense in Bermuda?
Well, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
This past June, at the end of a three-month period during which the city of Auckland had exclusive rights to try and convince Emirates Team New Zealand to stage its 37th Cup defense on the same waters where it successfully defended this past March, ETNZ announced it would begin shopping out the privilege to the highest bidder.
Apparently, the NZ$99 million the Kiwi government was willing to pony up (this in addition to the millions it made in payments and infrastructure improvements in the runup to the 36th Cup) wasn’t enough. According to reports in the Auckland-based New Zealand Herald, ETNZ CEO Grant Dalton wanted twice that.
But don’t worry Kiwi fans. He still loves and respects you. “No matter where in the world we are, we will always be Team New Zealand,” Dalton said in a four-paragraph press release.
At press time, ETNZ was presumably shopping the venue rights to such locales as Valencia, Spain (site of the infamous “Deed of Gift” regatta of between Swiss-flagged Alinghi and BMW Oracle in 2010); Cork, Ireland; the Middle East (of course!); and Cowes, England, with a venue announcement expected sometime in September.
In the Kiwi’s defense, so to speak, it sounds like while they may no longer be as young as they once were, they do once again find themselves seriously underfunded if they wish to keep their best team members from jumping ship to the competition. Dalton has also been making of point of saying Auckland is more than welcome to sweeten the pot. But who are we kidding? It’s safe to say the only reason he’ll stay is if no one else is interested in coming through with the necessary cash.
As for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (technically the Defender, with ETNZ merely serving as it’s “representative”), according to commodore Aaron Young, “We understand the need to help ensure the viability of Emirates Team New Zealand…members were presented with this option, and I believe generally understood this might need to happen.”
How much do you want to bet “generally understood” means the sentiment wasn’t exactly universal?
Shortly after the announcement, The New Zealand Herald also quoted Dalton as justifying ETNZ’s need for money by comparing the situation to when Coutts and a number of other Kiwi sailors jumped ship for Alinghi after NZ’s successful 2000 defense: an almost breathtakingly mercenary act at the time that resulted in the Kiwis going down in defeat in 2003, an event Dalton describes as “one of the worst sporting tragedies in New Zealand’s history.”
Fair enough. Far more tragic, though, would be if the increasingly corporatized series of regattas known to the world as the America’s Cup became so money driven people decided they no longer gave a damn—an opinion already distressingly common within the sailing community. Time was the America’s Cup was a “friendly competition between nations.” These days, though, to quote another famous, albeit fictional, chief executive, “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”
For the latest on the America’s Cup, including updates on where it may ultimately take place and the state of the AC75 full-foiling monohull class, go to americascup.com.