Kiwi ob­ses­sion with Amer­ica’s Cup sinks


Auckland City Harbour News - - SPORT -

The ex­cite­ment and joy has dis­ap­peared from New Zealand’s mag­nif­i­cent ob­ses­sion with the Amer­ica’s Cup.

In 1987, when Michael Fay largely bankrolled New Zealand’s first dip at the Amer­ica’s Cup, off Fre­man­tle, it was ex­hil­a­rat­ing.

There was young New Zealand hotshot Chris Dick­son tak­ing on griz­zled vet­eran Den­nis Con­ner. Ex­cit­ing times.

Then in 1995, with Peter Blake mas­ter­mind­ing the cam­paign and Rus­sell Coutts skip­per­ing the boat, Team New Zealand won the Amer­ica’s Cup hand­somely.

That was when New Zealan­ders mis­tak­enly thought Team New Zealand was a na­tional team. The coun­try rushed to sup­port their boys, buy­ing thou­sands of pairs of lucky red socks.

The victory pa­rades were in­cred­i­ble.

The de­fence in Auck­land in 2000 was equally up­beat. Af­ter the 5-0 de­mo­li­tion of Prada, things could hardly have looked brighter on the Cup front.

Since then it’s been one long down­ward spi­ral.

Blake walked away to pur- sue other in­ter­ests; Coutts, Brad But­ter­worth and oth­ers signed for Alinghi.

In the 2003 fi­nal, Team New Zealand, skip­pered by Dean Barker, melled.

It was a ran­corous time, with the mis­guided Black Heart cam­paign, and even


pum- death threats to­wards Coutts.

That episode showed New Zealan­ders did not un­der­stand that the Amer­ica’s Cup

di­rected was not a con­test be­tween coun­tries, but be­tween wealthy syn­di­cates.

It also re­vealed New Zealan­ders were poor losers.

Since then there have been more de­feats, court cases, ar­gu­ments over money and rules and that never-to-be­for­got­ten ca­pit­u­la­tion in the 2013 fi­nal in San Fran­cisco, when Team New Zealand blew an 8-1 lead and lost 9-8.

I’ve al­ways ob­jected to the Gov­ern­ment fund­ing Team New Zealand be­cause ba­si­cally it was a small group of sailors feath­er­ing their own nests. No na­tional tri­als, no fi­nan­cial ac­count­abil­ity.

More re­cently it’s emerged that Grant Dal­ton, the Team New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive, was pay­ing him­self about $2 mil­lion a year, with Barker on much the same salary.

And that was de­spite their decade-long los­ing record. Imag­ine the All Black coach sur­viv­ing 10 years af­ter con­stantly com­ing up short.

It seemed Dal­ton would step down af­ter the 2013 de­ba­cle, but he’s still there, ask­ing for Gov­ern­ment money, com­plain­ing about changes to the de­sign of the boats and blam­ing the me­dia for bad pub­lic­ity.

Barker has gone. He said he found out through the me­dia he’d lost his job, an in­di­ca­tion of how much his re­la­tion­ship with Dal­ton had bro­ken down.

Bizarrely, it seemed Auck­land would host some chal­lenger races for the next Amer­ica’s Cup. But why would Ber­muda, the nom­i­nated 2017 venue, want Auck­land to host any races?

Now san­ity has pre­vailed. All the 2017 Amer­ica’s Cup rac­ing is to be in Ber­muda. And the boats have been cut down in size, so they are not so ex­pen­sive.

Dal­ton pro­fessed to be in ‘‘dis­be­lief’’ and lashed out at the ‘‘self-serv­ing ma­noeu­vring of rules’’.

He in­di­cated an ap­peal was likely. Of course.

New Zealand has out­grown the Amer­ica’s Cup. We’ve just had a fan­tas­tic Cricket World Cup, dur­ing which Bren­don McCul­lum’s New Zealand team played ex­cit­ingly and sport­ingly.

The All Blacks have been out­stand­ing for six or seven years and an­other World Cup looms this year.

Sud­denly the Amer­ica’s Cup seems sour, te­dious and un­nec­es­sary.

Right, The MAGS pre­mier boys’ soft­ball team won the New Zealand Cham­pi­onship for the third year in a row at the na­tional tour­na­ment in Lower Hutt from March 23 to 28. The MAGS boys over­came St Pa­trick’s Sil­ver­stream 3-2 in a tight fi­nal.


Grant Dal­ton speaks to me­dia in June 2014.

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