Kiwi obsession with America’s Cup sinks
SPORTS TALK WITH JOSEPH ROMANOS
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.