To win at any cost?
Like many of you, I am confused and more than a little disappointed by the stance ETNZ is taking in choosing the host venue for 37th America’s Cup. Although affected by Covid interruptions, the last regatta was a resounding success and, in those heady post-victory days, I naturally assumed the next regatta would also be held in Auckland – it’s now New Zealand’s Cup, after all.
That ETNZ should take the defence offshore was inconceivable. But then the shenanigans began: There isn’t enough money for a proper defence; There are better offers on the table; It’s better to hold the Cup offshore; and so on. The reasons given were too many to list.
Grant Dalton and Co. were quick to remind New Zealand that the America’s Cup is all about business. Emirates Team New Zealand is a business venture that will sell the hosting rights for the next defence to the highest bidder.
Never mind ETNZ holding the Government to ransom, nor the public money already invested along the waterfront back in Auckland, or in the team itself. It appears Dalton is willing to squander public enthusiasm for the America’s Cup and erode years of goodwill towards his team in a bid to ensure ETNZ retain the Auld Mug in 2024.
Defending the Cup in Auckland would allow ratepayers and the New Zealand public to recoup some of their investment in infrastructure and team support. It would also reward the New Zealand public for supporting the event over so many years. For a lot of Kiwis, me included, enjoying the benefits of hosting the Cup in New Zealand, win or lose, is far more important than ‘guaranteeing’ an ETNZ victory at any cost.
But holding the next Cup in New Zealand looks increasingly unlikely. Rightly or wrongly, local funding for the event has been rejected, including a last-minute bid fronted by Kiwi businessman Mark Dunphy. On page 28, sailor, lawyer and ex-team New Zealand Director James Farmer QC offers his thoughts on the current situation. It’s fair to say he is unimpressed, but he also contends it’s not too late for ETNZ to change course.
I think the event going offshore, as now seems inevitable, is a huge opportunity lost – a kick in the teeth for the diverse range of New Zealanders who got behind the Cup in the past. Here’s hoping for a last-minute reprieve.
We’ll know one way or the other at a yet to be disclosed date when the host venue for AC37 is finally announced.