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America's Cup: 'We're supporting the new teams as much as we can' - Dalton

by NewstalkZB and Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz 30 Apr 06:54 BST 30 April 2019
Grant Dalton holds the America's Cup for the first time after ETNZ's win in Bermuda. © Richard Gladwell

Emirates Team New Zealand CEO, Grant Dalton, who is also CEO of event organizer America's Cup Events, said in a radio interview this morning that the New Zealand team and organizers are "continuing to support the three [new] teams just as much as we can."

Speaking with Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking on the largest breakfast radio show in New Zealand, Dalton was very sympathetic with the situation of the three Late Challengers from Royal Malta Yacht Club, Royal Netherlands Yacht Club, and Long Beach Yacht Club (USA).

Asked about "potential troubles" with the three new teams, Dalton made reference to an interview given a fortnight earlier on Radio Sport between Emirates Team New Zealand COO, Kevin Shoebridge and leading yachting commentator Peter Montgomery.

"A couple of weeks ago, Kevin Shoebridge was reported as saying how hard it was for the new teams. And I don't have to go far back in the drafts that I keep just as a memory for myself, to [October] 2015 when I drafted a draft of an email which was to become a press release saying that we were folding.

"It is that hard", he emphasised. "It is a lot of money for a niche sport. So trying to get one of these teams off the ground from scratch is difficult and we continue to support those three [new] teams as much as we can."

"They have self-imposed deadlines because we have a regatta in April next year (first America's Cup World Series in Cagliari, Italy] and they have got to be at it. That's a Rule - not a "we'll get there if we can".

"So the clock is ticking on those guys, but they are all still there at this stage, as of today."

Empathy with new teams

Dalton wouldn't speculate on the odds of all the teams turning up. "I play with the odds in my head all the time. I just don't know. But the reality is probably they all won't all make it. But I might be wrong. I don't know."

"We don't know what discussions they are having, and not telling us. I think they have been reasonably straight up and down with us because they need our help - and that is help we will willingly give. We want as many entries as we can - and the best event we can with as many countries involved.

"I don't think they are telling us 'porkies'," Dalton said of the Late Challengers. "But they are struggling, and we really hope they can make it."

Digressing from the interview, the programmes being run by the three Late Challengers are quite different, making the picking of "odds" very fraught. But nevertheless it is a question that is asked frequently.

Two of the teams are built on the Team New Zealand model, and maybe not surprisingly are having issues similar to that Dalton says the Kiwi team experienced this close to the 2017 America's Cup which they went on to win.

Malta Altus Challenge has most of the key players identified, along with other key components in place - and are just waiting on finalisation of a funding package. Many of those involved are from the 2017 Louis Vuitton Finalist Artemis Challenge and are expected to have a strong relationship with Artemis Technology and their simulator. They are built on the team "Patron" model in a similar way to Larry Ellison with Oracle Teams USA, Ernesto Bertarelli with Alinghi, and Torbjörn Törnqvist with Artemis Racing.

Stars and Stripes Team USA is modelling itself on a Team New Zealand basis - as a very nationalistic commercial US team, founded by two top sailors in their early-mid thirties - who were willing to partner with a region that worked best for all parties. They have signed on with Long Beach Yacht Club, and have a boat under construction to the Team New Zealand design package. After the first America's Cup World Series (in which attendance was mandatory) was postponed from October 2019 to April 2020, the team took the opportunity to suspend building (but probably not design) and re-structured its management.

DutchSail was founded by twice America's Cup winner and Volvo Ocean Race skipper, Simeon Tienpont who decided only nine days before entries closed to lodge their challenge. They are also proposing a team modeled on Team New Zealand, but building on Tienpont's relationships first developed with Team AkzoNobel in the 2017/18 Volvo Ocean Race, which involved forming partnerships with Dutch marine industry and research establishments. As well as they are running a commercial sponsorship including a naming rights sponsor of which they had three serious opportunities. In a third funding stream they launched a crowdfunding program to attract support from sailing fans and small businesses, so far it is over 50% subscribed. DutchSail is supported by its funding and partnership DutchSail Foundation it has had Eelco Blok former CEO of the largest Dutch telco and active racing sailor on board as Managing Director since March 1, 2019. DutchSail is backed by two major yacht clubs in The Netherlands, both of which pre-exist the America's Cup.

Dalton drew a parallel with the difficulty the new teams are having in getting traction - even less than two years out from the start of an America's Cup - with Emirates Team New Zealand's situation in the previous event, in Bermuda, which the New Zealand team won by a big margin.

"Around this time in last America's Cup, the other teams were already camped in Bermuda", he recalled. "They were already sailing test boats. We were in New Zealand, broke, and didn't even have a boat. It doesn't necessarily follow that you have got to be right there now.

"In the design packages that we have discussed with all of them, assuming our first boat is good, and there is nothing to say it is or isn't. If it is, and we have done our research properly then that puts them on a footing to put them into a good boat, first up."

"Without that [design package] there is no way you could form a design team at this stage and get going. You need help in that area."

AC75 a big step ahead

Asked by Mike Hosking if the regatta that was now being built by ETNZ "was the shape of the future, would grow the sport - and it will go places?"

"If we hold [successfully Defend] the America's Cup, but I think we will knock it out of the park with these boats," Dalton replied. "The test boats which are in the water now and sailing in various countries are blowing our minds, and we don't even have a test boat, and we are surprised at how fast they are going. So I think boat wise we might have a beauty."

Dalton says the TV and graphics package, being developed by ARL in New Zealand and a German company, won't be revealed for a year "will be very special - that is something that no-one talks about yet. It is going to be remarkable on TV," he added. "Bring it into the harbour will be like sailing in an amphitheater."

He makes the point that because of the courses are confined by area, "so traditional match racing as we have seen it is gone."

"Normal starts - with the cat and mouse before the start are back. The TV spectacle is more user-friendly - but you can't have both and we think with the monohull that is more in keeping with what people would like to see."

Dalton says he is nervous on the basis that "we've got a huge responsibility to the oldest sporting trophy in the world, to put on a great event. We have the eyes of 4.5 million people on us. And we need to hold onto it too. So, I'm just nervous, basically."

In quite a different place from 2015

Earlier in the interview, Dalton said he felt Emirates Team New Zealand was in "pretty good shape" for this stage of the America's Cup cycle.

"We are the opposite of where we might have been three or four years ago. I use the analogy of the 2011 Rigby World Cup when we just held on and then went into that dynasty period. This organisation feels a little like that - history will prove that statement right or wrong. Good decisions are being made, I think. Boats advanced. It is all feeling pretty good."

Asked a convoluted question about comparing this time (2019) with last time (2015), "this time last time", Dalton replied, "we were about to fold. And this time, this time, were are certainly not about to fold."

Referring to the team's relationship with the NZ Government and Auckland Council, he described it as "first class". "

"I can't think of a better relationship in anything I have ever done than we have with both the Council and the Government. It is first class."

He described the scene looking out of his window in the team base in the Viaduct Events Centre, with multiple projects underway on the base and facilities construction which currently employ around 200 people, working under the aegis of the Wynyard Edge Alliance - comprised of several construction partners.

"There's cranes, dredges and building going on. Downtown the waterfront is transforming to get ready for this event. That is a highpoint in our day - just watching what is going on."

"You're not going to hear of any problems form that, because there aren't any problems. It's moved at an incredible speed, and with incredible will from the government, the Council and ourselves."

Dalton admitted that it wasn't always that way and there was tension early on "which was under-stated that at one point we were having to seriously look at taking the event away. That wasn't from any desire to want to do that, but we just couldn't get anywhere."

That changed at the point Emirates Team New Zealand produced a plan showing them taking over the Viaduct Events centre for their base, ripping tens of millions out of the budgets and getting the Council and Government into an acceptable position on project costs.

"The reality is that since that was all put to bed last year, it has all just gone gang-busters, and at high-speed. It is remarkable to see what can be done when there's a will to make it happen quickly," he said.

For the full interview click here

NB: While yet another deadline falls due on April 30, with the requirement for the late entered teams to lodge a Performance Bond of USD$1million, non-payment is now covered by a Protocol Amendment which in effect says that for the late payment of entry fees and performance bond just means the teams get their voting rights suspended, plus the Arbitration Panel may impose a discretionary penalty. Given that currently, the Defender is strongly supporting the new teams, it is unlikely that the Defender would not use its power of veto on Protocol and Rule changes if these were going to unreasonably disadvantage the new teams.

In the normal course of events, teams pay entry fees and then lodge a performance bond on a date several months after the entry fee payment - as the performance bond (also non-refundable) is lodged when the team is comfortable they will be on the start line, and organisers need some certainty of numbers.

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