Millions of sailing fans – Kiwis and foreigners both – have wondered why Grant Dalton remains at the head of the most famously choking team in the history of sailing. After some fatefully wrong calls in San Francisco – including some really personal inter-team shit that still hasn’t seen the light of day – you’d think the New Zealand public, who partially funded the team, would have gotten their calls for blood answered.
But that never happened, and in a rare instance of good journalism rearing its head inside yachting, the boys from Canvas published a deep and interesting look at one of the hardest working – if deeply flawed – individuals in the sport. His marriage woes, that fateful call to allow Oracle the lay day, his sailing ability, and plenty of other sticky subjects; here’s an excerpt:
It was at his grandparents’ waterfront house that Dalton had an epiphany. He was at the window when Heath’s Condor, with Peter Blake on board, hoved into view as it completed a leg of the 1977 Whitbread Round the World Race.
“It came around North Head with this giant yellow spinnaker and I thought, ‘holy shit’. Right down to where every seagull was sitting I can remember that place in time and I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
He rang his mum, Rose, another huge influence, to tell her he was chucking in his accountancy job that Christmas to do a Fiji race. On his return, he went the tried-and-true method and started sailmaking to broaden his skill base. He got a spot on a round-the-world boat, loved it, and decided to get his own boat for the next one. “And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since, basically.”
And here we enter another tricky port-tack in the Dalton story: his skills as a sailor. You do not have to go far to find someone who will denigrate Dalton’s yachtsmanship. Montgomery, who has known Dalton since his early Whitbread days, says the man himself would never confess to “being a rock star round-the-buoys sailor”, and he will correct anybody that claims Dalton won a Whitbread by saying he won the maxi class only.
Read the full story here.