another fine mess…

What was already a nasty situation between the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) and their designated team, Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) and the ‘spoilers’ of Dunphy, Farmer & Ross looked set to boil over with a General Meeting after the RNYS AGM last evening except……..

However, the call for the extraordinary general meeting was pulled due to a lack of support with only 34 Squadron members signing the letter, a very small percentage of the overall membership (there are over 2,000 members listed in the Squadron handbook).

Jim Farmer, one of the instigators of the call for a meeting complained that Grant Dalton had personally approached some of the signatories to put the team’s position to them, including that the team may be liquidated if there was an insistence of a home defense. Well, did he expect Dalton to roll over and not fight the Squadron’s and the Team’s corner?

Hamish Ross would be hard pushed to claim complete loyalty to the RNZYS as his curriculum vitae includes time with Alinghi when New Zealand last lost The Cup (and tried to discredit the 100% legitimacy of the Royal Yacht Squadron) while Mark Dunphy’s earlier offers and communications, including at one point calling for Grant Dalton’s resignation as Team Principal have hardly endeared him to either the Squadron or the team.

The whole problem, as we have reported here before, is that to run the event and fund a team with a realistic chance of defense requires, according to Club & Team, NZ$200m ( US135m) is required with US$54m for the event and the balance (just over US$80m) for the team. Dunphy’s offer of support fell NZ$50m short of what the Team estimates would be required to meet the challenge of the Royal Yacht Squadron and others (who will all be likely spending in that sort of ballpark) to wrest The Cup away from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

One only has to look at the performance gap between Mercedes or Red Bull and the rest of the Motor Racing’s Formula 1 teams to realize that while money doesn’t guarantee success (either Hamilton or Verstappen will be disappointed), lack of money does make victory more than a little bit harder.

RNZYS & ETNZ were well prepared for the meeting with Dalton giving a presentation at the AGM, in any case, putting forward their reasons during which the list of sailors already signed to the Team, interestingly missing the names of Burling & Tuke. Perhaps not required as the petition had been withdrawn but o harm in keeping the members brief in any case. 

But let’s kill a little bit of speculation here and now. The nationality rules of the Protocol mean they (burling & Tuke) would not be able to hold out for a better ‘deal’ with another AC team a la Coutts & Butterworth but perhaps with AC37 being in an Olympic year, having seen their edge taken off in Enoshima, Japan, are still considering just what is their priority. So the internal challenge regarding the venue has gone away (for now) but Farmer has already said he is unhappy with the outcome. What about the wider New Zealand public?

I suppose that depends on whether the average Kiwi feels a successful defense is more important than a ‘show’ on local waters and anyone who watched the footage would have seen the thousands came out (remarkable given the COVID restrictions that existed at the time) both on the water, in the village and around the dockside when the team came in after their seventh, and ultimate, race victory. Has anyone really asked them?

Also to be considered is the alternative venues. It would appear there is nothing definite and sealed in concrete there either, otherwise why wait until March 2022 to announce it.

If Cork comes good, at least the Guinness will be the original made from Liffey Water and the natural language will be the same and Cork, home of the world’s oldest Yacht Club and still very active, knows pretty much how the game is played.

If Saudi Arabia becomes the choice there may be no Guinness, or anything else and most likely no American team either. It is notable that although Doug De Voss has stated he likes the Protocol there are no early rumours of American Magic throwing their hat in the ring.

Also to be considered is that, although cash is an issue, a lack of home defense means the defenders will not be able to sleep in their own beds, pop down the pub to have a jar with their close friends, or deal with extended family affairs (good or bad) for an extended period of time – how much is that worth?

Bottom line is that should the defense be ‘away from home’ and NOT be successful someone (and we all know who) will end up with serious ‘egg on face’ and a sufficient budget is NO guarantee especially when one sees what will (or perhaps will) be lined up against the defenders. 

INEOS Britannia – partners carbon and aerodynamic specialist Mercedes F1 Team; Alinghi (rumour) – partners (rumour) carbon and aerodynamic specialists Red Bull Racing f1 Team and (potential) American Magic – partners Airbus carbon and aerodynamic specialists and finally Luna Rossa which managed to take 3 races of ETNZ on their home waters with the Pit Bull qualifying under the Protocol’s residency rules.

Dalton’s statement that even if the syndicate led by Mark Dunphy can come up with the NZ$50m shortfall that he wouldn’t accept it is, one has to say, somewhat cavalier. Of course, he doesn’t like the guy, would you like someone who called for your head (and that cry has been retracted)? But the colour of money is the same wherever it comes from as long as it is legitimate.

Have we heard the last of this? Doubtful but at least all should be quiet on this front until March of next year when don’t be surprised if hands are thrown up in the air once more.

For me? I just hope someone can come up with the funding for a home defense. It is where it should be and the longer this whole mess rumbles on the shorter the attention span of the average Kiwi is likely to be with each new development.

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