Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton walked into a maelstrom as he arrived in Europe to inspect the short-listed venues for the defence of the 37th America’s Cup.
In the short time he has been in Europe he must have realised that the attitude to the America’s Cup is very different to that in New Zealand, even before you add a Russian military invasion force pounding a free, democratic country into rubble, with three million people already forced to flee across Europe.
The America’s Cup has a very different status here to that which he is used to in New Zealand. Unlike the New Zealand media, the press in Europe almost totally ignores the event. And where the next America’s Cup ends up in Europe is not high on the news agenda . . . including the sports news.
Even the Brits, who started the whole shebang by losing a race round the Isle of Wight, and after 170 years are no closer to winning than when they started have little interest, especially for the horse-trading phase that is presently going on.
These factors are a problem for any potential venue involved in the bidding, as they cannot raise any enthusiasm from their governments to shell out for a commercial sailing race . . . especially one with teams backed by a bunch of billionaires, who have more than enough spare cash to fund the whole affair if they wished.
Not that New Zealand does not have its own economic and social problems as it recovers from Covid Pandemic lockdown, and politics and the America’s Cup are never far apart in New Zealand.
That is why Dalton is on this swing through Europe, desperately seeking a venue and the funds to put his team back on the road. After the New Zealand government bulked at funding another expensive Cup defence, he decided that the Europeans would be ready and willing to pick up the tab.
Unfortunately, real wars, rather than PR pumped up sporting conflicts come at a cost of both human lives and widespread economic mayhem, and some difficult personal choices. It is this mayhem and human suffering that is bankrolling the Russian war machine and filling the coffers of the Arab oil rich states who are keen to clean their blood-stained largesse at such events.
Perhaps Mr Dalton will choose not to see the connection between all this and the backers of the bids from the two Spanish cities. Or perhaps he is just so desperate to put two fingers up to the New Zealand government, he will take the money. . . after all it’s not his war!
Although the New Zealand government has shown more responsibility, recognising the cost in human suffering, and barred Russian and Belarus super yachts, ships, and aircraft from entering its waters or airspace.
Dalton has a reputation as a hard-headed, win at all costs team manager and with four Cup wins, Team New Zealand is the most successful team in America’s Cup history.
Whether such a compromised deal would go down well with some of the ETNZ sailors, who have already expressed disquiet at the at the human rights record of some of the countries he is negotiating with – even at one step removed – remains to be seen.
And although the America’s Cup has been outmanoeuvred and overtaken by the upstart SailGP circuit . . . just about to stage its second $1 million final in San Francisco, and with ten national teams expected to compete at nine international venues in Series 3, starting this May. The Old Mug still has a 170-year back-story and gravitas on its side, even if it is looking a bit tired.
It is this back-story that some sailing commentators believe can pull in the money and the big corporate names to allow the America’s Cup to reinvent itself . . .
More responsible heads may wonder if Mr Dalton shouldn’t just make peace with his countryman, pickup his ball and head back home.
Having come this far, possibly that’s a step too far . . . It’s easier to follow the money.