Never Enough

I don’t know who said it but it stuck in the memory bank: “Even if you give them everything they asked for, it will never be enough.” And in the America’s Cup, the words ‘that’s enough’ are rarely uttered – particularly at the money end of the game. News, rumour, gossip, call it what you will, that the Kiwi government have tabled a NZD100 million offer to Team New Zealand has been greeted like a drunken uncle at an 18 year old’s birthday party. The cool kids are smoking something exotic on a corner sofa watching with interest whilst the grown-ups deal with the situation. Officially it’s all ‘too early to comment on’ – ‘wrong to speculate’ whilst negotiations are ongoing and, as is the way with all dialogue with politicians and commercial entities, the deal is never done, if it is to be done, if all parties want it done, until one minute to midnight on the final day.

©KOS Picture Source / www.kospictures.com

The inevitable rumour is spreading that Team New Zealand ‘wanted NZD200 million’ and that’s to be expected. If a billion had been offered they’d want two. Pick a number out of the air and the other party wants double. It’s called negotiation. Opening gambits are proffered and as a matter of principle, rejected. Think second-hand car dealing. It’s barter. It’s a game. But in this situation it’s high stakes with national pride on the table, the slogan ‘stay loyal’ is already doing the rounds and for Team New Zealand this is a tough one where timing is everything.

On one side you have the Kiwi government who are easy pickings in a PR spin whirlwind if things don’t go the right way but on the other side of the table, making all the right noises like a wolf in sheep’s clothing as Challenger of Record, are the hardest negotiators in world commerce. They didn’t become richer than Croesus by giving much away. And they won’t be benevolent benefactors now, particularly if they find themselves as the only game in town. This is all about winning, remember that.

© Sailing Energy / American Magic

Caution is at a premium. It may well be, after all is said and done, the best bet for Team New Zealand to stick with the devil they know in the government and re-ignite the Kiwi nation’s passion once again for a defence in Auckland at whatever money is tabled in the final scenario than dance off with a new best friend and take the Cup overseas.

Looking way, way forward, it could be the decision that secures the long-term future of Team New Zealand, mad as that sounds, as an out and out winning machine – especially with the talent coming through the lower echelons of Kiwi yachting – regardless of the result in the 37th edition. But it’s a difficult juggling game right now that potentially exposes the team to unbearable levels of flight risk for its current generation of stars. Do the deal in Auckland for a perceived pittance whooped up on a sense of national pride and you may well be looking at those lower echelons to sail the boats. Crucially though, you would garner favour, unity, pride and passion for the home team. That matters. Big time.

The great game of the Cup is red hot poker right now. I maintain that the best way forward is a stop-gap Cup in the UK with a nailed-on guarantee of a return to Auckland for the 38th edition. But I would say that, wouldn’t I? I’m talking my book. It’s almost certainly the daftest idea dreamt up by a fantasist that would love to see the event on his home waters.

It would be dismissed in Sicily and challenged in the New York Supreme Court and there’s a couple of documents knocking around that provide a perfect basis for m’learned friends to get involved and earn a smart buck in the process. It would all perhaps be well and good if the Kiwis came over and defended, and who’s to say they wouldn’t, but if they lost then all bets are off. If it’s coming to the UK then it simply has to be a straight up Cup with no side deals and no guarantees going forward of venue that would in effect make the whole thing a sham.

© Sailing Energy / American Magic

And then there’s the fall-out for Team New Zealand to consider if they take a deal with the Challenger of Record. The fabulous Kiwi public won’t be thanking their heroes for turning their backs on them. That statue of Grant Dalton in the Viaduct Harbour (there has to be one surely?) will be defaced by sundown. The knighthood, nailed on for the Queen’s Birthday Honours to be announced any day soon, will be rescinded faster than a Formula 1 pit-stop, lost miraculously in the paperwork. The warm glow of nautical fame enjoyed by the superstars of Te Rehutai will freeze colder than a South Island winter. Kiwis don’t like disloyalty. I don’t blame them. I’d be furious personally.

So what a to-do. It’s precarious times for Team New Zealand. The Cup is on a knife edge and you can feel a ‘moment’ coming just around the corner. Is it a slow motion car crash or something else? Will wise-heads convene and thrash out a sensible solution that keeps the Cup in Auckland and Team New Zealand in beer money and boats? There’s something in the air whilst the clock ticks on relentlessly. It could well be the biggest decision of their lives.

A mug’s game – no, it’s just the Auld Mug game. It was ever thus. Fascinating.




5 thoughts on “Never Enough

  1. Hello my friend Magnus, again the NZHerald has stirred up rumours about negotiations between Jacindamania and TNZ. Again Magnus, please cancel your subscriptions with that newspaper! The negotiations is still in progress and the two parties will agree to disagree. Till that lady sings, we are still like a bridge over trouble waters.

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  2. I’ve said this before, but it was bad enough that San Francisco couldn’t host twice because negotiations between Oracle and the city government broke down in the way they did. I think it ended up damaging a lot of the fandom for the AC in the United States that had been built up over the course of AC 34 and I think it’s one of the reasons no edition since seems to have had as much US media coverage or attention on social media.

    But then, we’re stupid Americans and sailing isn’t a mainstream sport here (but I think another AC in SF could have been a step in that direction). Maybe WE were dumb enough to chase our winners away, but for one of the most sailing-mad nations on Earth to suffer the same indignity? The Kiwis seem to have the kind of love for the AC that every popularizer talks about trying to create elsewhere. I hope their fandom can be rewarded with another defense in Auckland (but now that we are all getting vaccinated, plenty of preliminary events elsewhere, first!)

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  3. Hey Magnus,
    Another brilliantly written article. (I like the cut of your jib).

    Around twenty years ago the Auckland Warriors Rugby League team joined the Australian Rugby League after about 20 years of grovelling and pleading to be entered into that very successful league. After a few years, they dumped that league and joined the newly minted (by a billionaire) Super League. Their chairman at the time said, “We couldn’t afford to turn down their offer”. Of course, after a few years, the Super League failed and they crawled their way back into the kosher ARL.

    The Warriors League team has gone on to be the most UNsuccessful team in the league despite having a huge supply of NZ born rugby talent. Money is about 10% of any successful endeavour. Just watch the Mighty All Blacks go down the gurgler when they take the Silver Lake offer. (Talk about 30 pieces of Silver!).

    Team NZ will end up the same way.

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  4. Our mums and dads have been so kind to us children, providing a home and comforts for many years. We would go to Universities, get our flash degrees, fly to places around the world that they couldn’t afford, always have loved and cared for us as we grow taller and wider. They are still together (we aren’t), organising birthday presents and parties for us. We are no longer kids mums and dads, let us free for God’s sake, your health is paramount, stop giving, let us free. It’s time for TNZ and its Directors to grow up and be real. Enough is enough.

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