There’s revolution in the air and about time too. Finding a hill worth dying on is a human quest and if I were a member of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron or even just an everyday New Zealander going about my business, I would be joining the cause to keep the Cup in Auckland. Passions are running. Tensions are high. And confidence in the stewards is being challenged by a cabal of members who don’t like the writing on the wall. The fight is on. All credit to them.
Overnight, the news that had been widely circulated behind the scenes, broke publicly via the must-watch Sailing Illustrated vodcast of Chairman Tom Ehman that a group of members are challenging the RNZYS committee regarding the building rumour of the next defence being staged overseas. And goodness me, they are right to voice their concerns loudly. Don’t let the Cup go from your magnificent shores on a whimper and a hope or empty promise of a return. Fight like caged tigers – that’s the Kiwi spirit. If you want it, come and win it -that’s the message and if truth be told, the rest of the world has been wondering when, not if, the revolution was coming.
The Squadron and Team New Zealand, it could be argued, have been playing fast and loose with the Cup if you look at it through a patriotic lens. The threat of an overseas event has been possibly the most powerful lever on negotiations with the government that Team New Zealand and the RNZYS could exert and they’ve been using it from way before the Cup was even secured.
The cosy posturings with the Challenger of Record add weight to the thinly veiled threat but all signs are that it’s an empty government chalice they are begging from. The negative spin as a result is a backlash from senior members of the holding club reflecting the view of ordinary Kiwis who are just dumbfounded that after putting on such a spectacle amidst the Covid-era, that they find their largesse and support being thrown back in their faces, taken overseas for a fistful of dollars and Auckland be damned. They’re not happy and rightly so.
But the counter-view sees it very differently. The livelihoods of the team members, the security of the talent and IP are key. The Cup is relentless and it’s not a patsy event where you can just jog along at half pace living off financial fumes. Ranged against the holders right now is serious weaponry of design, talent, continuity and determination not to mention open cheque books for the key players. The big guns are lined up on the lawn.
And I can appreciate that viewpoint. Chances of success are amplified exponentially if they accept foreign dollars, thus keeping the outright winning machine that is Team New Zealand together. The long-term future of the team is secured and the dynasty of innovation and brilliance continues.
It could also be argued that giving the New Zealand government a free pass, a breather if you like, from the financial commitments of the next Cup is absolutely the right thing to do as the domestic agenda is full of cash calls all round. The probability is that Team New Zealand, if kept together, would win wherever the Cup was held so why not mix-up the format, let the government off the hook, allow the scientists to do their work on Covid to get that under control and all come back to Auckland in say, 2026. What a party that would be and remember, time flies. Plus you’ve perhaps got a fully-funded Team New Zealand that by 2026 will be staffed by the next generation of superstars and nigh on unbeatable.
Damned if they do, damned if they don’t or so it would seem. Both the RNZYS and Team New Zealand look like they are down a back-alley on this one but interestingly there’s no panic comms emerging, there are no rebuttals, everyone is as cool as a winter’s morning in Wellington. The members will be listened to and no doubt re-assured that although it’s a balancing act, there’s a way forward. The government money, paltry as it may seem in Cup terms, may well be accepted gracefully and topped up by new sources – the China Sports Group and perhaps some newly-friendly biotech money might find its way through. Stranger things have happened in Cup land. But it looks very much like the flames of this revolution will be quelled pretty quickly.
Talks of court action and injunctions are previous. Nobody wants that in these times. From a sailor’s perspective, Auckland would be just perfect. From a nationalist perspective, Cowes would be magnificent but it’s a dream to be executed on the back of outright victory not bought on an opportunity. I agree with the notion that if you want it, go and win it. Changing that would be a travesty and the way that Ineos is set up right now, there’s every chance of success but it has to be won in my opinion in the backyard of the holders. Anything else would feel cheap – much as we would take it and embrace it if it were to happen otherwise.
This revolution has the smell of success around it. Powerful names are on the ticket – names that fill my worst courtroom nightmares, names not to be messed with. They don’t cause a stir without a solid base to argue from and a notion of being on the right side of the argument. Expect this to move quickly. The government talks will conclude next week and we wait to see the final deal.
It’s Auckland for the mother of all battles in 2023 or the mother of all battles in court. Bet on the former. This revolution was perfectly timed.