So the news is flooding in that discussions have failed with the New Zealand government and Team New Zealand is now a fully commercial entity. As a casual observer looking in from the outside it looks like a gambler’s bet, half drunk at midnight. An ‘all-in’ to impress the table. But it’s anything but. Fleeing the nest of government support, the safety-blanket of taxpayer’s money and going fully commercial is bold but most likely highly measured. It wouldn’t be done without a contingency plan. It’s not a gamble.
Grant Dalton has been absolutely clear throughout the last defence and into the hangover period that the team was his first priority. Keeping the talent, the IP and the loyal members together is his raison d’etre and whilst government support was taken short-term, he’s betting that long-term the situation is untenable. Accepting the government cash and the stipulations that came with it was not going to be conducive to defending again and securing an unprecedented three-peat. The press release was straightforward:
“During the three-month exclusive negotiating period between New Zealand agencies and ETNZ, they have not been able to reach a conclusion that works for all parties. All three parties have worked through these discussions with the best of intentions to see the AC37 hosted in Auckland, and they have not been able to reach agreement by the expiration of the exclusive period. Emirates Team New Zealand will now commence discussions with other nations to look into options regarding hosting AC37 events.“
That final sentence leads me to the global series. Not only is the America’s Cup going overseas but it’s going multi-venue. Cork, Cowes, Valencia, Marseille, Cascais, Doha, probably a Chinese port, Newport…pick a name, pick a nation and get the truest representation of Formula 1 on water and crucially deliver for sponsors. Emirates is still name-checked so you wonder what deal has been mooted there and the door is still wide-open for Auckland to host an event or even the Match. That would make sense to me and would quell Kiwi disillusionment with the situation:
“By all means, the end of the exclusive negotiation period does not eliminate all possibility of the event or an event being hosted in New Zealand. If resources enable an event in New Zealand we will remain open to it. But, we must explore other opportunities to ensure we can put up another successful defence. No matter where in the world we are, we will always be Team New Zealand. Our priority has always been to keep and defend the America’s Cup successfully. We certainly want to explore holding a regatta in Auckland and along with discussing the venue for AC37 with other nations, would like to work through that opportunity also”, said Grant Dalton.
My view is that this is exciting and it’s bold. In the Origin Sports Group, the Cup is in good hands. They will deliver a marvellous vision for the future and one that is highly sustainable for sponsors, tapping new markets and driving global awareness. Sir Keith Mills and his team don’t do things by half and with the tiger in their tank of Jim Ratcliffe’s support, it’s a straightforward process to deliver a global sporting event that ticks all the boxes. The sailing world would urge them to be as bold as they can and to leave no stone unturned to drag the America’s Cup into the future and make it relevant to the widest group of stakeholders and fans possible
Team New Zealand meanwhile will be free to negotiate like champions and dictate terms – the narrative around sponsorship of the greatest team in the Cup will be strong. Dollars will flow. I contend that Team New Zealand should have special status in the Cup – the Ferrari of the contest. It’s unlikely to happen but securing their participation is paramount to everyone’s interests. As I’ve said before, winning the Cup without the Kiwis there, simply isn’t worth winning.
I wish Team New Zealand and the Squadron well and as further details leak ahead of the September 17th announcement, it’s exciting times for the America’s Cup. We are on the cusp of something spectacular. Are we about to get the continuity so long longed for and the end to Cup hibernation? Yes is my view. And it’s a dream come true. It’s the dawn of a new era. The dawn of something magnificent and for Cup watchers, the most exciting time ever to be a fan.
Watch this space – it’s all happening. Darkness before dawn – now who said that?