Regular readers of my Cup writings are well aware of my huge admiration for Terry Hutchinson and the way he conducted the American Magic campaign. To my eye, he’s the model CEO in the Cup game capable of, on one-hand, delivering a boat and team that came within a whisker of winning the Cup and on the other, steering a syndicate through the darkest of hours. Terry’s a special person with strong family values and the depths that he had to reach into his locker of fortitude were remarkable in leading that team.
In a wide-ranging, must-see interview (that you can view below) with Tom ‘Chairman’ Ehman on his excellent TFE Live Show, Terry is the model of dignity and diplomacy. Both interviewer and interviewee are members of the New York Yacht Club themselves so it’s an interesting interview to see the sub-plot of utter disbelief and head scratching from both of them. You can bet the club was watching.
Since the Cup has finished, the true personal toll that the American Magic capsize and resurrection took on Terry personally has come to light in several interviews – most notably with Shirley Robertson and now with Tom. We know that he was trapped under water, tethered in that port hull after the capsize and was close to the end. That puts the world, the sport, the America’s Cup in sharp perspective but then how he battled back, led from the front and got Patriot back on the water when the easiest thing to have done would be to close the doors and fly back home, is remarkable. It was the story of the Cup and we all assumed that the team would go again and that the New York Yacht Club would be full square behind a tilt at AC37, wherever in the world that may be.
Not so. In one of the most ruthless pieces of politicking in modern Cup times, akin to the way the club turned their back on Dennis Conner after he steered Liberty to defeat in 1983, Hutchinson is out on his ear with the club cosying up to the failed Long Beach Yacht Club challenge that didn’t quite make it to Auckland last time. You couldn’t make it up.
Rumour is that a big money tie-up with Microsoft is in the air and that committee members of the NYYC with sports marketing running through their veins are pulling the strings behind the scenes. Who knows? It’s a strange decision and I suspect one that’s hard to take after the American Magic programme effectively ended with THAT capsize in THAT race whilst a country mile ahead of Prada. The fact that the Italians went on quickly to the finals and then pushed the Defender close won’t be lost on Hutchinson but has been completely forgotten by the NYYC. Despite the slight, he’s diplomacy personified with his response: “The door is always open.”
I admire that. To be honest I’d slam it shut, send back my membership card and vow never to walk through the door of the 44th Street clubhouse ever again. Stuff them. But that’s why I’m not the CEO of the most powerful American syndicate, holding all the hard-graft IP and street smarts that the last campaign gave. And the Cup is a long-ball game – make enemies now and you’re toast down the line. Committee members have a habit of popping clogs or drifting into irrelevance quickly so what looks like the end of the road now can be the beginning of a new dawn in a year’s time. We shall see.
It’s a fabulous interview and check out the facial expressions around the venue choices. As a highly qualified decryptor of Cup politics (I’ve interviewed Russell Coutts and Dennis Conner in their prime), the next venue is the Solent, judging by Terry’s response. The Middle East is out due to the Deed of Gift mandates, Valencia is bust and still paying off the last event, and Cork is about as believable as leprechauns, fairies and Guinness travelling.
But the big news is that the ‘Grinders Union’ is dead and buried…stored power (yippee) and smaller numbers of crew seem to be the order of the day in AC37. Perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll see the America’s Cup have gender representation on the back of this. We can dream.
Have a watch. It’s the best thing you’ll see on You Tube this week…