Take a Kiwi on and you can expect a robust challenge. I consider New Zealand as my spiritual home. It’s the place where I feel most comfortable. I like sailing. I like rugby. I like a barbecue and a cold one. I like culture. I like the outdoors. I like people that have a can-do mentality. I like raw nature. New Zealand ticks all the boxes. Add in possibly the nicest people on the planet with a diverse mix of cultures and it’s the stand-out place on planet earth – you experience it once and it never leaves you. A house looking out over the Devonport peninsula would do me just fine.
But amidst this paradise trouble brews. And it’s desperately difficult to understand as an outsider. Sporting excellence comes through the price of hard yards that Kiwis are willing to pay and the mightiest achievement of all, in my opinion, is their utter dominance of the America’s Cup in recent times.
Go back to Blake, Coutts, Butterworth and they set the standard. The mantel was picked up by the Ashby, Burling, Tuke generation whilst the cohesive force that is Grant Dalton has run through the campaigns and ensured victory. Go back to the annihilation of all -comers in the latest edition of the Cup and you see a sporting team at the very top of its game. Let’s be honest, it was just incredible to see Te Rehutai being sailed. I’ve never seen anything like it before and I’ll be amazed if I see anything like it again. Utter domination.
And the heroes of the hour deserved to be lauded. The architect of the victory would be knighted, be-statued, be heralded and lauded in any other country on the planet. Saint-hood would be cast in Rome. Buckingham Palace would be calling in London. The White House and 5th Avenue would be at your mercy in the States. The world would be at your feet and any future decision backed to the hilt. You could do no wrong. But in New Zealand, the Tall Poppy syndrome chops down those that grow too large and Grant Dalton is viewed with suspicion. He’s too rich. He’s too good. He’s a sell-out. He’s not loyal. He’s un-patriotic.
Baloney. He’s the greatest operative in the history of the America’s Cup and the only chance that New Zealand has in the current climate of defending the Auld Mug. And with all manner of machinations going on behind the scenes, Team New Zealand have been forced to issue the following statement in support of the boss. It’s interesting reading…
This statement is in response to the call by Mark Dunphy of Greymouth Petroleum for Grant Dalton to stand down as CEO of Emirates Team New Zealand.
As dedicated members of Emirates Team New Zealand some of us have been part of this team and in the America’s Cup for longer than many, including Dalts. We have experienced the good and bad, the wins and the losses and everything in-between and that makes us well qualified to say who we think is best to lead this team to defending and winning the 37th America’s Cup. For an assumption to be made that as a group of people we would simply welcome the departure of someone like Dalts, who has achieved more and given more than you could ever imagine to this team, to our country and to other people, is mind boggling.
After a single phone call with Dalts and refusal to meet with management or the ETNZ Board, in our opinion Mr Dunphy has publicly undermined our team structure. In addition, he has undermined the absolute dedication and commitment that Dalts has displayed relentlessly since 2003 when taking over the running of what were the ashes of a defeated team, to build it back up to be the most successful America’s Cup team in modern history with our proud yacht club, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
If anyone has proven they can raise money for the team it’s Dalts. To keep the team afloat over the last 18 years he has raised over $500 million in sponsorship for this team to be able to proudly put New Zealand technology, innovation and sporting talent on a global stage, so much so that many of the biggest brands in the world want to associate with us.
Of course, Dalts would not claim to have done this on his own, but what he has done is harness the unbeatable power of ‘the team’. Something money cannot buy and something which Mr Dunphy has clearly underestimated by assuming that he can just buy into at Dalts’ expense.
We are all incredibly proud of this team. It has one of the most admired organisational cultures in sport. People apply to be part of the team from all around the world. Every one of us (including Dalts) knows we are lucky to be part of it, but with a very clear understanding that ‘the team’ and its legacy are bigger than any one of us. It is naïve to think that management of an organisation like this can be replaced so easily.
No individual has ever won the America’s Cup. There is never a place in this team for individuals who act with self-interest before putting the team, their teammates, and the sole objective of winning the America’s Cup first – no matter where it is.
Our ‘Team New Zealand’ is our team, with Dalts at the heart of it. He is a major driver of the team’s performance and right now Mr Dunphy’s actions are compromising our performance towards winning the 37th America’s Cup.
It is a very short list of leaders that can attest to the tenacity and success that Dalts has had in the America’s Cup, through many highs and lows. And as we have seen by many other America’s Cup teams that come and go in this game, they think they have the talent and people to run a team to win, but they don’t. And no one at ETNZ turns up to work every day not to win.
To be clear, as much as we would love to race in Auckland, we would rather win proudly flying the flag of New Zealand, the RNZYS and our team anywhere internationally than to undermine the structure of a winning team and face losing in Auckland. None of us want a repeat of 2003.
As any Kiwi that has travelled understands, you always fly the Kiwi flag prouder when you are doing it offshore. After all, there are significantly more eyeballs to see the remarkable technology and innovation created by ‘the team’ and the country we represent when offshore.
Mr Dunphy has not shown any transparency or consultation with the team and has in no way shape or form, offered confidence in a process that would allow a successful defence of the 37th America’s Cup which once again remains our sole focus, alongside the treatment of our people – without them, we would be nothing.
How did it ever come to this?