In the town where I spent my teenage years, the Literary Institute was a legendary venue for a monthly money-spinning discotheque to support its community outreach and keep the lights on. Dates and times were secret and passed by word of mouth to ensure that the right people attended. They didn’t want yobbos or chancers. And once you were on the approved list, the deal was simple. You turned up, paid your money on the door, bought a few drinks and danced the night away in a sweaty hall.
Well, in the America’s Cup, the Origin Sports Group has been the organiser of the party, charged with bringing in the appropriate punters, given a six month runway to make sure that everything’s swinging and the hosts (Team New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron) have a great time and make some money. It hasn’t worked out like that. What they brought to the door, and let’s be honest the doormen have been asleep on the job, was a motley crew of thirty five dreamers all dancing away manically in the hall.
The VIP list was rapidly whittled down to three foreigners all with doubtful credentials and they were ushered beyond the velvet rope for a speed-date. One turned up in a stretch limousine with a lot of baggage, another couldn’t decide quite who they were and kept on changing clothes on a whim whilst another had his parents and brothers pull him out at the last minute. The Kiwis listened, away from the flashing lights and the scrum in the hall, quite liked the look of the rich ones, danced politely with the other two and then realised towards the end of the evening that the grass simply isn’t greener, the mud is just deeper.
And so, on the stroke of midnight they departed and went home where lo and behold a funny uncle was waiting with a Plan B. And you know what they say about Plan B being simply Plan A again, well this one is going to take a leap of faith. It’s been a pretty disastrous overseas experience and the only option now is to ease into the evening with a bottle of whisky, make friends, close the doors and stay home.
The news overnight was relentless. First the Irish media quite incredibly announced on the bidding syndicate’s behalf that the Republic of Cork’s dream was over, scuttled in the Irish parliament on monetary and governance grounds. Then came the news that the much-touted consortium in New Zealand led by a secretive petro-chemicals boss had sent a plan to Team New Zealand for evaluation. How viable that proposition is, is a matter for the team and the Commodore at the RNZYS but it’s looking like the only show in town. Dangerous times for the national team. Being backed into a corner isn’t a nice place to be, that whisky isn’t going down well and the outcome might not be quite as the victorious winners and bosses had envisaged.
Grant Dalton has a problem and he’s good at sorting those. The overwhelming opinion and sentiment is that the Cup must be held in Auckland and that a reasonable defence of the trophy must be staged. That requires cold, hard cash to secure the talent and build the boats. Clever bankers can present tax structures, debt finance algorithms and contingent convertible loan note proposals until the cows (Cowes?) come home but at the end of the day, the team needs paying on a monthly basis and the boatbuilder requires 50% upfront. You can’t do the Cup on the never never.
But committing to an Auckland defence is gold-dust and the best decision that can be taken. It would also be the right decision. If however the speed dating whilst a little tipsy on the fawning oxygen of interest has led to a commitment that the Kiwis can’t back out of for any number of reasons and they opt to go foreign, well they are throwing themselves to the lions. It’s the dangerous option and could see the Cup mired in legalese for years to come. Do we want that?
In a few hours we will know. Well, we will hopefully know something. The past six months has been a ridiculous wait and if it’s Auckland, then it’s been a fruitless, pointless one. And the news that a website has been launched by the potential new backers (www.kiwihomedefence.com) is the first sign that things are moving fast in that direction and it’s pretty clear that they think the Cup is being held in Auckland in 2024. Hooray.
Let’s hope so. Over to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron now for the next move.
My money’s on Auckland. Please.