Wasn’t it Winston Churchill who said that “a lie gets half way around the world before the truth has got the chance to get its pants on.” The quote seems rather apt in the current America’s Cup landscape.
Big questions need answering and I see now that the local media in Auckland are reporting an exchange of correspondence sent from Team New Zealand to the Kiwi Home Defence programme that specifically seeks clarification regarding the ‘nature of conversations that you or your associates may have had directly or via third parties with Larry Ellison, Ernesto Bertarelli or Patrizio Bertelli.’ Wow. Specific names. What the heck is going on? Why would these guys be interested? And the reference to third parties or associates – who on earth could that be? Big guns are firing.
And furthermore there are questions being asked regarding any links with the New York Yacht Club. I can barely believe what I’m reading. When I first saw the Kiwi Home Defence project it filled me with hope and optimism. I thought the America’s Cup was changing for the better and that the dark old ways of the past were gone. I want to add 1 on the 5,00,000 home supporters and many of my global readers want to swell the supportive numbers too.
As an outsider, as I suspect you are too, we are looking at this now through a different lens. Are Larry, Ernesto and Patrizio really behind all of this? Are they really pulling a trick on the Kiwi public? It’s pretty disgraceful if they are. The man on the street in New Zealand is anything but a mug and they don’t like being taken for fools so it would be awful if what seemed like a campaign in the national interest turned out to be something in the interests of say the Swiss, the Americans or the Italians as is being suggested.
But who’s to say that the – and forgive me here – ‘accusations of gross misconduct’ are correct? It’s one heck of a thing for Team New Zealand to be saying publicly and I guess now the ball is in the court of the Kiwi Home Defence management to reveal, perhaps not publicly, maybe under NDA, to the senior people at Team New Zealand just who the mystery backers are, how much they are committing to and what contact has been made with those names and organisations mentioned. Whatever happens, one side is going to look like absolute chumps. This is big. Reputations are on the line.
What I’m hoping is that once everyone is around the table and the truth outs, that a deal can be struck to host in Auckland with a fully funded Defender. That’s the dream. Maybe I’m just a dreamer but that’s the ultimate prize.
And let’s hope that happens and there’s a benefactor sitting in the wings that isn’t one of the patriarchs of bygone campaigns with Machiavellian intentions and we can get to a deal quickly. I genuinely think the public are sick and tired of James Bond-esque villains in the America’s Cup. It’s a hackneyed story that only people like me get excited about.
But the problem with living on an island (or two islands in New Zealand’s case) and in a relatively small business and money community is that everyone knows each other. Everyone knows where the folding stuff is. So when Grant Dalton says that the money can’t be raised onshore, I kind of have to believe him. I’ve got to assume that he’s jabbed his tentacles into everyone with a shilling or two ha’pennies to rub together. And I don’t really buy the notion that there are camps in New Zealand angling against each other. That’s hardly the Kiwi way – yes there are some that have fallen out – but at the end of the day there’s not much that a cold Steinlager and a chat at the Squadron bar can’t sort out.
So the notion, rumour and innuendo that the money is coming from offshore is both compelling and worrying. It’s well known that Swiss money helped out and contributed in the 2003 campaign. The Italians lent their support, and I guess some funds, to the San Francisco campaign so there’s history of foreign money, albeit a potted history, of offshore cash swelling the Team New Zealand coffers. But this time, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there might be some strings attached and that the real prize here for any foreign suitor is getting into the DNA of Te Rehutai to get an edge for either a new campaign or one that was just short at the last Cup.
And also what of the sailors? A key question here that previously was just assumed to be set in stone, and one that I had completely dismissed is: what are the dream team afterguard up to? Glenn Ashby sounded pretty up for it, grateful and committed to the commitment on Shirley Robertson’s excellent podcast interview a few weeks ago (well worth a listen) so I’m going to say he’s on the Kiwi boat come what may for the next Cup but I’m wondering about the radio silence from Pete Burling and Blair Tuke.
The dynamic duo have, quite rightly as is their prerogative, stayed out of the big boys Cup politics and gave very straightforward answers just ahead of their Olympic campaign in Tokyo. When questions arose they were a bit uncomfortable with the interviewer, trotting out party lines and the impression was that they were desperate to get off the subject.
I thought at the time that they were almost too defensive but put it down to pre-Games focus and brushed it aside but surely the direct question has to be asked at the next SailGP event: “Are you currently signed for the next America’s Cup with Team New Zealand?” The answer will be revealing and now that I’ve said it, I can imagine the PR’s working overtime ahead of the presser saying: “Pete & Blair won’t be talking about the next America’s Cup.” I think I know the score here but what a huge story it would be if they are hawking their talents offshore.
So we go into the first week of the AP delay on the venue announcement with more questions than answers and a horrible, gut wrenching feeling in the stomach that players are playing. I’m not hearing much straight talking going down except from Grant Dalton in the media so what the heck is going on? A helicopter view just wants this sorted and Auckland to be the venue but I have a mighty suspicion that it’s not going to happen.
Cork, with all its politics and infrastructure ambitions, is looking more likely by the minute and I feel for the Kiwi public having to go through this stop-start of hope followed by dashed dreams on top of everything else they are going through in lockdown. And I seriously wonder what Jim Ratcliffe must be making of all this. The last thing we need is for him to get bored of the whole shenanigans and pulling stumps but I wouldn’t blame him if he did. The Cup can be ugly, as I continually warn, and it’s starting to feel that way.
What a shambles.