One of the great mind-benders of our time is the pizza industry. I run it over and over again in my mind. It’s insane. A round meal delivered in a square box and served in triangles. Think about that. And in that spirit and backdrop, it’s a good place to start thinking about the America’s Cup which is getting weirder by the minute.
You go to sleep at night safe in the knowledge of what you think you know and then find out by morning that what you knew just ain’t so – everything changes. There’s a Mark Twain quote in there somewhere…
So this morning over Rice Krispies I scrolled to find that the Kiwi Home Defence Syndicate, remember them (?), are back in the media with a NZD$40m war-chest delivered from the lofty echelons of the moral high ground (a curious place to inhabit) – to my UK readers that amounts to £20.796m and to my new US readers that have flooded in on the back of the New York Yacht Club posts recently (welcome y’all) that’s $28.709m.
Not to be sniffed at. Big money by anyone’s reckoning. Cold hard folding stuff. And delivered as a “firm commitment” with “$20m from the personal private interests of Mark Dunphy and his associates…and a further $20m of funding proposed today which is being fully underwritten by Kiwi Home Defence on account of prospective donors.”
In any other civilised sport or civil society, this kind of offer would be greeted with awe and gratitude. In the America’s Cup it’s deemed almost an insult. To Team New Zealand it’s yet another annoying mosquito in the office this morning.
The game has got so crazy in this cycle, and the Kiwi Home Defence would be wise to recognise it, that NZD$40m doesn’t even touch the sides and is many gazillions short of what ETNZ will be looking for to fight off the open chequebooks of Ratcliffe, Bertelli and Bertarelli and their new-found F1 friends fighting off the budgetary cap, to mount a credible defence not to mention the renewed vigour and determination of the American Magic billionaires who, I am delighted to hear, are going again.
In the Kiwi media overnight, the offer has been rejected out of hand. Grant Dalton is quite simply not entertaining the Kiwi Home Defence team and all trust is lost between the two entities. In a coarse statement to the New Zealand Herald, a ‘spokesperson’ (guess who?) for ETNZ said: “Just to repeat our position from our statement of 22nd September: ‘Emirates Team New Zealand and RNZYS have decided to cease all correspondence and any dealings with Mr Dunphy based on clear evidence of his and his associate Dr. Hamish Ross’s conflicted actions that they have refused to come clean on’.
Case closed it would seem. But to hurry the final nail into the coffin of the proposal, an early venue announcement, or earlier than some suspect, would surely please be the killer blow. My suspicion based on conversations with a cool-as-a-cucumber ETNZ and the RNZYS is that they already know the venue and are knee-deep in Hosting Arrangement legalese.
They certainly won’t say as much publicly but it’s a done deal and it’s window-dressing that’s holding up the announcement. I even read a compelling piece last night, forwarded by a reader, that one of the issues holding up the Protocol at the moment is the inclusion of ‘cyclors’ back in the next Cup – remember them (?)…I can’t believe that’s right and don’t dare email Grant Dalton to ask. Great if true. I’ll wait for the announcement.
Meanwhile, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron has been on full transmit to its members with not only a statement from Commodore Aaron Young, who is doing a terrific job in the circumstances, but also a fascinating whack-a-mole Question & Answer session which certainly sets out the club’s stall as a rather grateful club that has delegated the actual running of the Cup to ETNZ whilst being clear on its fiduciary requirements and expectations.
The Club is cleverly distancing itself from financial involvement and funding arrangements as is the modern set-up between AC teams and clubs and they answer a lot of questions and ‘what ifs’ – you can read the statement HERE and the Q&A HERE – they are well worth a read and you’ll get a far clearer picture of things.
What I gleaned was confirmation that the Squadron will be receiving a payment to fund youth sailing and development programmes from the Team NZ Trust if the event goes overseas – quite right too. And that the Club is 100% unwaveringly behind ETNZ – again great to see. Furthermore, the relationship between the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, Ineos Britannia as Challenger of Record and the RNZYS is rock solid – that’s a relief as bullets will start flying, trust me. And finally, that the Cup is almost certainly going overseas and if you don’t like it, well you are entitled to your opinion as a club member. Kapow.
The Club is however pretty dark and matter-of-fact on the question of disciplinary action to those that may be deemed in some eyes to have acted against the interests of the club – so are Mark Dunphy and Hamish Ross in the firing line? Seems a bit heavy-handed and clumsy to me.
Experience suggests that when it comes to what would amount to a protest hearing, and we’ve all been in those, there will be two sides of a story and what we think we know today will be vastly different when put under the spotlight of a wise-head jury decision. I don’t expect to see membership cards being handed over or demanded when it’s all said and done. And I hope that’s not the case – it’s only a sporting contest after all.
So again, we await with bated breath for the venue announcement to unleash the torrent of announcements that are stacking up behind the scenes. The Cup world are on endless Zoom calls at the moment hammering through the detail and media noise around the edges is mildly irritating to the players – sorry but it’s of your own making.
Perhaps future holders and interested parties should make a mental note that eight month waits for Protocol announcements and missed venue unveils are a killer to momentum in the America’s Cup. Mildly intriguing for the committed but utterly nuts to the rest of the world.