Modifying the America’s Cup

Published on June 25th, 2018

by Duncan Johnstone,
They are like classic pieces of silver right out of a sailor’s treasure tale and they’re finally back in the hands of Team New Zealand.

The two chunks of buckled silver are leftovers from the three-month repair work done by London jewelers Garrard & Co after the America’s Cup was damaged in a hammer attack by protester Benjamin Nathan at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in 1997.

They’ve led a dangerous life, turning up on a website auction in the wake of that repair, only to be saved by Swiss syndicate Alinghi who had won the Auld Mug off Team New Zealand in 2003.

When courts got involved in the litigious 2010 deed of gift challenge between Alinghi and Oracle Team USA, won by the Americans, the silver pieces were officially listed as still being part of the America’s Cup in a court ruling.

Team New Zealand’s legal advisor Russell Green and CEO Grant Dalton check over the long list of winners on the America’s Cup. © Emirates Team NZ

Yet when Emirates Team New Zealand won the Cup back from Oracle Team USA in Bermuda last year, they didn’t come with the handover of the imposing trophy.

Team New Zealand’s rules and legal adviser Russell Green noticed the shortfall when he read through the court ruling from the Alinghi-Oracle spat and asked Cup authorities where they were.

Initially, the dwindling America’s Cup Authority for the Bermuda regatta pleaded ignorance but said it would look into it.

A couple of months later the pieces of silver arrived at squadron headquarters in Auckland in a courier package from the wealthy San Francisco suburb of Woodside.

That just happens to be where Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison owns a massive Japanese-themed property he reportedly built at a cost of more than US$200 million (NZ$290m).

No one in the Kiwi camp is pointing fingers. As the current custodians of sport’s oldest trophy, they are simply happy to see everything return to order.

The America’s Cup has added two tiers to its base to carry results of every race since 1958. The bottom base will be updated. © Emirates Team NZ

Not that they don’t believe improvements can be made. As the RNZYS gets set to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Bermuda win on June 27, the bottom tier of the America’s Cup is about to be sent back to London for more work at Garrards.

The ornate silver ewer that forms the original trophy was contested in 1851 and has had every race sailed in the competition recorded on it. Two extra silver tiers were added to the bottom of the Cup in 1958 and 1992 to allow for more engraving.

But there’s a problem now because Alinghi used extra-large font to record their 2003 and 2007 wins. And after the 17 races of San Francisco 2013 were inscribed to record Oracle’s comeback victory over Team New Zealand, there is no space to list the nine races of the Kiwis’ 2017 revenge.

Swiss syndicate Alinghi went a little overboard with the engraving work for their wins over Team New Zealand. © Emirates Team NZ

The RNZYS has decided to put a replacement bottom tier on the Cup and, with the agreement of previous winners, will have the necessary race records engraved again in the traditional size and font. There will be enough space left to also record the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland 2021 and beyond.

RNZYS general manager Hayden Porter said they felt that was a better option than adding a third tier to what is already an imposing trophy in terms of size.

“We don’t want this ending up looking like the Stanley Cup,” he said of ice-hockey’s massive silver trophy that salutes the NHL winners.

Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton believes it’s important that traditions are maintained, noting how the powerful aura of the Cup continues to capture Kiwis.

“We’re a year on and it still has real pulling-power. It’s a star … it’s amazing and unique and it’s important we keep it that way,” Dalton said.

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