America’s Cup: A point of no return

Published on September 22nd, 2021

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
The morning ritual at Scuttlebutt HQ finds the editor sitting down in the big chair, with second cup of coffee in hand to commence the scroll through the email and social media updates. And given the current state of the America’s Cup, this was a load on September 22nd.

Sorting through announcements from America’s Cup defender Team New Zealand and their club, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, one thought came to mind, and when I scrolled through social media, one avid Cup fan put my thought online.

“What a sh#t show!”

When controversy is publicly aired so willingly, it generally has less to do with transparency and more to do with public relations. As the Kiwi team sorts out the venue for the 37th America’s Cup, I suspect they want their nation to understand why they will ultimately be taking the event offshore.

While this is an immensely unpopular move, the Kiwi team needs money to defend and they don’t see enough at home. And when team CEO Grant Dalton gets cornered on the topic, and perhaps accused of unfaithfully shunning the people that have long supported the team, he goes to his favorite George Santayana quote:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it!”

This has to do with the 2003 America’s Cup in which Team New Zealand was embarrassed in their defense effort, getting blanked by the Swiss team 5-0. Dalton contends how insufficient funds led to their failings and vows not to let that occur again.

In Kiwi land, there was an outside effort led by rich guy Mark Dunphy to privately shore up the government’s offer to keep the event at home, but distrust had grown to now a point of no return. So offshore it goes… but to where?

Dalton had listed Ireland, Saudi Arabia, and Spain as the finalists, but the Irish are now questioning the costs, the world is questioning the Saudi human rights history, and Spain is wondering how to sell the high fee to their citizens.

Having passed the September 17 deadline for venue confirmation, potential challengers are growing impatient at the lack of certainty for a match that is expected to be in 2024. Leading the charge is Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena who wants more information about the next America’s Cup.

“New Zealanders are great at saying a lot and saying nothing,” said Sirena. “We do not know where the cup will be held, when, with what rules, with how many and which boats.”

Considering the commercial strength of the event is connected to the number of challengers, and how three teams at AC36 was not enough to fulfill commercial objectives, the Kiwi team may be struggling to remember some of the past too.

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