Four Years After America’s Cup Loss, Team New Zealand Is Not Over It
“The makeshift cafeteria was all but empty, and Dan Bernasconi, the design coordinator for Emirates Team New Zealand, was speaking quietly about being on the wrong end of one of the greatest comebacks in sports history,” writes Christopher Clarey in an article in The New York Times.
“Everyone was pretty devastated for sure, just disbelief,” he said in February, referring to Team New Zealand’s improbable loss to Oracle Team U.S.A. in the 2013 America’s Cup.
“But it’s not just losing the regatta. It’s everything that comes after it. Our world would have been a very different place if we had won. This edition of the America’s Cup would have looked very different.”
“With an 8-1 lead in San Francisco in 2013, Team New Zealand needed to win just one more race to bring the next America’s Cup, along with all the economic and psychic benefits, back to Auckland,” writes Clarey.
“But Oracle and its upbeat skipper, Jimmy Spithill, kept finding new ways to ward off defeat (…) and it ultimately won eight straight races to retain the Cup.”
“I don’t think you ever get over that,” said Grant Dalton, Team NZ’s chief executive.
Team Oracle chose “to stage its 2017 defense not in the United States but in tiny Bermuda”. “While Oracle and four of the five challenging syndicates have established bases in Bermuda, Team New Zealand has remained home in much more spartan surroundings.”
For Team New Zealand “it has been a three-and-a-half-year fight to remain afloat.”
“But Team New Zealand has survived, even with an operating budget that Dalton said was half of what it was in 2013 and under $20 million per year.”
“We’ve really struggled financially to survive. Bermuda, with all the best intentions of a venue, is a difficult place to sell sponsorship,” said Dalton.
In addition to Oracle’s “unorthodox choice of venue”, changes to the original Cup protocol agreement in 2015 resulted in Auckland losing the chance to host a preliminary America’s Cup World Series event last month.
“That led to litigation — an America’s Cup tradition — and to Team New Zealand’s reportedly taking its case to the America’s Cup Arbitration Panel.”
“With no regatta in Auckland, the New Zealand government declined to provide further funding to supplement the 5 million New Zealand dollars it had injected to support the team and protect its talent from being poached.”
“Losing the New Zealand government this time really hurt,” said Dalton.
“So did the 2015 decision to remove the popular skipper and longtime helmsman Dean Barker, which cost the team dearly in the court of public opinion,” reports Clarey.
“What is clear is that Team New Zealand is a team apart in this America’s Cup.”
“We are very much the lone wolf,” said Dalton.
Following some disagreements about the future of the cup, the 2017 Cup will be not only a duel between sailing teams but a duel between visions of the Cup’s future.
“The danger of being a lone wolf, of course, is that there’s a lot of people, not just Oracle, that don’t want us to win this time,” said Dalton.
“There are five teams that want us dead now, not one, only because we’ve ruined their little parade.”
“Team New Zealand will finally establish a base in Bermuda in April, a delay linked to budget limitations and the continuing litigation. The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup qualifiers, which decide which challenger faces Oracle, begin on Bermuda’s Great Sound on May 26.”
Article Source: New York Times, Christopher Clarey, February 28, 2017
Image Source: Twitter – EmiratesTeamNZ