Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton with trophies for the Trophee de Marseille and winners of the MedCup series
Clad in his signature seafaring jacket, Grant Dalton sat in the foyer of the majestic Napier Sailing Club with Emirates Team New Zealand media wallah Warren Douglas.
Considering it's the day after the big flood in Hawke's Bay, a road block and detour near the Port of Napier along the Marine Parade meant I was running half an hour late.
If Dalton had any qualms about the delay, the poker expression on the old salty dog's face wasn't giving anything away.
If anything, the 53-year-old Aucklander was exuding the demeanour of a saint. After all, he was on a pilgrimage to the grassroots of New Zealand's centres that supposedly prop up a mega-bucks industry.
Almost in an evangelical mood, complete with parables, the managing director of Team NZ can sense not everyone is going to open their doors when he presses the door bell.
Emirates team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton. 1/2/2011
In fact, chances are, even before he can rap his knuckles on the rustic portal, the residents will turn their lights out and surreptitiously peek from behind the curtains in the hope he will move on.
For a man who has weathered vast expanses of ocean a staggering seven times around the world, he knows this is one surf he has to not only hang tough in but whose crest he must ride all the way to San Francisco, where the 34th America's Cup will be staged come September 2013.
'We have a job to do, not so much as re-educate but more in trying to re-engage people because the America's Cup, in particular, involves public money which has pretty much polarised people,' he explains, adamant anyone who doesn't know about their campaign, including the Volvo Ocean Race - which starts in October from Alicante, Spain, before finishing at Galway, Ireland, in June next year - would have had to have been a crab crawling out from under a rock.
'You are either for it or against it because you're not really in the middle,' Dalton says, unaware of the percentage split of the factions, but keen to find out.
03/05/2011 - Auckland (NZL) - 34th America's Cup - AC45 Test Event - Day 8 - Day 4 - America's Cup Trials
He's mindful people will always tell him what he wants to hear, consequently making him a poor judge of where he actually stands.
His gut feeling is it isn't the right time to call a snap election, but he finds comfort in the probability of 'a kind of undecided voters'.
'There's a lot of people who are against it and why wouldn't there be?' he surmises, swatting a persistently irritable fly with his hand in the process.
'There's nothing we could do about it because we couldn't hide an elephant in a phone booth,' Dalton says, adding they had started sailing the AC45 catamarans and needed to make an announcement by last month to meet entry and bond payment deadlines.
Team NZ were quietly going about their business but it was time to say something.
The irritable fly returns.
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