The heads of two America's Cup teams squared off in Auckland tonight at a fundraising dinner to support the 2016 Paralympic campaign of two America's Cup sailors.
Sponsored by ASB Bank, the evening commenced with the screening of several video clips from 2010 with Oracle Team USA's Larry Ellison being interviewed as to his vision for the 34th America's Cup, with some now fairly extravagant forecasts about the number of teams, growth of the event and countries participating.
The 700 guests, at the $500 a ticket function, listened a little bemused, at first, and then the snickering turned to derisive laughter.
That followed with 'state of the nation' addresses by the respective team heads, Grant Dalton for Emirates Team NZ, and Russell Coutts for Oracle Team USA.
Then followed the Paralympic sailors, Rick Dodson and David Barnes, who have eight World Championship wins between them and several America's Cups from the 1988 to 2000 era.They explained their campaign and touched on how they suffer from multiple sclerosis, a degeneration of the central nervous system, both being diagnosed in the late 1990s.
Although physically they appeared to a little older than in their heyday, with some slowness of speech, the change in their condition was underlined at the end of the session, as David Barnes, a triple world champion in the Olympic 470 class, required a steadying hand to assist him down a couple of steps from the stage. Balance is one of the big issues faced by both sailors.
Two auctions were run - a silent one, with the bidders working through portable keypads on beach table. By one estimate $40,000 was raised, followed by an auction of a dozen lots of exceptional items, several carrying values of close to $20,000.
Budding was spirited at the auction with 10 lots being sold for an average of $15000 each. A ride on Oracle's AC72 was the subject of some spirited bidding selling for just over $20,000, then Russell Coutts put up a second ride which went for the same price. Grant Dalton immediately followed with two rides on Emirates Team NZ's AC72 which went for just over $20,000 for a total of $40,000 all up.
Organisers put the total raised from auctions alone at over $195,000, but by other counts that would be conservative. It was also announced that the crew will have two Sonar keelboats provided for them by several yachting philanthropists - so New Zealand's first Paralympic keelboat campaign got underway to a fine start.
Then followed for what was expected to be the Main Event, with a clearly irritated Coutts picking up on the showing the opening videos, and saying that their effect would only be to make Ellison even more determined to win.
But first he referred to an incident raised by Dodson, between himself and Coutts back in 1984 when they were Olympic Trialists in the Finn class, and by Coutts own admission, the smart money was probably on Rick Dodson, a multiple World OK Dinghy Champion, to take the New Zealand spot.
A week before the trials the two rival's rigs contacted in a training session, with Coutts' boom going through Dodson't new mainsail. A small hole was made much worse, when Coutts pulled on his mainsheet and pulled away most of the bottom of the mainsail, destroying it.
Coutts, then just 21 years old, went on the win the Olympic Trials, and the 1984 Gold Medal in the Finn - setting him on a stellar professional sailing path. To make some amends for the incident, in which he still claimed Dodson was at fault, Coutts offered to buy his former rival a new mainsail for their Sonar keelboat.
Full reports can be read here and here
by Richard Gladwell
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6:02 PM Fri 3 May 2013GMT
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