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America's Cup: Brad Butterworth on Dalts, the AC75 and Team NZ

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 9 Jul 14:56 PDT 10 July 2018
Brad Butterworth at the Media Conference following the loss of the America's Cup in 2010 © Richard Gladwell

Four times America's Cup winner Brad Butterworth, says a shortage of sponsorship and radical design for the AC75 are the main reasons why there have only been three entries to date for the 36th America's Cup.

Describing the AC75 as a "unicorn" Butterworth was interviewed on Radio Live Sunday afternoon (NZT). "There's nothing around like it. It is a bit of a unicorn. Guys don't want to sail it. They are going to be very exciting but none of them [AC75's] exist."

'You have to understand that the rules don't really encourage the participation. Team New Zealand and the Challenger of Record decide everything and Luna Rossa has great power - more than I have seen in the past. It is hard for new teams to get involved outside of that group, as they don't have any say."

Asked to comment on whether the AC75 would capsize and was dangerous, Butterworth responded saying that the boats had always been difficult to sail and that the America's Cup was the pinnacle of sailing. "They've got to be difficult [to sail], they always have been in the past."

He added that when a new team wins they change the class which "nine times out of ten favours the Defender. That's a good thing - if you're a New Zealander."

Butterworth admitted he was a "bit of a traditionalist" and that he would rather "see the boats in the water," [sailing in displacement mode rather than foiling.]

He pointed out that it was the Defender and Challenger of Record's right to chose the boat "and they don't need anyone else's permission. When you ask why did they pick that concept? The answer is because they can."

Harking back to earlier America's Cups in Auckland and Valencia, where there were double-digit entries, Butterworth notes that there was "a lot of money washing around in the sport in those days. Now it has changed a lot. If you look at Bermuda, I think Team New Zealand would have gone to that event, on the smell of an oily rag, compared to the other teams. They [Team NZ] were the only true stand-alone team. They didn't sign up for the long-term agreement for the Cup. They were pretty tough."

"Bringing the Cup to New Zealand, I think it is a hard call for them. They still have to get quite a bit of money to defend it. It is not a cheap sport."

Butterworth commented that he thought with relationship with Team NZ and Luna Rossa was such that were not keen to encourage other Challengers into the event. [Grant Dalton has previously denied that claim to S-W saying that his main focus was to get as many challengers into the event as possible.]

"It's hard for other teams to get involved", Butterworth commented, "but they have to live with it."

He noted that the standard Team New Zealand had reached in design and sailing crew, and the ability of people like Glenn Ashby to move between the sailing and design teams, was good for the future of Team New Zealand. "They have a really strong background in foiling, and know how to sail those boats at a high level. That end of the game is the pinnacle of the event and there are not that many teams that can get out and do that. It's expensive and its difficult to attain a level that high."

Responding to leading questions as to whether Team New Zealand was well liked [amongst the sailing community]. Butterworth would not initially be drawn. "As a group of sailors and the way they have fought back and won - you've got to take your hat off to them."

In response to the follow-up question, Butterworth responded " You guys are pushing me to talk about Dalton. Of course, he is a bit of a blunt nail. He plays pretty hard in all aspects of it. He's going to upset a few people. But that's the way it goes and that's the way he plays that game. There's not much you can do about that."

When pushed further as to whether Dalton's hard demeanour was a reason for the lack of entries, Butterworth chuckled: "I don't think so. Maybe a few other people would disagree with me, but I don't think so," he laughed.

[Back in mid-2014 when Team New Zealand was facing closure, Butterworth made the offer to assist the team in whatever way possible. That was confirmed by Board member Sir Stephen Tindall who qualified the offer saying Butterworth would only be involved if he was CEO - taking over Dalton's role.]

"I think Luna Rossa and that group have a lot of say in the way things and gone, and this is where they have wound up."

He repeated that the boat that had been chosen was a very difficult and expensive type and it was going to to be very hard for teams to participate, noting that the three teams who had challenged all had substantial backing from billionaires.

"There's no teams of young sailors just putting a boat together and trying to get into it. It's out of their reach."

For the full interview radiolive.co.nz and scroll down to the fourth story.

S-W: Maybe not surprisingly there are some previous interactions between Brad Butterworth and Grant Dalton as revealed in this story stemming from 2008 and the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series: "Butterworth nukes Dalton in Americas Cup ruckus"

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