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Tina Symmans: From vacuumer to America’s Cup boss

by Suzanne McFadden 14 Oct 2018 20:57 PDT 15 October 2018
Tina Symmans holds the umbrella as Sir Stephen Tindall performs the traditional blessing of Emirates Team NZ's new AC50 and eventual Americas Cup winner. Heavy rain is always a good omen © Richard Gladwell

True story: Tina Symmans was the woman at the end of the vacuum cleaner in Emirates Team New Zealand’s base in Bermuda last year. And now she’s in charge of running the 2021 America’s Cup in Auckland.

Sitting in CEO Grant Dalton’s office at the old Team NZ headquarters, Symmans stresses that she volunteered to take charge of the hoovering in the last Cup campaign.

She had, of course, another role in the team, as a director on the Team NZ board. But she told the team that the only way she was going to Bermuda, to witness her first America’s Cup regatta, was if she could “actually do stuff”.

“When you feel you’re part of a team like this one, you really want to be involved. You don’t want to sit around drinking bloody champagne and saying ‘Oh isn’t this lovely?’” Symmans, 60, says.

“I’m quite practical, and I can’t sit still; I’ve got to be doing something.

“So I did a whole heap of things, including taking over the vacuuming.” While she did a good job by all accounts, even in the sweltering 38 degree heat inside Team NZ’s tent city, she was replaced when a friend - who’s a Queen’s Counsel - commandeered the machine.

When Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard arrived in Bermuda, “he insisted on doing the vacuuming,” Symmans laughs.

She won’t have time to do the cleaning up at this America’s Cup. She’s now chair of the new company, America’s Cup Event (ACE), set up to run virtually everything in the regatta, bar Team NZ’s defence.

She admits she doesn’t know how to sail (although she wants to learn at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron this summer). And she hadn’t been involved in yachting before joining the Team NZ board “in that ghastly period post-San Francisco” in 2014.

When the team looked to mount a fresh challenge for the 2017 Cup, Symmans was brought on to the new board for her negotiating skills. “Primarily, I was needed to persuade the government to put some money into the team,” she says. She has a background in strategic communications and corporate and government relations, and has worked for some of New Zealand’s biggest companies.

“Well, we all know how that turned out.”

When Team NZ failed to draw any funding out of the government, and were just hours away from shutting the syndicate down, Symmans “stuck it out, and did what I could,” to keep the team alive.

It took a few years for Symmans and Grant Dalton to see eye-to-eye. She holds her own in a fierce debate – and she and Dalton have had some doozies over the past few years.

“We battled a bit at boardroom level," say Dalton. "But we get on like a house on fire now. She’s a good stick.”

For the full story click here

Tina Symmans christens the Emirates Team New Zealand AC50 “New Zealand “ that will compete at the 35 America’s Cup in Bermuda 
picture by Emirates Team New Zealand
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