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America's Cup: Dalts' outrage versus Dunphy's doggedness - former Team NZ Exec Director chimes in

by Alan Sefton 12 Dec 2021 05:39 PST 13 December 2021
Alan Sefton (obscured) looks on as Russell Coutts celebrates the 1995 America's Cup win, May 13, 1995, San Diego © Sally Samins

Alan Sefton is a leading yachting journalist, author, yachting team organiser, longtime Peter Blake confidant, and one of the key managers involved in five America's Cups beginning with the KZ-7 challenge in Fremantle. He worked with Michael Fay in the 1987, 1988, and 1992 Challenges, and then with the Peter Blake led 1995 and 2000 America's Cup Challenges and Defence - an era which included two wins.

He writes:

When I first read the ETNZ media release that accompanied Grant Dalton’s address at the annual meeting of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, the thought that sprang to mind (and to misquote William Shakespeare) was: “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”

And then I got to the part where the release writer crassly used the name of Sir Peter Blake to help vindicate ETNZ’s use of surplus funds from the commercial exploitation of the Cup event to help fund the defender’s on-the-water campaign.

While it is correct that Team New Zealand 2000 used surplus monies from the event to help fund the on-the-water defence, that was not a decision of the late Sir Peter Blake alone. That was not the way he operated.

As with most if not all other courses of action, this decision on funding was taken by the management team of Sir Pete, Scott Chapman and Alan Sefton, and approved by TNZ’s five-man board of directors.

With due modesty, I know a little about such things having been involved at the front end of five of New Zealand’s Cup campaigns, advising the now Sir Michael Fay on his inaugural challenge in 1987 through to, with the late Sir Peter Blake, forming Team New Zealand to win the Cup in 1995 and then successfully defend it in 2000.

And, it is important to keep things in perspective

In 2000, we were dealing with several millions of dollars only when Team New Zealand’s total budget, for defence and event, was just under $60 million. The only central government money involved was a $200,000 commercial deal for Tourism New Zealand to use the Cup marks and wording in international promotion of the country.

Times most certainly have changed.

I have, like most, been watching on with increasing frustration while Messrs Dalton and Dunphy have conducted an unseemly media spat over whether Dalts has to look overseas to generate, through event fees, the funding needed to keep Emirates Team New Zealand alive and to stage the next edition of the Cup.

Mr Dunphy came out of left field to insist that the funding that Dalts needed could be and should be raised in New Zealand and offered $20m of his own money to get the ball rolling.

A condition of his offer, however, was that Dalton’s services as CEO of Emirates Team New Zealand had to be terminated. Somewhat predictably, that proved to be a serious mistake on Mr Dunphy’s part even though he later retracted the codicil while increasing to $40 million his own offer of financial support.

Dalts is nothing if not a fighter and is unlikely to forgive such a slight.

It has to be said, too, that Mr Dunphy has proven to be made of sterner stuff than many might have expected, sticking to his course despite some rather rough treatment from the other camp’s somewhat cavalier PR team.

There is, however, more at stake here than Dalts’ outrage and Dunphy’s doggedness.

I keep hoping that one day very soon the general committee of the RNZYS will stop hiding behind the deal it has with ETNZ and takes the initiative to get the two other parties in this unseemly dispute around a negotiating table to agree one set of figures and see whether Mark Dunphy is good for what he has been advocating.

If we can summon the will, surely we owe it to all and everyone that have gone before (including the major contribution of one Grant Dalton) to find a way to close the gap in Dalts’ numbers and keep the defence of the Auld Mug where it should be - in the waters of the Hauraki Gulf.

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