Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Diplomat, film producer behind Team NZ's Cruise coup

Tom Cruise's sail with Team NZ in San Francisco this week was the result of a joint effort by the Lord of the Rings producer Barrie Osborne and Leon Grice, a New Zealand diplomat and lynchpin for the Government when New Zealand hosted the Rugby World Cup.

Images of actor Cruise taking the helm of Emirates Team New Zealand's AC72 catamaran were picked up by media outlets around the world, generating huge buzz around the America's Cup - an event that had so far struggled to register much interest from mainstream sports fans.

Mr Grice is now New Zealand's consul in Los Angeles and knows Mr Osborne from time living in New Zealand while the Lord of the Rings was being filmed.

Mr Osborne, a sailing fan, is understood to have persuaded the Warner Bros' reps to go out for the day and the trip was co-ordinated by Mr Grice.

The ride was a treat for Cruise and his son Connor. Since Artemis crewman Andrew Simpson was killed when the Swedish team's boat capsized in May, guests have been banned from the boats during races.

The Cruises watched Monday's race aboard superyacht Imagine, owned by Team New Zealand's wealthy benefactor, Swiss-Italian Matteo de Nora.

Once the racing was over, Team New Zealand took the duo for a spin on their catamaran, which is capable of reaching speeds of around 45 knots, or 80km/h.

PR expert Brian Finn, the former head of communications at the NZRU and now associate partner at PR consultancy The Idea Shop, said it was a highly effective publicity stunt for Team New Zealand.

"It's certainly a bit of a coup for the team and it builds a little bit on what I've been seeing and hearing, that Team New Zealand are the crowd favourite in San Francisco, despite the fact they're not the home team," he said.

- NZ Herald

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