Yachting: Getting the fans back on board

By Dana Johannsen

The giant wing-sailed catamaran is a work of art compared to the monohulls Team NZ sailed in their last campaign back in 2007. Photo / Chris Cameron
The giant wing-sailed catamaran is a work of art compared to the monohulls Team NZ sailed in their last campaign back in 2007. Photo / Chris Cameron

Team NZ boss Grant Dalton hopes tonight's launch will be the first step.

For Team New Zealand, tonight's launch of their new AC72 catamaran isn't just about naming a boat.

It is the beginning of a PR campaign to win back fans that have become disenchanted with the America's Cup. And the challenges in the court of public opinion are just as substantial as the challenges on the water in San Francisco next year.

The Cup's image remains tarnished by the years of bitter court wrangles between former holders Alinghi and Oracle.

While the spat was settled on the water over two years ago, the eye-watering budgets employed by the two warring billionaires - Oracle's Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli of Alinghi - to win the best of three sail-off only enhanced the view among many fans that the America's Cup has become a sport for extremely rich men with big egos.

Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton is acutely aware that for many New Zealanders, the quest for the Auld Mug seems a fool's errand.

But he hopes tonight's flashy public launch will be the first step in reigniting interest from the fans.

"We're trying to start to re-engage with the public, who for the right reasons have got a little over the America's Cup and the bickering that happened, so hopefully they'll come along and see what we're about and get back on board," said Dalton.

He acknowledges the team have a big task ahead of them to resurrect the interest in their campaign.

"The sense I get is that we have a lot of work to do to get the public buy-in again," he said.

There remains a level of distaste over the $36 million Government investment into Team NZ's campaign at a time when public spending has been squeezed in other areas.

As the taxpayer is funding a significant percentage of the Kiwi challenge, the team have endeavoured to involve the public as much as possible with tonight's launch.

Fans will have the opportunity to be members of the official launch crew as part of Team NZ's strategy to appeal to national pride and emphasise this is "our" team.

The sleek, new AC72 catamaran - to be named New Zealand - will be held up as a shining beacon of the innovation and expertise of the nation's marine industry.

The giant wing-sailed multihull is certainly a work of art when compared to the old version 5 monohulls Team NZ sailed in their last campaign back in 2007.

Dalton hopes the state of the art technology will excite existing fans as well as bringing in new ones.

"I think the Cup will always hold a lot of intrigue for fans - it's one of those events," he said.

"They're definitely interested in the technology and the human dynamics. And it is the little guy against the big guy, so I think Kiwis will always get behind that."

- NZ Herald

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