Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Yachting: Cup legend wants nationality rule back

Team NZ's godfather says event should be country v country.

Sydney-based Belgian financier Marcel Fachler.
Sydney-based Belgian financier Marcel Fachler.

The man who kicked it all off for Team New Zealand believes for the America's Cup to draw the competitors back in a nationality clause needs to be reinstated.

After two months of one-boat contests and repetitive match-ups, a disappointing Louis Vuitton challenger series came to a close this week when Emirates Team New Zealand ousted Luna Rossa 7-1 in the final.

The Italians were the only team that Dean Barker and his crew met on the water during the regatta, after Artemis made a belated entry during the semifinals.

Sydney-based Belgian financier Marcel Fachler, who paid the entry fee for New Zealand's first America's Cup challenge back in 1987, said to attract more challengers in the future the event needs to distance itself from the image that it is the exclusive domain of egotistical billionaires, and restore an element of nationalism.

"It needs to be country against country," said Fachler, who was in San Francisco cheering on Team NZ in the Louis Vuitton finals.

"If you remember Larry Ellison said at the beginning, 'this is going to be an American team, this is going to be American sailors who are going to win the America's Cup'. There are two Americans on the boat, the rest are New Zealanders and Australians.

"If you want to get people to care about the America's Cup, there needs to be some national pride involved. Like the Kiwis and Italians have."

Fachler said the youth America's Cup, which kicks off next week before the real show begins, will likely attract more international media coverage than the Louis Vuitton Cup. Featuring 10 international teams, including two from New Zealand, the youth event will be sailed in the smaller AC45 catamarans.

The current iteration of the America's Cup is a very different world from when Fachler fell in love with the event, witnessing Australia II's historic victory during the 25th edition in Newport in 1983.

A keen sailor, he'd been following the exploits of New Zealand sailors for 10 years, and started asking why the Kiwis did not lodge a challenge for the Cup in Fremantle.

"I was sure when the time came in 1984 that someone would pay the entry fee and nobody paid. I waited until the last day, and without anybody knowing, I just paid it."

The challenge accepted, Mr Fachler flew to Auckland and told a stunned RNZYS Vice-Commodore Don Brooke "you're in the Cup".

"He said 'we don't have the money'. I said I don't have the money for the whole Cup, but what I can do is start you off and I put in something like $250,000, which at that time was a lot of money. That's how it started."

When Fachler's commodity broking business "went south", Sir Michael Fay was brought into the picture and the New Zealand Challenge went on to its outstanding debut in Fremantle.

Fachler, who had no prior connection to New Zealand sailing when he stumped up the US$16,000 entry fee on their behalf, said he is extremely proud when he considers how far Team NZ have come.

"It has created a whole industry since 1984 - boat-building, engineering, even professional sailors.

"I am only a small part of it, but it was the best thing I've ever done. I just hope Grant Dalton can bring the Cup back to New Zealand and make the event great again."

- NZ Herald

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