Yachting: Party snub causes a stir

By Paul Lewis

Steve Burrett.
Steve Burrett.

Team New Zealand were last night left wondering why only 17 tickets came their way to an 800-person America's Cup cocktail party do at Pier 19.

Although Team New Zealand were not commenting, the snub added an extra layer of friction to what has already been a fraught build-up to the America's Cup clash that starts this morning.

The significant absence of the New Zealanders must have seemed strange - they are the challengers in the America's Cup match, after all. It was unlikely many of the sailing crew due to duke it out in the match would have been at the party but Team NZ consists of 121 people and 17 tickets seemed thin.

In addition, no invite was made to the commodore of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Steve Burrett, who has been in San Francisco to attend the Louis Vuitton Cup and to receive the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup - the cup awarded to the winning challenger from 1970 but which has been superseded by the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Lipton was the charming and perennial loser in five challenges by the UK against the Americans between 1899-1930 and his home yacht club - the Royal Ulster Yacht Club - set up the Lipton Cup.

Burrett said: "I think this is probably indicative of the lack of care as far as yacht clubs are concerned in this America's Cup tenure. This [regatta] is all about money."

Traditionally, the America's Cup is a yacht-club-to-yacht-club engagement although the team syndicates and sailing teams star when it comes to the racing.

Burrett brought the Lipton Cup up from New Zealand with him and delivered it to the defending yacht club, San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club, and their vice commodore, Tom Ehman. He is also director of external affairs for the America's Cup and is closely linked with the Oracle team, representing them in the ill-fated "trespassing" protest against Team NZ.

"You contrast this with Louis Vuitton who did it exactly right. At the Louis Vuitton Cup prizegiving, they acknowledged the Squadron and recognised the club's part in things; it's an America's Cup tradition, as they know," Burrett said.

One theory from sources close to Team NZ was the lack of tickets to the party may have been because of Team NZ's contrary submissions to the America's Cup international jury last week.

Team NZ was asked to make submissions on the cheating allegations that ended with defender Oracle being docked two points, fined US$250,000 ($312,000) and had four members of their team excluded from the Cup regatta (one for four races).

In the written jury decision, Team NZ's submission was run immediately before that of the ACEA - by New Zealander Stephen Barclay. His submission maintained that the public response to Oracle's conduct was "negligible" and that provided there was no perceived issue of corruption in the sport, Oracle's conduct should have "no measurable impact" on the future commercial interests of the America's Cup.

Team NZ disagreed, saying "the whole episode has already damaged the brand and the reputation of the America's Cup and sailing as a sport".

However, team NZ had the last laugh. They sent to the party mostly young boat builders who had never been invited anywhere before. When it was time to leave, one wandered outside and was asked by a limousine driver: "Are you Mr Coutts?"

"Yes," replied the young Team NZ member - and he was driven home in style.

- Herald on Sunday

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