Dana Johannsen 's Opinion

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana Johannsen: Here we go again - Cup spats start

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Dalton’s concerns about US$2m fee sparks bickering between syndicates ... but Oracle need to listen to him

Grant Dalton is concerned about paying a fee before a venue is locked in.
Grant Dalton is concerned about paying a fee before a venue is locked in.

Less than a week after the protocol for the 35th America's Cup was announced, the sniping between syndicates has already descended into childish bickering.

If the past seven days are anything to go by, this next Cup cycle is shaping up to be a long series of squabbles. Quite like the last Cup cycle then.

It took only one stern missive from Team NZ boss Grant Dalton for Cup defenders Oracle Team USA to promptly go on the attack.

There are plenty of fish hooks in the new protocol that Team NZ could take exception to - some appear to be an out-and-out rort.

But Dalton's chief concern was the requirement that competitors pay the US$2 million entry fee before a venue for the next event was locked in.

He claims this is jeopardising the syndicate's existence - and that of every other commercially funded team.

Oracle Team USA chief executive Russell Coutts, who curiously stayed out of the public eye during the protocol announcements, couldn't help but take a pointed swipe at his old adversary on his Facebook page.

"Dalts, there's no need to make any more excuses about how hard it is to win the AC. We all know you have been trying your best for the past 11 years. Jimmy [Spithill] wants to see you back on board. Please don't leave."

Spithill then chimed in with: "Dalts is an awesome grinder, definitely better than Winston Macfarlane".

The Oracle skipper also popped up on TV here last week to respond to some of the criticisms levelled at the Defender's protocol.

It made sense to send Spithill into battle - he managed to defend what seemed like an indefensible 8-1 deficit in last year's Cup match, now he's been handed the job of trying to defend an indefensible protocol. On this front he has failed to match his efforts on the water.

Spithill claims Dalton is just doing what he does best - whinging.

He went on to say if the Team NZ boss doesn't think he can pull together a competitive challenge under the conditions that have been set, then perhaps someone else should be leading the syndicate.

The thing is, the argument "oh they're just a bunch of whingers" isn't really much of an argument at all.

Dalton isn't always an easy character to sympathise with. His brusque, no BS approach can get under the skin of the sailing establishment.

He's also prone to going off half-cocked as was evidenced by his claims Oracle were trying to block sailors from campaigning for the 2016 Olympics, which never appeared the intent of the rule. Yes, he is a whinger. But every team needs to have a pitbull in their corner or they'll get eaten alive themselves.

Given the set of rules they'll be forced to play under if they wish to enter the next event, Team NZ are actually remarkably relaxed about the protocol that has been tabled.

Dalton isn't too fussed about only being able to build one boat, as he believes the syndicate can negate Oracle's two-boat advantage by buddying up with another team.

The team are also happy to see movement on a couple of other contentious areas of the protocol, after the America's Cup authority this week amended the rules pertaining to the appointment of the arbitration panel and race committee.

Team NZ's main concerns remains the entry fee - something Oracle would do well to listen to if they are really serious about wanting to make the event feasible for commercially funded teams.

- NZ Herald

Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana has over a decade’s experience in sports journalism, joining the Herald in 2007 following stints with TVNZ and RadioSport. Over that time Dana has covered several major events including the 2011 Netball World Cup in Singapore, 2011 Rugby World Cup, 2012-13 Volvo Ocean Race, and the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. A multi-award winning journalist, Dana was named New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year in 2012 after scooping both the news and feature categories at the TP McLean Awards. The previous year she picked up the prize for best news break. She was also an inaugural recipient of the Sir John Wells scholarship at the 2009 NZSJA awards. Dana also writes a weekly sports column for the NZ Herald.

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