Team NZ weeks away from going under

By Dana Johannsen

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

The clock is ticking for Team New Zealand. Without an immediate cash injection the syndicate are, in the words of boss Grant Dalton, "gone by the end of the month".

However, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has just ruled out any immediate cash injection for Team New Zealand.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and so the syndicate today invited the media to their Halsey St base in a thinly veiled attempt to make one last plea to the New Zealand tax-payer to keep the doors of the syndicate open.

Worried the "hysteria" and "negative rhetoric" around the rules for the next America's Cup is hinging efforts to secure further bridging finance from the Government, Dalton has stated his case to the for the team's continued involvement in the event.

Although Dalton said the syndicate has never been in a better position from a sponsorship point of view, the money he has lined up won't kick in until February next year once the venues for 35th America's Cup and qualifying series is known.

So Team New Zealand is reliant on government funds getting them through to February.

At a media conference this afternoon, Mr Joyce ruled out any immediate cash injection. He said he wanted to see the sponsors front up first, Newstalk ZB reported.

Dalton says he has private money lined up to help tide them over in the meantime, but those donors aren't willing to hand over a cheque until the Government is on board.

While privately Dalton says the Government have been receptive to continuing their investment in Team New Zealand, they're nervous about the public backlash in election year. So it rests on Dalton's shoulders to try to convince the New Zealand taxpayer it will be money well spent.

But with Oracle Team USA widely criticised for tabling a protocol stacked in their favour, the task of trying to convince New Zealanders entering the 35th America's Cup is a worthwhile endeavour has become all the more difficult. The general reaction from Kiwi fans was 'tell Oracle to go and get stuffed'. That approach won't hurt Oracle, it will only hurt Team New Zealand, says Dalton.

He claims the protocol isn't as bad as some, including the Herald, have been suggesting.

"It isn't that bad. These guys aren't doing us any favours, let's be realistic about that -- it is the America's Cup. But it isn't that bad," he said.

Dalton points out the task facing them in the last campaign was an even steeper mountain to climb. In 2010 when the protocol for the 34th America's Cup was released, the extent of Dean Barker's multihull experience was sailing a Hobie catamaran on his Christmas holidays; they had no firm commitment from sponsors; Team New Zealand didn't have a design team with multihull expertise, while Oracle had just won the America's Cup in a giant wing-sailed multihull.

"We don't see the odds being stacked anything like they were last time. We were starting from absolute scratch, we'd never even seen a wingsail, let alone designed one. So the project doesn't worry us at all, there's nothing in the Protocol that scares us off," said Dalton.

"In many respects we're strong than we have ever been. We're operational, we're sound, we've got a lot of sponsor interest. But we have a serious cash flow issue and we have a New Zealand public that is critically important to us."

Dalton also played up the importance of yachting in this country, pointing out New Zealand's long association with the America's Cup and the positive spin-off that has had for the marine industry and the Auckland waterfront.

"The first memory I have is Clive Roberts and Chris Bouzaid -- Heligoland 1969, Rainbow II [in the One Ton Cup] -- it started there for my generation and it's grown through Laurie Davidson, Bruce Farr, Peter Blake. All that history brings us to this point.

"If we go, there ain't no coming back. The start-up price of a team from scratch is so astronomical that it will never happen in this country."

- NZ Herald

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