Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Team NZ sailing close to wind on Govt support: Joyce

Photo / Brett Phibbs
Photo / Brett Phibbs

Team New Zealand's plea for poverty is wearing thin with the Government.

With their bridging finance fast running out Grant Dalton yesterday reiterated the team's dire financial position, warning without an immediate cash injection from the Government the syndicate would be "gone by the end of the month".

"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."

Although Dalton maintains Team NZ has never been in a better position from a sponsorship point of view, the commercial dollars he has lined up won't kick in until February next year once the venues for the 35th America's Cup and qualifying series are known. He told media at the team's Halsey St base that Team NZ are heavily relying on further government funding to get them through to that point.

"We have got more money lined up than we said we would try and get, and that's been pulled together since Thursday last week, now the Government is totally vital to our survival," said Dalton at a briefing yesterday.

But Team NZ's rather precarious position has been met with a shrug from the Minister of Economic Development, Steven Joyce. While sympathetic to the team's plight, Joyce believes if sponsors aren't yet willing to take the risk, then neither should the taxpayer.

He indicated the Government would consider giving a further $2 million.

"My view is if the sponsors are going to join in then at least put some money on the table now so we all know there are committed commercial sponsors for an America's Cup challenge," he said.

"Taxpayers have already put $5 million on the table, we're prepared to give more but this cannot be a government-funded challenge. This must be a private sector-funded challenge."

With the minister effectively calling Team NZ's bluff, Dalton late last night moved to offer further reassurance that he was still chasing funds from private and commercial sources.

Dalton declined to reveal how much Team NZ needed to tide them over until February.

"We have raised a significant amount of money to help us out in the interim. If the minister is telling us we need to find more money then my answer is that is what I'm doing every second of every day."

Dalton told the Weekend Herald his intention in calling yesterday's press briefing was never to try and back Joyce into a corner. He wanted to clear up some of the "hysteria" and "rhetoric" around last week's protocol announcement, which he believed was negatively influencing the public's appetite for another challenge. Throwing public funds into the America's Cup has always been a hard sell for the Kiwi public, but with Cup defenders Oracle Team USA widely criticised for tabling rules for the next event that appeared stacked in their favour, Dalton's task of trying to convince New Zealanders that challenging again is a worthwhile endeavour became all the tougher. The general reaction from Team NZ fans was "tell Oracle to go and get stuffed". That approach won't hurt Oracle, it will only hurt Team NZ, said Dalton.

He claims the protocol is not as bad as some, including this newspaper, have been suggesting.

"It isn't that bad. [Oracle] 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 Team NZ in the last campaign was monumentally tougher than this time around. 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 summer holidays. Team NZ didn't have a design team with expertise in catamarans, 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 stronger 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."

- NZ Herald

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