Emirates Team New Zealand boss, Grant Dalton knows more than most about what’s really going on with the America’s Cup. In a wide-ranging interview with Sailing Anarchy, Dalton has put on the record several issues that have been bubbling away under the surface for a while. Remember that the America’s Cup is not your average boat race. Lawyers and back-room machinations are just as much a part of the process as on-the-water performance – something that newer teams may not be set up for.
Here are some of the issues covered in the 53 minute chat.
EmiratesTeamNZ.com will be redirected to AmericasCup.com?
The protocol governing the America’s Cup requires teams to redirect their URL to the official America’s Cup site. He says that the team were approached by a heavy hitting lawyer with a Dubai address which is why the team went down the route of trying to get some clarification of the rule.
With off the record support from all teams other than ORACLE Racing and Artemis Racing, Emirates Team NZ are looking to try and get the best deal for their sponsors who see online as a large part of the offer. Dalton refers to our article that highlights the improbability of Manchester United agreeing to redirect their website to that of UEFA.
For Dalton, the perfect solution would be a mirrored site. While ORACLE Racing say that all other teams have complied, the fact is that none of the other teams are really active and:
…have bigger problems than where to put their website. Like where they put the wing.
The solution for Emirates Team NZ will be to “live in social.” Dalton says:
In the end, we will give that away and supply it what it needs and live in social, because they are not controlling social. We’ll be on the site, but it will be pretty boring. Half the teams will be gone by the this time next year anyway. We will live in social to the detriment of the site because our sponsors need hight visibility.
The team also know that if the rules were applied to the letter, then they would have to comply, but the organisers have been willing to compromise on other issues.
They can beat us with a big stick over the protocol and they will win… If they roll us, and they can, then we just wont co-operate on anything, and we will just keep chucking grenades over the fence.
Sticking up for the Commercial Teams.
Despite America’s Cup organisers stating that they are trying to create a long term commercial success of the America’s Cup, Dalton believes that with the Defender and the Challenger of Record being funded out of private bank accounts, this will never happen. Emirates Team New Zealand just think differently.
As a (the) commercial team, we represent the commercial teams not the billionaire teams – we just think different. It is an impossible commercial model. The America’s Cup is in no shape or form at the moment a commercial model that is sustainable or even achieveable.
Dalton refers to a situation where organisers tried to take away the right to put the America’s Cup symbol on team merchandise. First they said it was allowed and then that right was taken away. Emirates Team NZ had minutes of the discussion and held their corner, but Dalton believes they are the only team that has the experience and the support to back themselves. This could be because the other teams are so indebted to the organisers for their existence so far. Dalton says:
The other teams are either too small or too timid to be able to fight these corners and we will continue to fight. Many of the teams will be too scared to write to them because they are scared for their own survival and I am sure that many of them haven’t paid for their AC45s in Cascais – if the reality is known.
America’s Cup World Series Vs Extreme Sailing Series.
The America’s Cup has set some big expectations, and they have set themselves against one of the most respected events and organisers in the industry. Dalton says:
Cascais is a pretty important event.The Extreme Series is a pretty good series. It costs a zillion times more to be in the Cup, and they have to get to that level yet. They have to be better, but frankly, they are going to have trouble getting to that level.
It’s fantastic to hear one of the sport’s leaders thinking about sailing as a whole and not just focussed on one little part of it. Grant Dalton knows that all entrepreneurial and commercial events should support each other and by doing so the whole will be increased. This trick has been completely missed by the America’s Cup. Emirates Team NZ have competed in the Extreme Sailing Series throughout 2011 and Dalton knows that relationships are as important as anything else. Emirates Team NZ will be at the Cowes round of the Extreme 40s depsite a (deliberate?) date clash with the America’s Cup World Series. Dalton says:
We are doing the Extreme 40. There are two reasons for that. One is that we want to support Mark (Turner), and as leader of the event it wouldn’t look good if the leader of the event pulled out. I hope that next year they can co-habitate because the Extremes 40 are great. We want to do both.
The America’s Cup World Series still haven’t provided a good reason why two of their events clash directly with the Extreme Sailing Series. While many in the business have speculated, Dalton has said it out loud:
(Ernesto) Bertarelli has money in the Extreme 40s now and I guess that hatred is still pretty strong.
The sport can work together on the calendar and even America’s Cup teams have worked to make sure that events didn’t work against each other:
But the TP52s do it well, the TP52 and the Farrs – we had guys on both and we never really had clashes. When we were putting the Louis Vuitton together, we made sure that we didn’t clash with the TP52s – and we didn’t want to hurt them.
On Different Approaches, Cultures and Budgets.
Emirates Team NZ, is a commercial team, and therefore they do things a little bit differently.
If you haven’t got any money issues, you could use AC45s for testing or a giant trimaran – Emirates Team NZ is instead using 33ft catamarans.
You couldn’t alter your 45, but now you can. Two more AC45s being built and we think they are for ORACLE for a test platform. 800,000 euros for a 45 and 2 33’s in the water for 2. You could spend 10 million dollars and stick it on a trimaran for testing like Artemis are doing. That’s way more useful. It’s a fallacy to think we have a lot of money.
There are about 4 people in the office in this place, then we have a lot of designers, but we are very careful how we spend money. There’s not a bunch of pixies that appear from santa’s sleigh and take the boats sailing when the other guys are not around – we’re a little team.
The Extreme nature of the new America’s Cup means that there are things teams have to think about that they have never had to think about before. Dalton has had to completely change his approach to safety – and that’s just for the 45 foot version of the catamarans. When it is scaled up to 72 foot, then there is a high chance of serious injury.
I haven’t changed my opinion. I think it’s all very cool until someone gets seriously hurt. We have a medic on the water. We have two chase boats. There is no point having a diver, because once he has his regulator on – someone’s dead. You need a surf rescuer who can swim two lengths of a pool underwater, because I do believe they are dangerous.
That’s extreme, that’s cool and that’s neat, but it’s amazing how motorsport is not cool anymore when someone gets badly hurt. In San Francisco, the added element is cold-shock. And San Francisco is cold. The only thing we learnt when we tested cold-shock was that you would die.
Everything changes and you have to adapt. Maybe if its over 15 knots you need a chopper with a guy on the skids, ready to jump. Its a big issue and it hasn’t gone away, it’s just no-one has got badly hurt yet.
ACRM and Iain Murray are addressing it. Iain Murray is a really good bloke. That side of the organisation is great. ACEA is ineffective and we don’t even know what they do. When I think ACRM i think Mark (Turner) and when I think ACEA I can’t think of anybody.
Watch the Full Interview