New America's Cup controls 'paranoid' - Dalton
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE AND SIMON PLUMB
New Zealand's gold-medal prospects Peter Burling and Blair Tuke could be blocked from the 2016 Olympic Games by the radical new America's Cup rules threatening to gain total control of sailing's finest talent.
That's the fear of Team New Zealand as they digest the finer details of the 78-page protocol document belatedly released last week by cup holders Oracle and Challenger of Record, Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club.
A clause in the protocol for the 2017 cup states that once sailors participate in an America's Cup World Series event, due to start next year, they need the written approval of the America's Cup commissioner to sail in any regattas outside of his jurisdiction.
Team NZ believes the protocol has the fingerprints of Oracle boss and Kiwi, Sir Russell Coutts.
"This is Coutts' protocol - there's no mistake about that," Team NZ boss Grant Dalton said.
"They are saying: you need permission to sail in any other event at any time. Follow that through to its conclusion. When [reigning Olympic silver medallists] Peter Burling and Blair Tuke sail in an AC45 for Team NZ next year, those guys would need Coutts' permission to go to the Olympics. It's nonsensical."
Team NZ see the control move as a power play by the cup holders.
"On the face of it, none of that makes any sense at all other than some paranoid attempt at world domination. You can only assume that it's some way of trying to extract more money for their own sponsors by saying they have domination and control of the yachtsmen," Dalton said.
"And I see that as a fairly important precedent."
Every syndicate signing on for the next edition of the America's Cup will be affected. The potential crews feature many Olympic hopefuls, as well as professional sailors who earn their living contesting other regattas in the drawn-out build-up to the regatta scheduled for 2017.
Dalton also suggested that since the new protocol distances the America's Cup from the jurisdiction of the International Sailing Federation, there could be the potential for counter-action.
"That world authority could ban, if it decided to take that stance, any yachtsman competing in the America's Cup regatta," he said.
Dalton suggested the heisting of sailors could be a bigger issue than the differences that have already been exposed, including Oracle getting to build two boats while challengers are restricted to one.
"Often in the America's Cup things get thrown out there to hide or shelter other things. As we are still reading our way through the protocol there are other things that are more important now and one is the ability of them to control and dominate the yachtsmen who sail in any of their events.
"We are still assessing the protocol page by page, because you have to look at the rules and ask ‘what's the end game'?"
As for the money issue confronting Team NZ, Dalton admitted they wouldn't be able to pay the US$1m (NZ$1.17m) entry fee - due by August 8 - if it was required today.
"But we now know the quantum of the issue and we're trying to deal with it."
On top of the $36m in taxpayer money invested in Team NZ's failed cup quest last year, the Government has already handed an extra $5m for a potential 2017 campaign.
That sum was purely for wages and the retention of crew members and other key staff. However, by the end of the month it will all be spent - meaning Dalton also has to find funds to keep the payroll going, as well as the cash just to enter the regatta.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has already fielded a request from Team NZ to pump in more public money.
And although Joyce says a form of bridging loan isn't out of the question, he made it clear that the immediate financial viability of the Kiwi syndicate rests primarily with Dalton, existing sponsors and the nation's yachting community.
"We are certainly keeping a watching brief. They [Team NZ] have said they'd like us to put more money in at this point, I have told them I will have to discuss it with my colleagues and wasn't necessarily against it," he said.
"But I feel quite strongly that it is time for some of the other sponsors and also the yachting community to step up a little bit. At some point, others, beside taxpayers, need to be prepared to speculate on it a little and make some early down payments on the next challenge.
"They [Team NZ] need to raise some more money. I'm not convinced the taxpayer should carry 100 per cent of that load." "Really, it's about how they can go about raising founds over the interim period."
- Sunday Star Times
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