America’s Cup 2021: Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton hits back at Italian syndicate following ‘hail of bullets’

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton has launched a stinging attack on America’s Cup Challenger of Record Luna Rossa – for what he describes as a “hail of bullets” the defender has faced in recent weeks.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking following the launch of their impressive second AC75 Te Rehutai on Thursday, Dalton said he expected Italian syndicate Luna Rossa to be more respectful for “what they’re allowed to do in this country” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The relationship between TNZ and Luna Rossa has soured over a variety of issues including the use of the inner harbour courses, earlier arguments over the wind strengths for the America’s Cup and, just last week, claims from Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena that the TNZ designed foil cant system is of poor quality.

The latest dispute, over claims TNZ missed a payment deadline for next month’s World Series event in Auckland, will go to the America’s Cup Arbitration Panel and could see TNZ excluded from the three-day regatta.

According to the Challenger of Record, TNZ failed to pay the US$300,000 (NZ$435,000) entry fee for the event by last Friday’s (November 13) deadline.

Dalton earlier told the Herald that payment was made within the required period.

“It’s just the America’s Cup, you know. I will say that we’re a country that has prevented Covid and their country is tragically ravaged. And I would hope that they would be slightly more respectful of their hosts and what they’re allowed to do in this country because of five million people that have made sacrifices for things like the America’s Cup to go ahead,” Dalton told Hosking.

Italy has been one of the countries worst affected by Covid-19, with over 1.3 million confirmed cases and nearly 48,000 deaths.

“Last night was one of those nights where you stand back just for a second through the hail of bullets that we seem to be living in at the moment at Emirates Team New Zealand and go ‘you know, this is pretty cool what we’ve done’.”

The Herald recently revealed that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) appears to be looking into the use of taxpayer funding of the America’s Cup, with its director, Julie Read, making calls to senior government officials about an investigation which largely cleared a company closely tied to TNZ.

Earlier this year the Government conducted an investigation into how America’s Cup Event (ACE) is spending $40 million of taxpayer money provided to it by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). In August, a report cleared the team of misappropriating public funds and revealed that TNZ was in dispute with MBIE over the way the team charged ACE $3m to design the boats for next year’s regatta.

Asked if their issues with MBIE have been solved, Dalton said “there’s starting to be a goodwill re-forming”.

“We want that to delve a little deeper yet and it will through the mediation process. I’m really at the moment just thinking of going sailing for a change rather than as I say, dealing with a hail of bullets,” he told Hosking.

“It [negative headlines] doesn’t help. It can’t help. But there’s pretty much a wall between the two parts of it. I don’t think it affects the organisation in any shape or form.

“Certainly shots from the other teams really almost invigorate you more and motivate you more because it’s just human nature when someone comes on attack for you to attack harder. That actually helps us which I find slightly ironic when other teams think it’s a stabiliser. It certainly motivates me. I love that stuff.”

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