Grant Dalton, I salute you.
That was a bit hard to write.
“Dalts” isn’t easy to like. He doesn’t have the charisma or swashbuckling air of the late, great sailing supremo Peter Blake.
But boy, does he get things done.
Here’s an irony. Dalton has finally stepped out of the enormous Blake shadow, and he did it while staying in the shadows.
The Team New Zealand boss was hardly sighted during this America’s Cup, letting the amazing boat and team he formed do the talking as they eventually blitzed the Italians.
A bloke who wouldn’t get off the boat in the past, who seemed to want to hog the limelight, gave a victory speech so short at the main America’s Cup village stage that you would swear he had an important telephone call to take elsewhere.
Maybe he did. (“Is that you, Sir Jim?”).
This is what I really like about Grant Dalton.
He’s a throwback to the roots of great professional sport, which relied on win-at-all-cost alpha males who would happily step on toes, but only when they weren’t sticking a foot on someone’s neck.
Iron-willed megalomaniacs have been as essential to the growth of sport and making it fascinating as the stunning skills of Pele, Maradona, Don Bradman, Viv Richards, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Jonah Lomu et al.
Sport is supposed to be a little crazy, and it’s supposed to involve people trying to trample over each other. That’s what makes it riveting.
Single-minded, obsessive, pioneering characters like Dalton are the very people who have turned the America’s Cup into the winner it is.
Unfortunately, everyone wants to play – or seem to play – the good guy these days.
Everything is special. Everyone is wonderful. Everyone cares about everyone else. Everyone wants to support a charity.
Nice has its place. But so does a bit of nasty.
Dalton cares about winning, getting on top, getting even, finding more money. Nice.
And pulling an America’s Cup team together, and one which continues to set the pace in performance and cutting-edge design, is not easy.
There were – quite rightly – serious public funding questions that needed to be raised around the relationship between the team and the events arm.
But hey, why quibble over how millions of dollars in public money are allocated at a glorious time like this?
And for what it’s worth, I love the idea of a special Isle of Wight America’s Cup challenge, the one apparently being considered by Dalton.
It breaks the rules, it’s something different, and head-to-head, all-on-the-line battles make for great sport.
NZME’s sources, not to mention sailing legend Brad Butterworth, say that Dalton has already cut a deal with the super-wealthy Brit Jim Ratcliffe, so he’s got enough money to keep TNZ together.
Yes, it would put New Zealand’s hosting of the next Cup at risk. But so would the break-up of Team New Zealand, which must be some kind of possibility if the money doesn’t flow in quick.
And for anyone shocked that Dalton might fly the coop despite all the public money spent on his baby here, you should have taken a closer look at who you were getting into bed with in the first place. Dalton does things his way.
And an Isle of Wight venture would put his reputation and public standing on the line, which takes a bit of guts. It might be easy money, but it isn’t a total soft option.
Dalton did a stunning job in the 36th America’s Cup. In the end, his regatta was a pretty amazing contest, his crew superb, his boat even better.
Dalton’s place is absolutely secure, as an extraordinary and unusual Kiwi sporting legend. In Kiwi hearts though? That still feels like a tougher call.
Te Rehutai had barely crossed the finish line and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was promising millions to support the next America’s Cup.
As an Ardern supporter, I felt gutted at what seemed like a blatant votes grab.
What a lot of people want is a fairer form of capitalism, and support for the Labour Government is based on that.
In terms of sport, that would involve a more considered approach which acknowledges the true range of sporting interest in this country rather than throwing everything at often niche-sport Olympians, Rugby World Cups and rich dude yacht races.
Remember that amazing rugby league World Cup a few years ago, which highlighted the true diversity of our society and was a particular triumph for the Tongan community? What has been done to build on that in terms of public money and grand Prime Ministerial statements?
And yes, we the media must admit to being complicit in this.
But after the PM’s hasty words it feels as if nothing will ever change, that the Euro-centric, male-dominated, rich-get-richer tenets of our society are as firmly rooted as ever.
Maybe the Prime Minister could make more noise around the FIFA women’s World Cup, which will be co-hosted by New Zealand in 2023. It might even win her a vote or two.