He’s a New Zealand legend. He smiles modestly and simply asserts that he has “more experience.” Grant Dalton, a double winner of the Volvo Ocean Race in 1982 and 1994, was the one who helped the All Blacks get back on their feet, not in rugby, but in sailing. President of Team New Zealand since 2003, with whom he has won twice, he is responsible for organizing the 2024 edition of the America’s Cup, the world’s oldest sporting competition, including Louis Vuitton (which belongs to LVMH, which is also the owner of Échos-Le (the Parisian group)) becoming Title partner.
Just days before the World Cup Final, is it really possible to talk about something other than rugby when talking about New Zealand?
Grant Dalton. All of New Zealand is watching, including me. In the final, against South Africa, they will have a real chance. They have nothing to lose. On the other hand, the competition was disappointing as the top four teams found themselves in the quarter-finals. The final was supposed to pit New Zealand against France (He laughs). The hardest part about sailing is introducing yourself. In New Zealand, we have successfully met this challenge. Sailing is one of the most popular sports along with rugby and cricket. There, everyone knows the America’s Cup. When New Zealand won it for the first time in 1995, it remains our country’s greatest sporting achievement. Even taxi drivers talk about it and have an opinion when you arrive at the airport… In France, this is not the case at all.
How does the America’s Cup get media coverage?
Sailing will never achieve the popularity of the Rugby World Cup or the Olympics, but we can do better. Navigators can become heroes! We have to make people understand that it is also a technology sport. For the America’s Cup, 160 people work compared to only 12 people on the boat… On television and on social networks we try to make this sport more accessible and understandable. There are also environmental issues with hydrogen boats, or the possibility of seeing more women on board. In short, it’s great when you dive into it. Like other sports, like rugby.
This 37th edition of the America’s Cup will see a large number of changes. Starting with the name…
It will be Louis Vuitton’s 37th Copa América Barcelona. We are very proud to have our sponsor Louis Vuitton back with us. We’re reconnecting with our history, the history of a partnership that started in 1983. They’ve been involved in every America’s Cup up until 2017. It’s a family, and they’re rare in sport at this point – where we get together again. I am very proud to be able to announce this. It’s been a long time since the America’s Cup has received such good news.
Instead of welcoming him to your country, as is the tradition of the winning country, this time you decided to move to Barcelona. Why ?
Many people think it is purely financial. This is only part of the problem. In 2021, we won four years ago, so we hosted it in Auckland, our home city. With Covid, the whole country was still in lockdown, and we were able to accommodate a few spectators. One of the reasons we chose Europe was to grow the sport and popularize it again. In 2021, we had just over 900 million viewers worldwide. By going to Barcelona in 2024, we can do better, why not double down! I have a lot of pressure with a lens like that (He laughs).
In addition, New Zealand is considered the favorite, having won 7 finals in the last 8 editions…
That’s true, but we didn’t win much in the end (4 since 1995). We do not see ourselves as a favorite, but as a competitor. We must not think for a moment that we will win quietly. This is the first time the competition has been so strong. The boats barely moved. All bands now have a large budget to perform. Everyone has studied the way we move and work. In short, everyone has improved.
The other big news is France’s return with the Orient Express Racing team. What can we hope for?
The French team was very smart. Instead of starting from scratch in terms of technology, which is impossible at this level, they preferred to partner with us, Team New Zealand, to have exactly the same boat, 100%. If their boat is fast, and I don’t know yet if it is, like ours, they can go far. The best scenario is that France and New Zealand qualify for the final. They are fully capable of that.
It maintains special ties with France. Tell us…
My best experience was participating in the race in 2000-2001 organized by Bruno Peron. Non-stop, unassisted racing around the world. The French competition involving a kiwi like me was crazy. So winning it also gives me very good memories. I learned a lot about French sailing in that time. You have excellent architects, and a very good way of working.
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