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AC36: Kiwi columnist admonishes Cup champ Team New Zealand for seeking big hosting fee

AUCKLAND – "If that's the game they want to play, they can go and jump in the sea. This outrageous demand for a multimillion-dollar hosting fee to be paid by taxpayers — or else — is a slap in the face to New Zealanders who have supported Team NZ, both emotionally and financially, for decades. It's also an insult to the memory of Sir Peter Blake, under whose watch no such fee was ever expected from the New Zealand public. Team NZ need to reflect on their behavior and come to the negotiating table with a bit of humility. New Zealanders want to get behind the team, to see them triumph again in the tradition of the mighty Black Magic, and to be immensely proud of our talented sailors, but we won't be played for fools. It's time for Team New Zealand to live up to the name."

Ouch.

That’s Lizzie Marvelly writing in the New Zealand Herald, totally taking America’s Cup champion Emirates Team New Zealand to task for seeking a multimillion-dollar hosting fee for the 36th edition of sailing’s marquee regatta in 2020-2021, tentatively scheduled to be sailed off Auckland.

Marvelly pulls no punches in calling out ETNZ for offering up AC36, whether it’s to the local and national governments, or on the other side of the globe. When it released the Protocol in late September, ETNZ said the regatta could be sailed in Italy if a hosting deal can’t be struck in Auckland.

Last week, the New Zealand Herald reported that ETNZ was being wooed by backers in the Middle East prepared to offer up to US$80 million (NZ$116) to take the America's Cup regatta away from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

That seems to have set off Marvelly, as well as Grant Dalton recently going to Tauranga, supposedly under the guise of looking for an alternative hosting location but perhaps as a bargaining ploy.

Marvelly writes that she’s not entirely against public funding for both staging the America’s Cup, which the New Zealand taxpayers did in 2000 and 2003, and for funding ETNZ, which it did to the tune of NZ$33.75 million NZ in 2007 and another NZ$36 million in 2013. She said the country has given ETNZ NZ$5 million this year “just to keep the team together. So we’ve hardly been miserly. In my view, however, gratitude doesn’t seem to be Team NZ’s strong suit."

Part of the charm of ETNZ stunning the powerhouse Oracle Team USA at Bermuda in June was that the Kiwis did it on a shoestring against Larry Ellison, one of the world's richest men.

That said, it's refreshing to see Marvelly reign in some of the national fervor the America’s Cup brought to the small island nation.

ETNZ might do well to listen to their countrywoman, who admonishes the sailing team to not get too big for its britches.

“We're a modest bunch, fiercely proud of our little nation at the edge of the earth, and we don't think particularly highly of people who forget where they came from,’’ Marvelly writes.

Will the 36th America's Cup be in Auckland, or will Emirates Team New Zealand take it overseas to the highest bidder?