Grant Dalton talks about the Louis Vuitton World Series
Following the presentation of the Louis Vuitton World Series we talked to Grant Dalton, CEO of Emirates Team New Zealand, who was repeatedly mentioned by all participants as a key person in the establismhent of the World Sailing Team Association and the new professional yacht racing circuit. Dalton spoke about the Series and his team.
Valencia Sailing: Why did Team New Zealand and you personally decide to become a key part of the World Sailing Team Association and the Louis Vuitton World Series?
Grant Dalton: Well, we are a big team and that makes us important but other than that we are just part of a number of people that were brought together. One of the strengths of what we are trying to do is that there is no one team or organization like Louis Vuitton that has total control. We have preferential shareholders of the company that have majority voting rights.
Valencia Sailing: Who are these preferential shareholders?
Grant Dalton: BMW Oracle, Synergy, Artemis and us. That's all for the moment. All the teams that have paid the fee to enter have one collective vote and Louis Vuitton has another vote as well. That's how we run it and BMW Oracle has been very important at this stage. The idea is to have a collective decision-making process that makes smart decisions and doesn't get rolled by one overbearing party. That's new for the sport of sailing and I think nobody has tried to do it before. Maybe it's not possible, maybe it won't work but we think it is a better way and we'll try.
Valencia Sailing: You are having an excellent season with your TP52 campaign and unless some major disaster takes place you'll win the AUDI Medcup championship next week. Why do you need to create a new circuit and not continue with the TP52?
Grant Dalton: We are an America's Cup team and this is why we exist. The TP52 is undoubtedly good but we are not sailing match racing. Only God knows when the America's Cup will sort out and as a result the LVWS gives us a really good match racing program next year. We will most likely come back to the TP52 and this combination will give us a very good season. If you also add the RC44 circuit where most of our guys sail, you have a full season. As I said, our main objective, the only reason we exist is to try to get back into the America's Cup one day when it happens and the LVWS is the best way to do this.
Grant Dalton has played a key role in the establishment of the World Sailing Team Association and the Louis Vuitton World Series. Paris, 8 September 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
Valencia Sailing: In the America's Cup and Medcup you design and build your own boats. Here you will, at least in the Mediterranean, be racing with Mascalzone Latino's and Desafío's boats. Won't that put you into a disadvantage? How equal can you make these 4 different yachts?
Grant Dalton: I think that having equality or equal boats is really important and in Auckland I thought this was achieved. Of course, if you lose you don't think they are equal. They were the same because we had a speed difference of 9 feet per kilometer between our boats, in theory, and this is nothing. Yet, Peter Holmberg used to say that NZL-84 was slow and that becomes a good excuse. If they are indeed slower or different then you have a real excuse. Laurent Esquier is in charge of making the 4 boats as equal as possible.
Valencia Sailing: Why was the number of teams limited to 10?
Grant Dalton: Because that's all you can handle with a format of one week of training followed by two weeks of racing. As we found out in Auckland last February you just can't go on forever, something that will happen if you have more teams, and 10 is the ideal number for such a format.
Valencia Sailing: What criteria did you use for the selection of the 10 teams?
Grant Dalton: The criteria originally was to enter and the teams here were the ones that did. And they paid, they put money on the table. Although we communicate a lot on the phone or by email this is the first time we all come together and we will now look at the criteria. Team Origin is obviously important but there are other teams as well. I think that longevity is a really key point. There is no point in having a team, and we'll have them since this is life, that just comes and goes, that doesn't go to Auckland because it's a very long flight from home. That doesn't work.
Valencia Sailing: Will all races be compulsory for all teams?
Grant Dalton: What we will do when there is a host environment, Hong Kong is a good example, is to have a local team. You certainly want a Chinese team in Hong Kong. When there is no obvious host team, unlike let's say France, New Zealand or Italy, we will leave a spot for a local. The public interest will obviously be much greater with a local team.
Valencia Sailing: Let's assume the 33rd America's Cup does take place next February, that Alinghi wins it and there is no further litigation. Will that change anything for the WSTA and Louis Vuitton?
Grant Dalton: It's the same as Auckland. We are not in the America's Cup and we received numerous letters about the use of the logos and the names. The only ones that use the name is you guys. I don't envision any issues at this stage and it will be a tough one for them to win because we are not using the name. They can't copyright us going sailing or sailing the boats. To be fair to Alinghi, they have been in the meetings up until very recently and they have been consulted all the way through and, although they obviously haven't supported us, at least they haven't tried to put any roadblocks on the way. If they want to defend the 34th America's Cup they will have to beat these teams at some stage.
Valencia Sailing: Won't there be conflict if they decide to do preliminary Acts, like they did in the 32nd edition? Your team will certainly have to take part in them if you want to challenge the defender.
Grant Dalton: This can't happen in the short term. For starters, we don't know when the America's Cup will finish. If you do know tell me. In that sense I think that Bruno made a point. At least for the foreseeable future you won't have any conflict because you won't have any finality to the Cup. I think we have a clear run for at least a year. The issue might come from the other regattas. We've got three of our preferential shareholders having a TP52 campaign, so our calendar can't clash with the Medcup in 2010. Russell Coutts is running the RC44's, so you can't clash with those either. So, we have to work things out, especially with events that run for three weeks. Still, we think we can have at least three events in 2010.
Valencia Sailing: Last but not least, one of the main selling points of the LVWS is that it will help teams get sponsors. What about Emirates Airlines? What's their feedback on the LVWS? Are they going to sponsor your team in that circuit?
Grant Dalton: I hope so. We have a very close relation with them and they have been fully briefed but in the last 2 years it has been very hard to hold discussions and the only thing we could say was "possibly, maybe, might do, could do". Their reactions was always, "hold on, we sponsor all those football teams and we know the ball will be kicked on Saturday afternoon". That's why I waited until today. I can now go and see them and tell them "it's happening, here is the race format, here are the dates and here is the price". As I told you, up to now it was "you know, maybe it can go to court". The direct answer to your question is no, Emirates are not part of it yet but I haven't directly approached them either.