1999 - 2000 Defending the Auld Mug

Once they were back in Auckland, Blake and his team got to work on the next challenge which would be to defend the cup that they had worked so hard to win. Auckland would be the stage for the 2000 America’s Cup and it was crucial that they get it right.

Blake worked on getting financial backing for a redevelopment of the Viaduct Harbour. He was successful on this front, receiving the support of the Government and the Auckland City Council. Blake’s vision transformed the Auckland waterfront into a Cup village where the teams were concentrated in a single area.

However, out of the public’s eye, all wasn’t running as smoothly as it seemed. Despite the announcement that Blake, Sefton and Chapman would all retire following the 2000 defence, Coutts, Butterworth and Schnackenberg wanted control of the future and weren’t prepared to wait until the end of the 2000 campaign (Sefton, 2004).

They also didn’t agree with having to live up to Team New Zealand’s current sponsorship commitments which had supported the 1995 and were now sponsoring the 2000 defence. Many of these sponsors had supported cup attempts before Team New Zealand was established, so for Blake this lack of loyalty undermined everything he believed in.

These problems became progressively worse as for example, Coutts refused to sign a sponsorship agreement unless it made commitments to the future. The structure of Team New Zealand as an entity meant that it could only tackle one campaign at a time which made it impossible to know the future. Things reached a particular low when Coutts and Butterworth borrowed from the Team New Zealand marketing and created Team Magic New Zealand and endorsed a brand of sunglasses on TV adverts. The use of a similar logo made it difficult for the team to tell it apart from Team New Zealand. Inevitably Team New Zealand’s sponsors wanted to know what was going on.

Despite trying to appease Coutts by details and meetings to convince Coutts that he would inherit Team New Zealand, he, Butterworth and Schnackenberg continued to run their own agendas. Team New Zealand even went so far as to establish a Transition Committee to make Coutts happy.

They at least managed to put issues aside for the duration of the defence regatta where they swept aside the Italian team 5-0 who appeared ill-prepared to deal with a team of TNZ’s calibre. It was another historic moment for New Zealand who were the first non-American team to win and then successfully defend the America’s Cup.

At the end of the campaign, there was a changing of the guard as Coutts, Butterworth and Schnackenberg took over the management of Team New Zealand. However in May 2000 the news came out that Coutts and Butterworth had signed a deal with Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli and were going to challenge with Swiss boat Alinghi instead. This came as a shock to New Zealanders and unfortunately overshadowed their incredible triumph of the America’s Cup.

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