Big congratulations to Grant Dalton and his Emirates Team New Zealand team, who scooped the America’s Cup on Monday night, overcoming holders Oracle Team USA 7-1 in Bermuda.
The victory marked the culmination of almost 15 years hard work as Team NZ CEO, and Dalton, who was visibly moved during the trophy ceremony, can finally take the cup back to his native Auckland.
Dalton is a genuine Volvo Ocean Race legend – a tough-as-teak Kiwi who has raced the event six times and won it twice, while featuring in one of the most iconic battles in Race history.
But how did his sailing journey – spanning over four decades – begin?
In 1977 Grant Dalton was studying accountancy and racing motorbikes when he saw the Whitbread boat Heath’s Condor, with Peter Blake on board, hove into view from his grandparents’ house in Auckland. That’s when he had his epiphany.
“It came around North Head with this giant yellow spinnaker and I thought, 'Holy shit'. I knew that was what I wanted to do,” he said recently.
Heath's Condor came around North Head with this giant yellow spinnaker and I thought, 'Holy shit'. I knew that was what I wanted to doGrant Dalton
He followed the tried and tested route of sailmaking and got his first round-the-world ticket in the 1981-1982 Whitbread on board the winning Flyer II as part of Dutch pioneer Conny Van Rietschoten’s crew.
In the 1985-86 edition he sailed aboard the Peter Blake skippered Lion New Zealand; and in the following race he battled Blake right to the line as skipper of Fisher & Paykel, which came in second, 36 hours behind an unstoppable Steinlager 2.
Success came again the 1993-1994 race – when two classes competed alongside each other; the old maxi class and the new light and fast Whitbread 60s.
Dalton skippered NZ Endeavour to glory in the maxis, finishing 21 hours ahead of his nearest rival (of either class).
His next outing in what was now the Volvo Ocean Race was in 1997-1998 as skipper of Merit Cup, which finished second on the podium. He was back again in the following edition finishing third aboard Amer Sports One, but his participation will be remembered for another reason.
Its sister boat, Amer Sports Too, was led by Lisa McDonald and crewed by an all-female team and Dalton famously boasted at the start that if he was beaten by the girls he’d walk the streets of Auckland with a pineapple up his backside.
The round-the-world environment is a pure environment. Your best friends are your competitors because they're the ones who are going to haul you out of the Southern Ocean. In the America's Cup your competitors will bury you – legally or any other way they canGrant Dalton
Much amusement followed when the girls came in ahead of Dalton on the final leg from Gothenburg to Kiel. Dalton duly came into harbour with a pineapple in his shorts.
Over the last 15 years Dalton’s name has been most closely associated with the America’s Cup, although he also found time to mastermind the CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand campaign in the Volvo Ocean Race in 2011-12, when the Spanish/Kiwi combo took second place overall.
Dalton took some criticism after the team’s infamous defeat to Oracle Team USA in 2013 – one of the great sporting comebacks – but four years later, he’s finally put that memory to bed and has his hands firmly on the Auld Mug.
Recently, he compared the two races in an interview with the New Zealand Herald: “The round-the-world environment is a pure environment. Your best friends are your competitors because they're the ones who are going to haul you out of the Southern Ocean. In the America's Cup your competitors will bury you – legally or any other way they can.”