Emirates Team New Zealand has gone 6-1 up over Oracle Team USA. If Glenn Ashby and his crew seal the series, the Cup’s grand master will be winging his way to New Zealand from France, reports Suzanne McFadden.
Bruno Troublé is waiting on tenterhooks, ready to jump on a flight from Paris to Auckland at a moment’s notice. The ebullient Frenchman, an America’s Cup institution, wants to be in his “second home” if Emirates Team New Zealand return with the 166-year-old Auld Mug.
“First, they must win, of course!” Troublé booms down the phoneline from France, as Team NZ stormed to match-point over Cup defender Oracle in the 35th match for the prized silverware.
“Young Burling is much better. So smooth,” he croons.
The man described as the first “impresario” of the America’s Cup, who created the Louis Vuitton Challenger Series 34 years ago, has vowed to do all he can to help New Zealand if they stage the world’s most famous sailing event again.
And he is confident that an influential swarm of “Bs” – Bertelli, Bertarelli and Bertrand – will also return to the America’s Cup if it is in New Zealand’s clutches.
A skipper of French challenges past, Troublé is celebrated as having been an agent for change in the Cup while upholding the event’s traditions.
He chose not to go to Bermuda for this edition of the Cup, making no secret of his disappointment at Oracle’s seven-year reign, under the leadership of New Zealander Sir Russell Coutts. Troublé claimed they had “killed the style and elegance” of the regatta: “What we have now is a vulgar beach event smelling of sunscreen and French fries,” he declared two years ago.
While Troublé admits he has enjoyed the “extraordinary sport” in Bermuda this past month, watching on French television from the comfort of his home, he believes New Zealand must wrest the Cup off Oracle to bring to an end an era of what he calls “video game” sailing.
“What we are seeing here isn’t exactly sailing, the way we love it. The way the Kiwis are sailing their catamaran is closer to a video game. I think those boats are semi-dangerous, and with the stronger winds in Auckland, they will be dangerous,” he says.
“There may be a solution in between the old boats and these video games. It is a decision that will have to be made carefully.”
The idea of a class of foiling monohull has been bandied about the waterfronts from here to Bermuda in the past week, but Troublé isn’t totally convinced.
“It would be tough. Even if a monohull is improved the same way the cats have improved over the last 10 years, monohulls will never be faster than 10-15 knots, maybe 20 in the windier conditions. But then speed isn’t everything, you know,” he says.
Troublé hopes that no decisions would be made in a hurry. “If you win, you need to do exactly what Sir Peter Blake did in 1995. Don’t rush; don’t organise an America’s Cup in two years. Just keep it, enjoy it, cherish it,” he says.
“Hold it in four or five years. Then you will have time to find solutions to creating facilities somewhere. I’m pretty sure the America’s Cup was extremely good for New Zealand, so you will find plenty of people wanting to help to do something properly.”
In the 2000 and 2003 Cup regattas raced on the Hauraki Gulf, Troublé ran the Louis Vuitton Media Centre. He later organised two Louis Vuitton match-racing events in Auckland, during the six-year hiatus from the Cup for most campaigns.
Troublé has no doubt that Auckland would be fit to host another Cup regatta. “Yes, sure they can. We already proved Auckland was a good place to hold the America’s Cup,” he says.
“You have to remember, though, there were many days with not enough wind, or too much wind, so boats would have to be created which could adapt to these conditions.”
Troublé says he has heard interest from three major players of past Cups – Swiss pharmaceutical billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, who took the Auld Mug from Auckland with Alinghi; Australian John Bertrand, skipper of the historic Australia II victory in 1983; and Italian fashion mogul Patrizio Bertelli, whose Luna Rossa syndicate has strong ties to Team NZ and would likely be the Challenger of Record.
He imagines Team NZ heads Grant Dalton and Matteo de Nora would sit down with a team of challenging representatives and set the rules for the next event.
“I hope that I would also be involved,” Troublé says. “I have no ambition, other than trying to help on a friendly basis, to help New Zealand to think about the next America’s Cup.”
Troublé is also drawn back into the fray by his strong friendship with de Nora, Team NZ’s reclusive principal who has almost entirely funded Team NZ since 2007. The Monaco businessman and philanthropist has also poured his money into New Zealand medical research and the rebuilding of Christchurch. Both Troublé and de Nora have been honoured with appointments to the New Zealand Order of Merit for their services to this country.
“The key man in Team NZ is Matteo. He is very smart, very resourceful. I’ve known him for 20 years, through superyacht sailing; his boat, Imagine, was built in New Zealand,” Troublé says.
Troublé also warns that, if they become the defender, Team NZ should reinstate stricter nationality clauses into the Deed of Gift. That would dictate that a high percentage of team members would have to be from the team’s country of origin, and would also relate to the design and build of the yachts.
“It was a big mistake in 2000 not to have a strict nationality rule; I told that to Peter Blake then. This is why you lost the Cup in 2003, when the mercenaries left Team NZ. It was a terrible move not to do that,” he says.
A flying visit to Auckland would have a second purpose for Troublé: he would like to be there when Sir Peter Blake’s former expedition yacht – once Seamaster, now Tara – is in port. The boat arrives in Auckland on Saturday; the first time it has returned since Blake was killed on board by Amazon pirates in 2001.
Troublé’s family now own the aluminium schooner, which is halfway through a two-year oceanographic voyage studying coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean. “We continue to try to fulfil the dreams of Peter in the Tara Expedition research work,” he says.
“I am amazed to see Tara arriving in New Zealand as you are about to win the America’s Cup.”
He knows his old mate, Sir Peter, would be proud of both accomplishments.