America’s Cup racing has always been a rich man’s sport, whilst some ardent sailing enthusiasts might abhor this, for most people it’s what makes it special and “special” is the reason that people who have little interest in yachting follow the America’s Cup, in the same way that its “special” nature makes tens of thousands of people, who cannot ride, have a bet on the Grand National. Money buys the best of everything; the best boat, the best crew; the best sails; even the best base, so there’s a fair chance that the richest team will become the America’s Cup Challenger and a lot of people are sure they know which team is the richest semi-finalist, for one glance at Larry Ellison’s Rising Sun is enough to say which individual team backer has the deepest pocket.
Nobody really knows how much Ellison has put into BMW Oracle, but - among those most likely to be well informed - opinion is that his cash contribution far exceeds that of BMW and that, although the word Oracle appears in the name, the software company has put in little, if any, funds. There's a general feeling that the BMW Oracle budget is around $200 million, a feeling that arose well before Emirates Team New Zealand's Grant Dalton went on record as saying that they couldn't have done what they've done for less.
The impression given by Emirates Team New Zealand is that it is operating on a much smaller budget, than the other top teams; Dalton has said that guesses that it is around $80 million are close, but is that true? It has never been any secret that Dutch born millionaire Ronald de Waal, owner of the Velsheda and her Bystander, has been a Team New Zealand backer for many years what has not been so well known is that he is just one of 30 multi-millionaire Kiwi supporters!
Alongside the Velsheda, in the ETNZ base, is a modern large yacht called Imagine; often the two yachts go out together carrying VIPs to watch the racing. There was a vague perception, around the America's Cup Village, that the New Zealand built Imagine was there to promote the Kiwi boating industry, but a New Zealand Herald report, yesterday (May 12), revealed that her owner, Swiss millionaire Matteo de Nora, is the prime mover behind a syndicate of no less than 30 millionaires who support ETNZ.
How much have those 30 millionaires put into the Kiwi kitty? De Nora told the New Zealand Herald that his contribution was in millions, "but nothing like the reported NZ$20 million figure". If de Nora's cash injection was only a quarter of the figure bandied about and if, as the paper reports, the others "contributed far more than he did" we could be talking of around US$100 million from this syndicate. Add to that US$25 million from New Zealand tax payers, a reputed US$35million from Emirates and dozens of freebies from small New Zealand companies, like Sealord, which provides the team with 1.8 tons of fresh fish each year and Caffe l'Affare, which keeps it in coffee and you are getting close to Ellison style figures. Read the New Zealand Herald story and make up your own minds.
That leaves Luna Rossa and Desafio Espanol and the Cinderella of the semi-finalists, in terms of resources, could well be the Italian team, for Patrizio Bertelli and Prada are not in the Larry Ellison and Oracle league, indeed Bertelli's yachts are a fairly modest 32 metre, called Ulisse and a 1938 J-class called Nyala; he did own a 1905 classic called Linnett, but we aren't sure he still does. So, Luna Rossa does not have a mega rich billionaire, nor does it have ETNZ's host of individual millionaires each putting their hands in their back pockets.
Desafio Espanol is another story, if there is a billionaire, or even a millionaire, sailing enthusiast behind the team we don't know about it. What we do know is that this beautiful wooded private park is home to a staunch ally of the Spanish team; one the most powerful allies in the world that will work tirelessly for Desafio, throughout the Louis Vuitton semi-finals!