Everyone knows Larry Ellison is behind BMW Oracle and Ernesto Bertarelli is Alinghi's backer; few realise that Emirates Team New Zealand has its own multi-millionaire supporter.
Ronald de Waal is an enthusiastic yachtsman who owns the J-Class yacht Velsheda & her Bystander.
Velsheda was designed by Charles Nicholson and built by Camper & Nicholson, in 1933, for Woolworths chain owner W.L. Stephenson and yacht named for his three daughters, Velma, Sheila and Daphne. Although a J-Class yacht, Stephenson did not have the Velsheda built as an America's Cup contender, but she was a very advanced yacht. Her hull was steel, her masts aluminium, her sails were made in the then new material terylene, she had winches to make sail handling; everything about her was state-of-the-art for her era.
Velsheda was a huge success, especially from her second year's racing on, when her bow had been snubbed and her stern improved. She raced against all the great yachts - Britannia, Endeavour, Shamrock et alia - and, in her second season. won more than 40 races in regattas all round the south of England. Accommodation was extremely limited, below Velsheda's deck; just a main saloon, owner's quarters aft and crew space amongst the forward storage area, so Stephenson had a motor yacht - called Bystander - built as a support vessel, with accommodation for guests. Velsheda survived, her Bystander did not.
In 1984, Terry Brabant rescued Velsheda from a Hamble mud berth and gave her enough of a refit to get her chartering and, occasionally, racing again in events like the annual Cowes Round the Island Race. Despite being in rather poor condition she still acquitted herself well and looked magnificent from a distance. Swiss plans to restore her came to naught and the old racing yacht was, eventually, laid up afloat in Gosport, until, in 1996, Ronald de Waal bought what was essentially a bare hull and set about a comprehensive rebuild. Velsheda was relaunched, in November 1997; perhaps she is not quite as authentic as some other restored classics, but she has undergone a delightfully sympathetic modernisation.
In 1999, de Waal bought the 1963 33 metre, traditional canoe stern Feadship, Santa Maria, had her restored and renamed her as Velsheda's Bystander.
Ronald de Waal is 54 years old and perhaps best known as Chairman of WE International B.V., a Netherlands corporation operating fashion stores in Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and France. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Post Properties Inc., one of the largest developers and operators of resort style garden apartments and high -density urban apartments in the USA. He is also a minority shareholder in Saks Incorporated and Vice-Chairman of its Board of Directors.
This rather self effacing millionaire doesn't "advertise" his long time support for Team New Zealand. Ronald de Waal's big passion seems to be sailing and Velsheda, in particular, which - despite his America's Cup involvement - he describes as "The ultimate racing machine, with unbelievable power and unbelievable speed." Maybe that isn't so surprising, though, when you realise that Velsheda's 9,000 square feet of sail is more than twice that of NZL 92! He has even had a new yacht built to accompany his beloved Velsheda; French yard JFA launched the 42 metre "Escort Vessel 138" last year; it is believed that she will be named Bystander.