Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Bertarelli still alive - and kicking

Bizarrely, there was no joint press conference for winner and loser today. Just the winners - Alinghi. I wonder why. Perhaps there was a clue in Ernesto Bertarelli’s final comment in the winner’s conference this afternoon.

“For us it was coming out alive or dead, and we came out of it alive with our leather shorts and our edelweiss, cuckoo clocks and chocolate factories. I think what Alinghi is a lot of what Switzerland is: a country in the middle of Europe which has had to survive; has had to deal with with its bigger neighbours; has had to be open to different cultures; three different cultures; welcomes foreigners who have contributed to the country and to its culture; a country that looks forward, to its technology, doesn’t have great natural resources, has to be inventive.

“I think the culture of Alinghi is a little like that. An open culture, friendly culture, very welcoming, bigger through diversity, and we certainly enjoy being able to meet and compete against people from different backgrounds and we would never lock anyone out of this competition. I never thought when we started, that we would be locked out of it. When I said that we were fighting for our survival, I didn’t know how right I was, and here we are. Alive and kicking. And I’m looking forward to continue.”

So, no love lost for the Kiwis there, then. In a half hour’s press conference, there was no praise for the losing team forthcoming from Alinghi’s representatives on stage - until TV journo Digby Fox prompted Ed Baird to give his appraisal of the Kiwi team. When Ed picked up his microphone, he looked like he’d been handed the poisoned chalice. “Well… I was going to pass that on to Brad because he has a lot more history there. I was part of the team in ‘95 when Brad was there as well. It’s been amazing to watch the team grow and develop.

“Certainly the team that’s now is substantially changed from that original group, but they’re showing great strength and prowess on the race course. They developed good skills in every area to a very high level, and we’re really proud to finish in front of them at this regatta. I’d like to congratulate them for really doing a great job. It’s not an easy event, there’s a lot of stress involved. At any moment disaster can strike. I think we’ve had two great competitors out there all week.”

So, some credit - after all - to the Kiwis. Because we didn’t get a chance to speak to ETNZ today, the media had to fall back on press releases and TV interviews for the Kiwi viewpoint. Here’s Grant Dalton. “All credit to Alinghi. They kept it close when we got past them on the first run they just kept on sailing the way they do and beat us fair and square in the end. I don’t think the margin today really matters. They still won it.” Magnanimous to the end, although whether he’s saying the same about Alinghi behind closed doors is another matter.

Here’s Terry Hutchinson’s review of his own team and the winners. “An unbelievable team effort. Dalts did a spectacular job. It was nice to be involved with a team that has the amount of character and heart that our team has. Deano did good work. It was good to be a part of a team that was defeated in the manner that they were to come and fight like we did. And it’s nice to be included in that and have some of the influence in that, and partake in the whole thing.

“Every now and then you need a couple of breaks to go our way, and in the last couple of races not one really ever went our way, which is a sign of the fact that Alinghi were doing a good job and going well. You can’t say enough about the calibre of that team. Hats off to them.”

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