Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pro sailors going broke...

Source By GREG FORD - Sunday Star Times
Team NZ crew member forced to flog his uniform...
The ugly side of yachting's becalmed America's Cup has reared its head. "Cash-strapped" Team New Zealand crew member Nick Heron was forced this week to sell the uniform he proudly wore in the regatta in Valencia last year.

Heron was made redundant when the cup was plunged into limbo by billionaires Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli scrapping for control of the cup in the courts.
To make ends meet Heron took the drastic action of flogging his team issue shorts and shirt on TradeMe, where he's asking for about $200.

"I've been out of work for months and I'm basically pretty broke as a result," Heron told the Sunday Star- Times.

"I had a heap of uniforms, some of them still in their wrappers, just sitting in a box in my wardrobe and thought: 'why not?'.

"I've been holding on in the hope this thing would sort itself out. But it hasn't and I needed the money. I'm cash-strapped"

Heron joined Team New Zealand in 1988 and hasn't missed a campaign since. But last year's regatta in Spain now looks as if it will be his last.

"I tried my best to hold on and even turned down several job offers in the hope the whole thing would get going again," he said.

"But it just dragged on too long. There's no telling when it will end so I've taken a normal fulltime job [with Southern Spars] on the condition I stay put for a while and don't take off [to another America's Cup]. So that's ended my [America's Cup] career."

Heron isn't sure how his other Team New Zealand team-mates were faring. Several have picked up jobs on the European sailing circuit.

However, Heron tried unsuccessfully.

"I rang everyone I knew but there's just so many sailors out of work at the moment that there were no jobs going."

Several Team New Zealand sailors and designers were put on retainers but most of those have now run out and Team New Zealand has only a handful of staff left on their payroll.

"As long as their sponsors hang in there they will be OK," said Heron.

"But it would be nice if there was a little light at the end of the tunnel, for everyone."

Team New Zealand provided some light last week when they invited all factions to sail in a regatta in Auckland next year. Team boss Grant Dalton hoped it might help teams bury the hatchet.

Not long after that announcement, Ellison applauded Dalton's initiative and offered to withdraw his legal action against Alinghi if they would reciprocate. It was reported in the United States yesterday that Alinghi and Oracle had agreed to meet in a last ditch bid to thrash out their differences.

It's all too little too late for Heron.

Ellison and Bertarelli's belligerence sunk his career, and nearly Team New Zealand with it but there's renewed optimism others will be spared that fate.

"We look forward to productive discussions and hope the situation can be resolved soon," said a spokesman for Alinghi. -