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Sir Michael Fay, Andrew Johns and Alan Sefton's Resignation Letter to the RNZYS

August 17, 2022

Sir Michael Fay                  Andrew Johns                  Alan Sefton, ONZM


17 August 2022


Commodore Aaron Young

RNZYS, Westhaven



An Open Letter


Dear Commodore,


The three persons named above wish to resign their memberships of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) in protest against the club’s regretful approach to its obligations as Trustee of the America’s Cup. We have taken the decision to resign after much consideration.

The Deed of Gift that dictates the terms and conditions of competition for the oldest trophy in world sport states categorically that: “It is distinctly understood that the Cup is to be the property of the Club subject to the provisions of this deed, and not the property of the owner or owners of any vessel winning a match.”

Yet, the RNZYS has sanctioned the sale of venue and hosting rights to the 37th defence of the Cup by way of an international bid process that was commenced even before the RNZYS had successfully defended the Cup on the waters of the Hauraki Gulf in the (New Zealand) summer of 2020/2021.

We are long-standing members of the RNZYS who, between us, have been members for nearly 150 years (Alan joined in 1971, Andrew in 1974 and Sir Michael in 1976).

As you may be aware, the group is steeped in the 171-year history of the Cup with unprecedented backgrounds in New Zealand’s involvement.

Sir Michael mounted three campaigns for the Cup – with KZ7 in 1987, the Big Boat (NZ1) in 1988, and with NZL20 in 1992; Andrew, a former RNZYS general committee member, was Sir Michael’s legal and rules advisor through all three of those campaigns; Alan was an advisor to Sir Michael through those campaigns and then went on, with the late Sir Peter Blake, to form Team New Zealand to challenge for and win the Cup in 1995 and then successfully defend it in 2000.

In terms of the Deed “legality” of  the Squadron’s decisions and actions, our views are summed up in Andrew’s unanswered letter to the commodore and his flag officers on 14 October 2021, which pointed out: “As Trustee under the Deed of Gift the Squadron has no ‘licence’ to relocate the venue offshore, to the northern hemisphere, with the stated intention that such a move would improve defence revenues and therefore its prospects of a threepeat.

“The venue is not a condition of the match per se, rather an unspoken yet unavoidable presumption common to all three iterations of the Deed of Gift. While providing for the defender to select the courses for the match the Deed of Gift contains no similar provision giving the defender the right to select a venue.

“Eligibility of a challenging yacht club is tied to its nationality - its bona fides as a yacht club and its qualifying ‘annual regatta’ all precursors to its role as defending yacht club should its challenge be successful and, logically, the location of the next match.

“On what other possible basis could these provisions of the Deed have been drafted?”

Unfortunately, the RNZYS has not followed its own interpretation of the Deed in relation to the issue of venue as summed up succinctly in November 2000 by your predecessor, Commodore Peter Taylor, during the Club’s first tenure as Trustee. In a detailed submission on challenger eligibility to the arbitration panel, Commodore Taylor wrote: “… and the wording of the Deed of Gift contemplates, that a Challenger, if successful, will defend the Cup in its home waters.”

Two different yacht clubs were represented in the five campaigns listed above - the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, in 1987, 1992, 1995 and 2000, and the Mercury Bay Boating Club in 1988. They earned an international reputation for fairness in their adherence to the requirements of the Deed and their understanding of George Schuyler’s intentions for the event he was creating.

For the best part of 40 years, New Zealand has enjoyed an emotional magic carpet ride with that event as its sailors, designers, boatbuilders and sailmakers, with the support of a highly innovative marine industry, have risen to the challenge to completely dominate the oldest and one of the greatest events in world sport and take lead positions in the technologies and skills needed to make that possible.

Yet, when the country is in position to reap the considerable rewards for those endeavours and achievements, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron sells off the rights to hosting the event.

That, to us, is a slap in the face for everyone and everything that have gone before.

Yours faithfully,

Sir Michael Fay                  Andrew Johns                  Alan Sefton, ONZM