Grant Dalton juggles on water

With the Volvo Ocean Race up next, the New Zealand entrepreneur has little time to savour his Louis Vuitton success.

Grant Dalton, left, celebrates with members of Emirates Team New Zealand after winning the Louis Vuitton Trophy.
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DUBAI // Grant Dalton is arguably the busiest man in world sailing. The New Zealand entrepreneur never tires of juggling his resources in manpower and finance to keep afloat his many projects

Dalton has just finished a successful campaign in the Louis Vuitton Trophy with his Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) squad who overcame the America's Cup-winning BMW Oracle crew to take the honours in the last of the series of regattas which concluded off Dubai Marina late last month. The victory confirmed ETNZ's dominance of that class of sailing.

The team recruited by Dalton in advance of the 2007 America's Cup have benefited from their gradual build-up of camaraderie in winning four of the last five Vuitton regattas and finishing second in the other.

Dalton has no time to revel in the latest of a string of personal successes on the waters of the world, however. Time is catching up on him as he assembles a crew to take on Team Abu Dhabi and other entries for the forthcoming Volvo Ocean Race (VOR).

The managing director of ETNZ is in charge of the Spanish boat Camper, which is due to set sail in April to prepare for what is known in the business as the "Everest of Sailing" - the round-the-world odyssey which embarks from the Spanish port of Alicante in October next year and is due to finish in Galway Bay, Ireland, in July of 2012.

While that extensive training programme is going on, Dalton and another band of his associates are planning to enter the unknown territory of learning how to crew and sail a catamaran in readiness for the 34th America's Cup, which will be defended by BMW Oracle Racing in 2013.

And if that is not enough to keep the experienced mariner fully occupied, he intends to keep the Team NZ flag flying in the TP (Transpacific) 52 series, defending the title they won last year.

"The team have got quite a bit going on at present," Dalton said with delightful understatement. "We are working hard but we have managed to keep everything going."

Dalton, 53, chalked up more than 375,000 nautical miles during a distinguished sailing career spanning two decades.

He has competed in round-the-world races on seven occasions, winning three times.

At his age, he has no desire to make that eight but will still have an enormous influence on the Camper crusade.

"I run the teams for all the projects we are involved in," he said.

"I look after all the funding myself. You have to. The guy that runs the show has to front the financial side of it which essentially means going out and finding suitable sponsors.

"I am very involved in that and in the mechanics of how boats go together. I have really good craftsmen working for me in that technical area and we are benefiting from having the same group of guys working together for a number of years.

"Building up team spirit has been an integral part of our success in recent times."

Dalton welcomes the addition this year of a Team Abu Dhabi entry to the Volvo Ocean Race and is relishing a rivalry between some of his own ETNZ sailors with those assembled by Ian Walker in the Abu Dhabi craft.

"Walker and the team will do a good job for their new backers and I reckon they will be hard to beat," Dalton said.

"We have to wait until we line up against them to assess whether we have the measure of them. It's often hard to tell in a round-the -world race.

"The stages are so long that if one boat has a slight speed advantage over another it can become a massive edge by the end of the leg."

The vastly experienced Kiwi is also a man who likes to see his sport branch out into new waters and is delighted that his team will arrive in the UAE capital on completion of the second leg of their epic voyage at the end of next year.

"The world is changing," Dalton said. "The things that are happening in Abu Dhabi are also happening in places like India and China and I think that's wonderful news for our sport.

"I don't think you will find a single yachtsman in the VOR who isn't pleased to be setting sail for Abu Dhabi. It's brilliant here at this time of the year for training and for racing.

"You don't want to sail here in July and August but from now until April it's a fantastic port of call for yachtsmen."