Opinion: Why is Rod Stewart singing Team NZ's America's Cup anthem?

What's wrong with the dozens of Kiwi artists who could have done with the gig?
What's wrong with the dozens of Kiwi artists who could have done with the gig? Photo credit: Newshub (File)

On Friday, the 100% Pure New Zealand organisation announced a new campaign to build support for Emirates Team New Zealand in the upcoming America's Cup finals.

Sir Rod Stewart would lead the nation and the fans around the world in a rendition of his 1975 hit, 'Sailing'.

The face and voice of New Zealand's America's Cup defence was going to be someone who lives in Essex, singing a song with barely any connection to Aotearoa at all.

At a time when audiences both here and overseas are becoming more and more interested in our country's history and culture, the decision to go with Sir Rod makes absolutely no sense to me at all.

Don't get me wrong, I am not anti-Rod Stewart himself. I saw him in concert at Western Springs Stadium when I was a child and grew up listening to his music. I'm a proud owner of many of his albums. He's a talented, amazing and entertaining singer, but I don't think he's the man for this job.

What's wrong with the dozens of Kiwi artists who could have done with the gig?
What's wrong with the dozens of Kiwi artists who could have done with the gig? Photo credit: Getty (file)/Newshub

The announcement from 100% Pure New Zealand had pings of telethon-like flashbacks - people singing along with each other around the world at the same time.

"Rock the Dock will see Sir Rod Stewart perform a powerful and emotive rendition of his iconic song Sailing, from London, with the recorded performance beamed onto the Te Wero big screen in Auckland's America's Cup Village," the announcement said.

Tourism New Zealand's Interim Chief Executive, René de Monchy says working with Rod Stewart on this campaign will build preference and desire for New Zealand internationally while the country’s borders are closed. 

de Monchy said Sir Rod is well recognised globally which is “crucial for the story to gain traction and advocacy for New Zealand offshore.”

What's wrong with a bit of Kiwi Magic?

Rewind back to 1987. Kiwi Magic and KZ7, plus a team of three million as we were back then, taking on the money and the might of Dennis Conner.

A star studded television commercial hit the airwaves to kick off the promotion of New Zealand's first challenge for the America's Cup.

The group, known as All of Us, hit the top of the charts with 'Sailing Away'. The group was a who's who of the Kiwi music, sport and showbiz scene at the time.

It featured Dave Dobbyn, Billy T James, Tim Finn, Barry Crump, Annie Crummer, Dougal Stevenson, Peter Williams, Graham Lowe, Keith Quinn, Jeremy Coney and last but most definitely not least, the Parnell Primary School choir.

So why couldn't we have produced a modern version of this song? A song which already has its roots in the America's Cup.

There's no shortage of Kiwi musical talent to call on either. Dave Dobbyn is no stranger to a sporting anthem. Throw in the likes of Benee, Stan Walker and Six60, and you've got yourself a sailing anthem with wide appeal, anchored in Kiwi history.

"Here we come, we're on our way,

In a boat just called New Zealand,

We're together that's our way,

One people on the water,

One people on the land,

It's New Zealand all together,

Kiwis working hand in hand."

These simple lyrics set to the tune of 'Pokarekare Ana' would be far more likely to catch on than a song which, according to its writer, has "nothing to do with ships".

Gavin Sutherland wrote 'Sailing' and said in an interview in the 1990s that people assume 'Sailing' is about love, but they're wrong.

"Most people take the song to be about a young guy telling his girl that he's crossing the Atlantic to be with her. In fact the song's got nothing to do with romance or ships; it's an account of mankind's spiritual odyssey through life on his way to freedom and fulfilment with the Supreme Being," Sutherland said.

So, when Emirates Team New Zealand takes to the water this weekend, I'm going to be blasting a song dedicated to the team and all it means to us as a country, all of us.

It will be New Zealand all together, Kiwis singing, hand in hand.

Dan Lake is Newshub's Travel Editor.