Government backs ocean race with $440,000

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2012

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The Government has announced it will pump $440,000 into the inaugural Auckland to Bluff yacht race in 2014, with the annual event expected to result in a financial boon for Bluff.

The race, called A2B, or the Auckland to Bluff Ocean Race, should take the leading yachts seven days and is set to become New Zealand's premier national boat race attracting international participants including maxi yachts. Festivals are likely to be planned at the start and finish lines.

Organisers are hoping northern hemisphere and Australian competitors in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, run a month earlier, will then travel to New Zealand to compete in the A2B race.

It is understood the original idea for the race came from Bluff resident Raoul Butler, but he declined to speak about it yesterday.

The Invercargill City Council put $15,000 into a feasibility study to investigate the idea and for the past 18 months has been working with Venture Southland and its Auckland counterparts on the proposal, culminating in yesterday's announcement.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt and city council chief executive Richard King were in Auckland to hear economic development minister Steven Joyce say the Government would pump $440,000 into the event.

It is expected to become an annual and major event on the New Zealand sporting calendar.

"It will help foster business connections and provide extensive broadcast opportunities to promote New Zealand as a premier sailing destination across our key tourism and trade markets," Mr Joyce said.

Mr Shadbolt said the yacht race would be a truly national event.

"Our region will do everything possible to ensure the A2B is an outstanding success."

Auckland-to-Bluff Ocean Race promoter Murray Francis said that at 1100 nautical miles it would be the longest ocean race to start and finish in New Zealand.

Bluff Community Board chairwoman Jan Mitchell said the event would bring significant economic benefits to Bluff and Southland.

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- The Southland Times

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