OPINION: The south should not be contemptuous of the becalmed A2B yacht race, any more than it should have been be bedazzled by it.
It remains, as it always was, a terrific project if it can be made to work. We shouldn't pretend that we have the answers to make any final determination on whether it can.
Granted, as things stand, you could hardly call it a case of "so far, so good".
The project to establish an Auckland to Bluff ocean race as an international event, and the country's premier national boat race with festivals at the start and finish lines, was given an initial deal which - much as it came with strings attached - would have been the envy of many an envisaged venture.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment announced in late 2012 it would contribute $440,000 toward the proposed race. The conditions, which did not publicly emerge until later, included that Southland must provide $380,000 in funding, and the organisers must have written confirmation of 15 entries by the end of this month.
The local finances have been lining up, albeit to more than a little public displeasure and with the conspicuous rejection of Environment Southland councillors who labelled the funding proposal championed by the Invercargill City Council embarrassing, flawed and vague.
Just days ago organiser Murray Francis was denying rumours that the race may be postponed from next year until 2015.
Now comes the announcement that the race has, indeed, been postponed, after receiving just one confirmed entry, however many other expressions of interest there may have been. That one was a 60-foot trimaran, Team Australia, an impressive brute indeed.
Still, some will say that the organisers have had their chance and blown it. But the sense of potential has by no means entirely dissipated.
The Government will consider its position after organisers complete a new business plan for the 2015 race and the Community Trust of Southland and Invercargill Licensing Trust are reportedly still good for their respective $50,000 pledges.
The city council, having paid $100,000 so far, intends , as chief executive Richard King puts it, to "park up" the remaining $180,000 to be paid after a new race date was set. There's bound to be some resistance to that - and it will turn into a torch-carrying mob if there's any request to commit further money.
A2B Ocean Race board chairman Peter Ross still cites interest from many Australian and New Zealand yacht owners but says there was not enough time to mount a campaign by the deadline.
Now the onus is even more emphatically on the organisers to come up with the entries.
As things stand we're at the halfway stage of the situation described by W C Fields: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it."
- The Southland Times
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