Team New Zealand remains "hopeful" of contesting the next America's Cup, but is handicapped by hefty financial demands and a missing element in a radical new protocol unveiled for the 2017 event.
Syndicates must stump up with US$1m and confirm their entry by August 8. They must then pay the second US$1m instalment of their entry fee by December 1 as well as a US$1m performance bond.
The protocol was released yesterday, outlining a regatta that will start with a qualifying series over the next two years at venues around the world before switching into the new 62-foot catamarans for the business end of the competition at a venue still to be announced.
It is the lack of that crucial venue detail that is most alarming to Team New Zealand and its search for sponsorship to make the start line.
Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton said there was "some good stuff" in the protocol but he found it hard to justify the August entry fee into a competition that would not reveal its venue until much later in the year.
He said that was a clear "conflict", especially for a commercially driven team like his.
"Without a venue you can't raise real money," Dalton said in transit to New Zealand from his latest sponsorship drive in Europe.
While there was general acceptance that the finals would be held in the United States - San Francisco, San Diego and Chicago are reportedly in the mix with Bermuda - he was finding that sponsors wanted that detail before committing.
"It's completely impossible to raise money without completing the loop for them [sponsors]," Dalton said.
That left Team New Zealand vulnerable compared with its major rivals. Holder Oracle, challenger of record Team Australia, Swedish challenger Artemis Racing, Italian syndicate Luna Rossa and Ben Ainslie's new British outfit all have backing from billionaires and an anticipated entry from China will also have massive private funding behind it.
Oracle is clearly aware of Team New Zealand's predicament. In releasing the protocol yesterday, it also put together a video that featured most of the expected contenders and emphasised New Zealand's absence at this stage.
Overlaying shots of last year's final when Oracle triumphed 9-8 over Team New Zealand, Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill taunted: "The Kiwis were so close, surely they'll have to try again. I know those guys all too well . . . they won't leave it like that. It looks like we are going to have our work cut out for us. But still . . . it feels like something is missing," he finished as a shot of Aotearoa flashed across the screen.
While Dalton was in the air his senior management team was pouring over the details of the 78-page protocol document.
True to America's Cup tradition, the rules appear loaded towards the defender. Oracle is able to build two AC62s while challengers can build only one.
Oracle will also be able to sail in the challenger series this time, giving it increased racing ahead of the match. That also makes it eligible to gain the one point on offer to the top boat heading into the match. Fairfax NZ