Team NZ wants America's Cup regatta in Auckland

CITY OF SAILS: The prospect of all America’s Cup teams racing on the waters of Auckland's inner harbour is at the heart ...
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CITY OF SAILS: The prospect of all America’s Cup teams racing on the waters of Auckland's inner harbour is at the heart of Team New Zealand’s challenge for the next event.

An audacious plan to host all of the America's Cup teams in Auckland for racing on the waters of the inner harbour is at the heart of Team New Zealand's challenge for the next event.

With Bermuda confirmed today ahead of San Diego to host the 2017 America's Cup, focus now switches on Team New Zealand's ongoing involvement.

A hint at that was given at the hosting announcement ceremony in New York this morning when America's Cup commissioner Harvey Schiller revealed they had received a "serious proposal" from Team New Zealand to host "a major event" in the lead-up to the 2017 regatta.

RORY O'SULLIVAN/Fairfax NZ

Sailing enthusiasts give their thoughts on the news that Bermuda beat San Diego for the right to host the 2017 America's Cup, raising further questions over the government's willingness to lend financial support to Team New Zealand.

Team New Zealand is giving little away because of the commercial sensitivities involved.

There are World Series options in the smaller 45-foot catamarans available but Fairfax Media understands Team New Zealand is thinking bigger than that.

The official qualifying series regatta appears to be their target, a double round-robin format involving all of the competing teams, including holders Oracle Team USA, which is raced in the full-sized 62-foot foiling catamarans.

This regatta, scheduled for early 2017, essentially replaces the early rounds of the old Louis Vuitton Cup series with the top four teams qualifying for the challenger play-offs to be sailed in Bermuda on the eve of the actual cup.

It would see the teams – at present there are six entries with two more in the wind – based in Auckland for an extended period of time.

Team New Zealand would obviously enjoy the advantages of local knowledge, racing in their own waters in a challenger series that is certain to be more competitive than the last cup.

"It's a really exciting opportunity. I can't expand on it any more because we are right at that (discussion) stage. But it's happening quickly," Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton said.

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America's Cup bosses need the qualifying venue confirmed by February 15. Auckland has a track record of success after hosting the 2000 and 2003 America's Cups.

This would be significantly different though.

The giant cats need little depth to race in and, as opposed to the previous events here when racing was held in the Hauraki Gulf, this would mean high-speed action close to shore and the city.

"Bringing the teams and events to New Zealand is really exciting," Dalton said.

"Because the catamarans aren't drawing a lot of water, you'd sail it in the harbour, around the North Head area … it's a great amphitheatre.

"I'm well focussed on that. I really want to do that. It would be great for our team, great for the sport, great for the country, the industry."

New Zealand would be responsible for the hosting costs. It's understood Auckland event funding agency ATEED and key waterfront management have been briefed and the response has been positive.

"Honestly, if you could have racing in New Zealand at this level, it's always going to be positive," Dalton said.

Whether it will manage to sway government funding remains to be seen. The government has made it clear that Bermuda is less attractive to their commercial spin-offs than being involved with a challenge in San Diego and the lucrative American west coast markets.

But being able to bring the teams to New Zealand for the added exposure and economic benefits involved, must surely be tempting.

"They (the government) will have to assess that but it can't hurt," Dalton said of having a local element to their campaign.

Team New Zealand were putting the final touches to their business proposal to the government today and it would be presented tomorrow. Dalton wouldn't predict the response.

"What I think doesn't really matter … they will assess it on its merits and give us a decision."

Dalton said the initial response from the team's major sponsors to Bermuda had been very positive.

Some, like glamour watchmaker Omega, preferred the high-end appeal of the island in terms of hosting their clients. The friendly nature of the time zone for American and European markets also suited the team's big sponsors and the international appeal of the TV product took away any negatives from the actual venue.

Dalton said he was confident Team New Zealand would be at the start line.

"At this stage we will be there, yes."

Asked what a lack of government funding would mean – they contributed $36m for the last campaign and have already given $5m to this one – Dalton was tactful with his response as he builds a campaign budget "north of $100m".

"I still have money to find no matter what. I always do, that's not a unique problem," Dalton said.

"Certainly that would be a bucket that needed to be filled. Until it happens I can't answer that.

"You lose a sponsor – and the government wants to be treated as a sponsor – it's never a good news story. Let's wait and see where that ends up once they have the business report."

ATEED said the organisation had yet to receive any formal proposals for hosting a lead-up event to the 2017 America's Cup.

Head of corporate and council relations Steve Armitage said he was aware of the opportunity but wanted to hear more from Team New Zealand.

"Any event proposal would be considered against ATEED's major events sponsorship criteria, to ensure it achieved the desired social and economic benefits for Auckland."

 - Stuff

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