Auld Mug headed back to Auckland as next America's Cup takes shape
The 36th America's Cup is beginning to take shape with Italian syndicate Luna Rossa confirmed as Team New Zealand's Challenger of Record.
The Kiwis completed a 7-1 series victory over Oracle Team USA on Monday (Tuesday NZ time) in Bermuda to claim the Auld Mug and avenge their stunning defeat to the Americans in San Francisco four years ago.
As a result of their triumph Team New Zealand now have the right to plan the future of the event and the first part of that process has been ticked off after the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) accepted a challenge from Circolo della Vela Sicilia (CVS), the club behind Luna Rossa.
Team NZ are due to depart Bermuda on Sunday for Dubai, home of title sponsor Emirates, before arriving in Auckland next Wednesday, which has all-but been confirmed as the host of the next event most likely in 2021.
* Recap: Team NZ victory in Bermuda
* Team NZ defeat Oracle 7-1 to win Cup
* Dalton interrupted: 'That'll be Russell'
* America's Cup: What next?
* Auckland parade for Team NZ
* Ainslie: Next stop Auckland
* What it would take to host the Cup
It has been widely speculated that they may revert to monohulls for the return to New Zealand and team principal Matteo de Nora gave the biggest hint yet that the catamarans were on the way out.
"The future will be decided with our challenger so we're not going to say much about it right now," he said.
"We know we want to go back to the future so we have several weeks to concentrate on what we want to do."
Team NZ chief executive Grant Dalton also indicated that they are likely to go in a different direction.
While Dalton acknowledged the excitement of last two events and development of foiling, he felt the America's Cup still needed to be about sailing.
"I think just pumping oil around isn't yachting in one sense," he said.
Dalton also doubted whether the radical catamarans would be suited to Auckland's Waitemata harbour.
"When they are in a decent north-easterly with the tide going out, I'm not sure ... they might go straight down a mine," he said.
"So maybe they aren't quite right for where they are headed because we are in a lagoon here (Bermuda). All those sorts of considerations have to be thought about."
The format implemented by Oracle has been credited for breathing new life into the America's Cup.
While Team NZ were the only syndicate not to sign up to the framework agreement prior to the event, Dalton did not rule out taking certain elements into the next edition.
Although, they are sure to tighten up the nationality rule, which currently only requires only one of the six crew on board to come from a team's country of origin.
Having operated on a shoestring budget compared to their rivals, he was wary of the costs involved but made a point of saying that they would strive to make it as fair as possible.
"It's the top of the sport, it's not a little beach regatta," Dalton said. "No matter how many things you impose on it people will always spend a fortune if they want to.
"We need to put in place an exciting event that takes a lot of what has happened here because there's a lot of good that has happened.
"To me it is a privilege to hold the America's Cup, it is not a right. We will put in place rules and an organisation that if we're good enough we'll hold on to it. If we're not good enough we won't try and impose our will on it so we can hold it at all costs."
De Nora praised the work Dalton did to keep the team afloat after the heartache of San Francisco, but he was perhaps even more important.
A wealthy Italian businessman who became heavily involved with Team NZ after they lost the Auld Mug to Alinghi in 2003, De Nora invested millions of dollars into the team over the years while also persuading other private backers to come on board.
"He is the guy who stuck with the team through thick and thin and believed in me," Dalton said. "New Zealand owes a lifetime of gratitude to Matteo De Nora."
Asked it if was was money well spent, De Nora said: "It isn't about money when you're talking about Team New Zealand."
He went on to downplay his role, instead preferring to pay tribute to Dalton and the group he put together.
"It's about catching opportunities. Team New Zealand won the Cup, I didn't win the Cup," De Nora said.
"When I met Grant I knew that we had an opportunity to get somewhere and here we are. It took longer than we expected, even this morning I still thought there were a 100 races to go. We got there so mission accomplished.
"This has been a winning team for several years, it was already a winning team in San Francisco and before that, we just got to the final line today."