16 Jun 2021

America's Cup sailing away from NZ for next regatta

From Checkpoint, 5:05 pm on 16 June 2021

Team New Zealand is ducking for cover after snubbing the government's multimillion-dollar offer of support to keep the America's Cup in Auckland.

The offer involved cash and in-kind support worth about $99 million.

Team principal Matteo de Nora declined to be interviewed as he arrived at the team base on Wednesday afternoon.

Chief executive Grant Dalton also refused interview requests and was seen being picked up and whisked out the back gate of Team New Zealand's Halsey Wharf headquarters.

But as the syndicate enters discussions to make the move abroad, North Wharf business owners made their views clear.

"I think the general consensus would be, for the amount of money we paid for the last time, the country and the city didn't get what the taxpayer had paid," The Conservatory director Tricky Hartley said.

"So my feeling would've been that there would've been an understanding by Team New Zealand that that was a sort of debt owed to the people."

Hartley said he was incredibly frustrated. Adding a 37th America's Cup, with open borders, would have been 10 times better than this year's edition.

"Everything is set up for them to do it here, so why not defend this one here and then look outside for commercial opportunities.

Good Luck Coconut restaurant manager Lauren Fisher said the Cup's potential shift abroad was an embarrassing move by Team New Zealand that would cost Auckland and New Zealand dearly.

"It should be here and for us to enjoy it," she said. "And it's just up to the highest bidder, really."

Checkpoint canvassed fans walking Auckland's waterfront for their take on the potential move abroad.

One condemned the move as "terrible."

"When it was really hard times, we supported them, we gave tax money, and also we really enjoyed it as well."

Another fan believed it was important the event was showcased elsewhere. Most, though, were not convinced.

"Ideally, if they can stay it'll be very good. It brought a lot of atmosphere," one fan said.

"It would be a great pity, and especially in the current situation of the pandemic. I think people will be very disappointed," another added.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff was more ticked off than most. On Wednesday, he declared he would not bother getting up in the middle of the night, slipping his red socks on and tuning in.

"If it's going to be in the Northern Hemisphere at 3am, probably I and most other New Zealanders won't be watching that but there'll be a few keen fans that will," he said.

Goff claimed Team New Zealand wanted the government and Auckland Council to double its joint offer, which would have put the public's contribution up around $200 million.

Auckland Council had already invested $113m in infrastructure for this year's America's Cup, he said. 

"I don't think the Auckland ratepayers want to see our council splash out tens of millions of dollars for a hosting agreement.

"In fact, in the original race we deliberately didn't invest in a hosting agreement we invested in the infrastructure, which of course is still there and we can use."

Goff said he, along with most New Zealanders, assumed the team would defend the Cup in Auckland, which had been the case with the syndicate's previous defences.

He was surprised to hear Team New Zealand was already tacking towards taking the regatta offshore prior to the 36th Cup's conclusion.

"I've always accepted the word of Team New Zealand that they operated in good faith in negotiating through this period of time, but clearly they were looking overseas at an earlier date because you all reported that in the media," Goff said.

Minister Responsible for the America's Cup Stuart Nash said the joint government-Auckland Council offer remained on the table, but he said there was no more money. 

"If no one can offer them what we have offered them then they come back here and if something has to go back to Cabinet then it will," Nash said.

The end of the exclusive negotiation period did not end all hope of an Auckland-based regatta, a statement from Team New Zealand stated. 

In the same statement, Dalton said the syndicate would always be Team New Zealand no matter where it was based.

Fight for next America's Cup in NZ 'not over' - RNZYS Commodore

"Obviously we're disappointed, but at this stage it can't be in New Zealand so now there's alternatives being looked at," Royal NZ Yacht Squadron Commodore Aaron Young told Checkpoint.

"There's been no agreed terms between Team NZ and the government and [Auckland] Council to ensure we can have an event here in in a few years. 

"At the moment the details are still being worked through and there's a lot to work through. But today, unfortunately it looks like we're going to have to look at various options offshore."

Young could not detail how much funding was needed to secure Auckland as the next host of the America's Cup.

He said the decision to reject the government offer of funding was made in a collaborative manner between Team NZ and the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron.

"We have an agreement with Team NZ and we work together to decide what the best outcome is for the event and our future defence."

Young said the fight for the next America's Cup to be in New Zealand was not over.

"There's still a potential chance that this could end up here," he said.

In his opinion, it would probably be privately funded if it did go ahead in New Zealand.

"There's money in the world, plenty of money in the world, but as we said last night, unfortunately it's not coming to an America's Cup event right now.

"The America's Cup has always been about billionaires, and it's always been about money, so I don't really see that changing in the short-term future."