11 Jan 2021

Super yachts absent for America's Cup due to Covid-19

9:39 am on 11 January 2021

With just days to go until the start of yachting's Prada Cup, the number of super yachts visiting New Zealand is still well down on what was expected due to Covid.

INEOS Team UK vs Emirates Team New Zealand in the first race which was later abandoned due to exceeding the time limit.
America's Cup PRADA Christmas Race  in Auckland, New Zealand on Sunday 20th December 2020.
Copyright photo: Chris Cameron / www.photosport.nz

Photo: Photosport / Chris Cameron

But the Royal New Zealand yacht squadron said the economic impact could still be huge.

Super yachts wanting to come into New Zealand for the America's Cup can enter under a special exemption, provided they have at least $50,000 to spend on refits and repairs.

The Commodore of the Royal New Zealand Yacht squadron, Aaron Young, said this has meant the America's Cup had taken a hit.

"Covid has probably reduced impact by around two thirds," he said.

They originally had around 140 expressions of interest before Covid, now the amount of super yachts coming in will be fewer than 40.

He said it hadn't been easy to convince the authorities about the economic benefit of letting in super yacht owners - but some are already spending big on repairs and refurbishment's.

Young described one yacht owner who was spending $20 million on a new tender for their yacht.

A yacht tender is a support vessel used for servicing a private or charter yacht.

"There are some significant dollars, they don't just come here and sit on the dock and pay the dock fees," Young said.

Harken New Zealand is a major manufacturer of sailing hardware and its managing director, Robbie Young, said it has seen a significant drop in revenue as super yachts stayed away.

Robbie said usually each boat would spend between $50,000 and $100,000 a month while here for the Cup, and that business had disappeared over the last year.

He estimated they have lost around $2 million in revenue and was disappointed the government hadn't followed through on promises to let in yachts.

"They didn't act on what they said they were going to do," he said.

Meanwhile, the head of the central Auckland promotion group, Heart of the City, said the races around Christmas saw the best spending and pedestrian count in the city since March.

But Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said it was still not as much as they expected before Covid.

"The numbers aren't what they were, but I think there is still business from those super yachts that are here and that's positive and we've got to make the most of that," Beck said.

The Prada Cup racing starts this Friday, to choose the fastest challenger to go up against Team New Zealand.

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