3 Dec 2014

Govt tacking away from Cup funding

4:54 pm on 3 December 2014

The Government says it is not keen to fund Team New Zealand's America's Cup challenge in Bermuda and believes most people oppose putting taxpayers' money into it.

The two-time winners of yachting's biggest trophy remained optimistic it could make the start line in Bermuda in 2017, and the possibility of Auckland staging build-up regattas might help its sponsorship bids.

Team New Zealand competing in San Francisco

Team New Zealand is a five-time finalist and twice winner of the America's Cup. Photo: Photosport

The New Zealand syndicate wants more than $100 million - mostly from commercial sponsors - but also from the Government, which put $36 million into the last campaign. It would formally seek funding in the next few days.

John Key

Prime Minister John Key. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The island of Bermuda in the north Atlantic may have good sailing conditions, but for teams and their sponsors just getting there is a challenge. It will be the first time a US-based defender has held the regatta outside the country.

However, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said today that Bermuda might be hard to justify on trade promotion grounds, and believed that two-thirds of people would be against taxpayer funding of the event.

Mr Key said the main criteria would be the ability to promote New Zealand's hi-tech design and manufacturing expertise to potential buyers.

"That's been the argument about doing it - the promotion of New Zealand and that we're an advanced and sophisticated economy - whether that still washes if they end up in Bermuda, let's wait and see."

Earlier, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said Bermuda was less appealing than unsuccessful bidder San Diego, and he was not enthusiastic.

Mr Joyce told Morning Report that Auckland may be able to hold two challenger regattas which would make it more attractive to the Government. However, he said compared with San Diego, Bermuda had fewer benefits to New Zealand as the Government preferred to boost the country's profile on the west coast of America.

"From our perspective, one of the real benefits of the America's Cup challenge is the impact and profile it gives New Zealand exporters, New Zealand food and beverage and New Zealand tourism in the West Coast of the USA - which is a very important market for us and is only going to grow."

Mr Joyce said that was a real benefit of the San Francisco challenge and he said his soundings so far were that Bermuda would not yield similar benefits for New Zealand business.

Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton

Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton Photo: Photosport

Race venue not a serious setback - Dalton

The possibility of Auckland hosting a regatta with America's Cup boats appears to be a key part of Team New Zealand's plans to attract the Government and other sponsorship.

The team is saying little about the possible event, which could involve a round of the challenger series at the end of 2016.

Managing director Grant Dalton said he was negotiating with commercial sponsors and would put a proposal to the Government within days with the undisclosed regatta playing a role.

"That enhances your ability to raise money locally and also internationally because New Zealand and Auckland have been a bit of a mecca over the years for the America's Cup ... That's one thing we're exploring with the event authority."

Mr Dalton said Team New Zealand currently has about 40 staff on board but needs to step up into a full campaign early next year.

Meanwhile, he believed the selection of Bermuda, announced today, was not a serious setback for the team.

Grant Dalton said sponsors, for whom both the United States and Europe were important markets, were confident they could make the venue work for them. He said the time zone was great for European television and only an hour ahead of the US East Coast.

Mr Dalton said Bermuda was much better for sailing than San Diego, with a good sea breeze, plenty of space for the race course and more waterfront space available for teams to set up bases. He said negotiations were underway for possible pre-cup events in Auckland next year or in 2016.

"Bringing racing here is a pretty good draw card, I mean it would be amazing, racing again America's Cup type boats out in the Hauraki Gulf or actually inside the Hauraki Gulf more in the North Head area."

Mr Dalton said Team New Zealand had solid support from its sponsors and had every expectation of being able to mount a credible challenge in Bermuda.

The team's longest-standing backer, Toyota New Zealand, said Bermuda offered unique opportunities and it would look closely at a sponsorship proposal.

Bermuda leader promises perfect conditions

Speaking at the official announcement, Bermuda Premier Michael Dunkley, promised the best regatta ever in perfect sailing conditions.

"There is no better vivid and hospital setting than Bermuda, to stage an event of this nature, and for the continued evolution of the sport."

Mr Dunkley said New Zealand's involvement was a major part of the event.

"From the very beginning we wanted to make sure that our bid attracted as many people to the table as it could and we wanted to make sure that we kept the cornerstone of the America's Cup there - and New Zealand is one of those."

Mr Dunkley said he was looking forward to building relationships that could create channels for New Zealand's economic potential in Bermuda.

Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill

Oracle Team USA's Jimmy Spithill will defend the America's Cup. Photo: Photosport

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