3 Nov 2016

Could the America's Cup ever be raced on Lake Wakatipu?

8:48 pm on 3 November 2016

Queenstown has been set abuzz by Sir Russell Coutts suggesting the America's Cup could be hosted on Lake Wakatipu.

Team NZ at the 2013 America's Cup final races in San Francisco.

Team New Zealand at the 2013 America's Cup final races in San Francisco Photo: AFP

The five-times cup winner floated the idea in the Mountain Scene on a trip home, saying Queenstown should be considered because the boats were getting smaller.

Coutts, who is the chief executive of the next America's Cup regatta in Bermuda, is not known for frivolous suggestions.

David Stringer, the commodore of the Wakatipu Yacht Club, said he thought Coutts was serious about the idea.

"It could happen, it would be an amazing venue, I love it. It would be a real giggle."

Wakatipu Yacht Club commodore David Stringer

David Stringer Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

A challenger regatta for the cup was run on freshwater for the first time on Lake Michigan in the US earlier this year.

Mr Stringer said Coutts had already radically sped up the America's Cup and it was not too hard to imagine catamarans zipping up the alpine lake, with mountains as a natural amphitheatre.

"He's taken the America's Cup 'watching grass grow' scenario to watching a Formula One type exercise. It's exciting, so why not take it some exciting venues?

"Nothing more exciting than the adrenaline capital of New Zealand."

Mr Stringer said Queenstown did not have enough sheds or big enough lakeside venues now, but it could build them.

Alan Kirker, the developer of a new Frankton Marina on the lake, said money could not buy that kind of publicity.

"Look, the whole town would benefit amazingly from something like this."

Sir Russell Coutts

Sir Russell Coutts Photo: Supplied

Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd said the town loved big bold ideas, though would probably not go chasing it until it knew if the idea was feasible.

"I embrace the idea [Coutts] has floated it, but there's a lot of water to go under the bridge," said Mr Budd.

But new Queenstown mayor Jim Boult liked the sound of it.

"I know nothing about the America's Cup, other than watching it on television," Mr Boult said.

"It's a fabulous international event. If Russell Coutts has suggested it could be done in Queenstown, he is an international expert. We ought to listen to him."

America's Cup challenger Team New Zealand, which would probably have to win and then bring the cup racing to Queenstown, would not comment.

Auckland's tourism group, ATEED, was unlikely to be delighted. But it said it understood the appeal for Queenstown of an event that had built Auckland's international reputation and rejuvenated its waterfront.

Prime Minister John Key seemed surprised when asked if the government might fund a shift to Queenstown.

Mr Key said that was technically possible, but would depend on a lot of different factors.

"We have been putting some money into the America's Cup, but that has been reducing. We would consider an application on its merits, really."