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America’s Cup Team NZ

America’s Cup Team NZ funds hang on Cup event decision

The fate of Team New Zealand’s bid for Government funding is expected to be revealed this week after an announcement on another crucial piece of their campaign puzzle.

Prime Minister John Key gave a strong indication over the weekend the Government would greenlight funding for Team NZ, provided Auckland secured hosting rights for the America’s Cup qualifying series in early 2017.

The deadline for the America’s Cup Events Authority to publish the pre-regatta schedule in the lead-up to the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda passes today, although there is no word on when an announcement will be made.

Key told Newstalk ZB yesterday if the qualifying series was awarded to Auckland, it would make the event “a much better proposition from the taxpayer’s point of view”, with all five challengers and defender Oracle Team USA expected to base themselves in New Zealand over the 2016-2017 summer.

“If [Team NZ] host what is effectively the Louis Vuitton challenger series, or a decent part of that in Auckland, that’s going to bring in teams for a long period of time, that’s going to bring in worldwide television audiences, it’s going to showcase Auckland,” he said.

“There’ll always be people that will say ‘oh, we’re a bit over it, it’s big boys’ toys and billionaires and their court cases’. But on the other side of the coin I think people will see the value that comes from hosting the challenger series.”

Late last year, Auckland looked odds-on to secure the qualifying series, with America’s Cup commercial commissioner Harvey Schiller announcing the organisers were working with Team NZ on a bid to host a “major event or events”.

But the organisers’ enthusiasm was not shared by some of the challengers, with the European teams raising concerns over the added costs of moving their operations to New Zealand for up to three months.

The time lost shipping their boats to Auckland and then on to Bermuda was also a sticking point with the challengers.

It is understood America’s Cup bosses have agreed to impose a three-month stand-down period where competitors are not allowed to touch their boats to offset the handicap the European teams face.

Team NZ has encountered another late hurdle in their bid, with Sydney reportedly putting together a strong proposal to host the qualifying series.

The Sydney consortium, led by high-profile events promoter Tony Cochrane, is understood to have offered a more compelling financial package for America’s Cup organisers, but it’s thought they may have left their run too late.

by Dana Johannsen

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