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Government funding sinks as Auckland America's Cup axing confirmed

Government funding sinks as Auckland America’s Cup axing confirmed

Team New Zealand have confirmed they remain in arbitration with America’s Cup bosses as the Kiwi syndicate’s government funding looks set to sink.

They also emphasised they did not agree to the decision to race the qualifying regatta in Bermuda rather than Auckland as confirmed by the cup authority at the weekend.

That decision is a major blow with Prime Minister John Key on Monday signalling the government would not be adding more money to the $5 million it has already given the sailing syndicate.

Key said the government was luke-warm on providing further funding for the team after America’s Cup commercial commissioner Harvey Schiller confirmed the full event to be held in Bermuda.

“I think we’re at the end of the road really,” Key said on Paul Henry.

“Of course Steven Joyce will continue to have discussions with Grant Dalton, but the government’s position has been pretty clear.

“With the event being held 100 per cent in Bermuda, that becomes a really challenging issue to go beyond the $5 million we’ve already put in.”

The government has been clear that any involvement as a major sponsor depended on a “suitable qualifier series” being held in Auckland, Minister for economic development Steven Joyce added.

“If there is no qualifier series in Auckland, the Government will not be a major sponsor.”

Team New Zealand is pursuing legal action over the decision to not hold a regatta in Auckland.

“We expect to be advised on the outcome of that process in due course,” Joyce said.

Team New Zealand wouldn’t comment on the government’s stance but went on the front foot over the latest developments by cup bosses.

“The America’s Cup Event Authority announced over the weekend that the America’s Cup event format was agreed by competitors and that all racing will take place in Bermuda. Emirates Team New Zealand would like to clarify we did not agree on the format or location of the qualifier because we have still have our case for the previously agreed qualifier in Auckland pending arbitration,” they said in a statement.

The Kiwis are now in a difficult position with cup bosses resorting to majority rules for their decisions.

Team New Zealand are a lone force against the combined might of cup holders Oracle Team USA and challengers Artemis Racing (Sweden), Team France, and Ben Ainslie Racing (Great Britain).

Auckland was to have held the challenger events in January 2017, but was controversially axed in cost-cutting measures that also included the radical reduction of the boat design for the foiling catamarans.

The Auckland venue was central to Team New Zealand’s government funding, though boss Grant Dalton has said it’s not the end of the storied syndicate.

The Kiwis have taken the issue to the cup’s arbitration panel under protest though no confirmation has been made of that hearing or the makeup of the panel.

Schiller said a competitor forum last week agreed the latest moves.

The top four challengers from the qualifiers will advance to the challenger playoffs which consist of a match-racing semifinal and finals. The winner of the playoffs will meet the defending champion, Oracle Team USA, in the America’s Cup match.

The changes have caused Italian challenger Luna Rossa to drop out of the event in protest, with Australian skipper Chris Draper confirming that move on his Facebook page.

“I have spent the last 18 months working with an amazing group of people. We had everything in place that we needed as a team, great spirit and were loving working our asses off to be that winning team,” Draper said.

“Today we had 100% confirmation that Luna Rossa will not challenge for AC35. So sad for all my colleagues, it has been a good journey.”

Cup bosses believe the changes can attract some late entries with interest expected from Asia. But there has been no sign of those developments and the Bermuda time-zone certainly won’t work favourably for Asian interest in terms of TV broadcasting.

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Auckland has been scrapped as a co-host for the qualifying rounds of the next America’s Cup, putting Team New Zealand’s Government funding support in grave doubt.

A short statement on the official America’s Cup website said competitors had agreed that all racing ahead of the 2017 regatta should take place at the host venue of Bermuda.

Prime Minister John Key said today Government funding is now “very unlikely” as it is hard to justify supporting a Team New Zealand campaign held entirely in Bermuda.

The Government contributed $5 million to the syndicate to help it retain key staff in the wake of its heartbreaking defeat to holders Oracle on San Francisco Bay in 2013.

The Government contributed $36 million to that campaign and Team NZ had been seeking a similar amount to mount a challenge in 2017. It has said it would be difficult to mount a challenge without government support.

“I think we’re at the end of the road really,” Mr Key said on TV3’s Paul Henry programme.

“Of course Steven Joyce will continue to have discussions with Grant Dalton, but the Government’s position has been pretty clear.

“With the event being held 100 percent in Bermuda, that becomes a really challenging issue to go beyond the $5 million we’ve already put in.”

Organisers of the America’s Cup said teams would compete in a double round robin format for the qualifiers in a new class – a foiling catamaran.

The top four teams from the qualifiers will then advance to the challenger play-offs which consist of a match racing semi-final and finals with the winner meeting Oracle.

Team NZ had previously filed an application to the America’s Cup arbitration panel to reinstate Auckland as the host of the qualifiers, but the announcement from organisers appears to rule it out.

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