America’s Cup: The road to now

Published on July 6th, 2020

America’s Cup defender Emirates Team New Zealand is diving into its legal fund as it seeks to convince the kiwi courts that a confidential draft audit report on finances for the America’s Cup event, which found its way into the hands of a national media company NZME, cannot be made public.

While it is not known what kind of secrets they wish to hide, it’s safe to say they would be disruptive and not helpful to their efforts to host the 36th edition and successfully defend the trophy. As for NZME, which publishes the New Zealand Herald, this bombshell will pay the bills.

With the judge’s decision expected in about a week, Stuff columnist Todd Niall offers some perspective on hosting the event:

The swirl of allegations and questions around the management of public money supporting the 2021 America’s Cup in Auckland will delight those who see the event as a billionaire’s play thing.

The reality of New Zealand’s part in sailing’s most coveted trophy is anything but that, and putting aside the current sparring – the truth of which has yet to be determined – the reality needs dusting off.

New Zealand has been at or near the top of the America’s Cup since the first “plastic fantastic” campaign in 1986-87, in which the Kiwi team made it to the challenger final in Fremantle, Australia.

There was a touch of billionaire-ism in that first era, funded largely by merchant banker Sir Michael Fay, in which New Zealand won and lost the Cup in US court battles, before losing the absurd big boat vs catamaran challenge to Stars and Stripes’ Dennis Conner in 1988.

Since then, especially from the winning 1995 campaign led by Sir Peter Blake, a family of corporate marketing budgets has delivered three Cup victories, and three losses in the Cup final itself.

Auckland is preparing to host the Cup for the third time, something possible only because of those mostly privately-funded campaigns, since 2007 led by Grant Dalton.

It is a structure unlike most sports, such as rugby, where the government co-funded a bid to win the rights to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup, then pumped more than $270 million into stadium upgrades and other support for the single tournament.

About $190 million of taxpayers’ money went into Auckland’s Eden Park, creating a stadium arguably bigger than has been needed since, and despite clever management couldn’t pay off its debt, and was bailed out in 2019 by Auckland ratepayers to the tune of $63 million.

Around Auckland, the council will spend $113 million on the Wynyard Wharf “platform” on which Cup challengers will build their bases, and extending Hobson Wharf.

A further $100 million is going on upgrades to the waterfront, with all the work creating permanent public space the city can use long after the Cup has left town.

Or, if the largely foreign-funded Team New Zealand can win in 2021, Auckland is ready to host a second defence, hopefully with a bigger economic return than the COVID-19-impaired 36th Cup regatta.

In the meantime, that largely-foreign corporate support is paying the salaries for what amounts to the country’s highest-tech design and manufacturing outfit, creating the world’s most advanced sailing boat.

While the current argy-bargy may grab this week’s headlines, it should not be forgotten than Team New Zealand, councils and the government have twice before successfully hosted the America’s Cup in Auckland.

The 2000 victory, and 2003 loss were among the biggest and most successful Cup events in the past two decades, eclipsing the lean San Francisco event in 2013, and the dour 2017 regatta, resented by a large proportion of Bermuda’s less well-off residents.

Auckland, the government and the council have done this before, and done it superbly, there is no reason yet, to believe it will be different this time – despite bumps along the way.


36th America’s Cup
In addition to Challenges from Italy, USA, and Great Britain that were accepted during the initial entry period (January 1 to June 30, 2018), eight additional Notices of Challenge were received by the late entry deadline on November 30, 2018. Of those eight submittals, entries from Malta, USA, and the Netherlands were also accepted. Here’s the list:

• Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)

• Luna Rossa (ITA) – Challenger of Record
• American Magic (USA)
• Malta Altus Challenge (MLT) – WITHDRAW
• Stars + Stripes Team USA (USA)
• DutchSail (NED) – WITHDRAW

Of the three late entries, only Stars+Stripes USA remains committed, however, it is unclear what entry payments have been made, nor is there knowledge of a boat being actively built or sailing team assembled.

Key America’s Cup dates:
✔ September 28, 2017: 36th America’s Cup Protocol released
✔ November 30, 2017: AC75 Class concepts released to key stakeholders
✔ January 1, 2018: Entries for Challengers open
✔ March 31, 2018: AC75 Class Rule published
✔ June 30, 2018: Entries for Challengers close
✔ August 31, 2018: Location of the America’s Cup Match and The PRADA Cup confirmed
✔ August 31, 2018: Specific race course area confirmed
✔ November 30, 2018: Late entries deadline
✔ March 31, 2019: Boat 1 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ 2nd half of 2019: 2 x America’s Cup World Series events (CANCELLED)
✔ October 1, 2019: US$1million late entry fee deadline (NOT KNOWN)
✔ February 1, 2020: Boat 2 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ April 23-26, 2020: First (1/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Cagliari, Sardinia (CANCELLED)
✔ June 4-7, 2020: Second (2/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Portsmouth, England (CANCELLED)
• December 17-20, 2020: Third (3/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Auckland, New Zealand
• January 15-February 22, 2021: The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series
• March 6-15, 2021: The America’s Cup Match

Youth America’s Cup Competition
• February 18-23, 2021
• March 1-5, 2021
• March 8-12, 2021

AC75 launch dates:
September 6 – Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Boat 1
September 10 – American Magic (USA), Boat 1; actual launch date earlier but not released
October 2 – Luna Rossa (ITA), Boat 1
October 4 – INEOS Team UK (GBR), Boat 1


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