I must admit that I have recently been watching the Americas Cup races. Ultra high tech boats travelling at unbelievable speeds and the local team has some good old kiwi sailors beating the best of the world. And on the Waitemata Harbour. What is there to dislike?
Well it is a rich man’s sport. The crowds shown by TVNZ did not look like the Aotearoa that I know. It looked like the St Heliers tribe had moved downtown.
And it was rather expensive.
The Government contributed $136.5 million and Auckland Council contributed $113 million to host the event. These are big sums. Council’s contribution especially is significant at a time where it is trying to save every cent it can find.
There was speculation a month ago that the organisers were looking to host it overseas. From Todd Niall at Stuff:
The Cup defender has been in talks with up to 10 cities, with a shortlist of final bids due by the end of February, to consider alongside the outcome of negotiations with the Government on any future hosting.
Team New Zealand must first successfully defend the Cup in March, before making what could be a radical change in Aotearoa’s relationship with the regatta, in which winning meant hosting.
In an exclusive interview with Stuff, Team New Zealand’s chief executive Grant Dalton said the Covid-19 environment, and the evolution of the Cup, meant the old model of funding a regatta and a team was over.
My first response was what a bunch of mercenaries. My second response was that if survival depended on gaining more than $250 million of public money as well as all of the corporate sponsorship, television rights and advertising sloshing around then clearly the Americas Cup is not value for money. Think of the international Kapa Haka competition we could have with this sort of money.
My third response was that I hope Auckland Council’s lawyers had covered this in the hosting agreement. Like “If we win the America’s cup regatta in 2021 then the next regatta will also be held in Auckland”. But I am not sure if these particular words were included. Because I cannot see them anywhere.
I hope I am wrong. Otherwise downtown Auckland has some pretty impressive marine infrastructure that may not be used in the foreseeable future.
The Government quickly jumped out of the blocks and offered more money for the event to stay but the wording was careful:
“Team New Zealand has once again made us all so proud by retaining the America’s Cup as New Zealand’s cup,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
“On behalf of all of Aotearoa I congratulate Grant Dalton, Peter Burling and the whole team, those on the water and off it, for their achievements.
“Peter Burling and his crew of skilled sailors showed what they were capable of in all conditions, highlighting the tactical brilliance and sheer hard work of everyone involved.
“Following a hard year, Team New Zealand provided such optimism and excitement. I know with all the international limitations that COVID created this wasn’t the competition they expected, but they’ve made us so proud,” Jacinda Ardern said.
“Innovation, technology, guts and hard work have delivered glory for Emirates Team New Zealand,” Minister responsible for the America’s Cup Stuart Nash said.
“We want to see it all over again in 2023.The Government has already agreed that the successful America’s Cup team will be supported to stay together while it plans its next defence of the Auld Mug.
“Cabinet has agreed to invest in the team from within existing budgets. It would be subject to a number of conditions, including an expectation the Cup will be defended in New Zealand.
And a challenge has been received, with the suggestion that the event be held in the Isle of Wight. From Christopher Reive at the Herald:
Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron general manager Hayden Porter confirmed the club had received a new challenge when speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Heather du Plessis-Allan this afternoon, but would not say where the challenge had come from.
“We have received a challenge for the 37th America’s Cup. There’s a lot of details to come; discussions will evolve over the next few days, weeks and months and things will happen from there … it was all done out on the water – all details will be revealed in the next wee while,” Porter said.
The process of agreeing terms with the next Challenger of Record is remarkably swift – as the deed of gift allows for any other yacht club to put in a challenge, that must be accepted should it be considered “legitimate” – and it will be no different in this case.
“It’s one of those traditions that is pretty special about the Cup; that they must receive a challenge and it must be accepted,” Porter said.
“There’s a protocol that goes with it; it gets handed over literally at the second it happens. In the old days, things used to get thrown on to boats. Here at the club, we have some protocols that go around it where our email servers get shut down, our phones get shut down, the doors get locked and things like that so it can’t be challenged that another challenge has been received. We’ve done it a few times, so we know the drill.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the Herald reported that Team New Zealand are understood to be considering a radical proposal for the next America’s Cup defence – a one-off defence against Ineos Team UK excluding other challengers on the Isle of Wight next year.
If it is to be the Isle of Wight can I express to Team New Zealand the best of luck and I hope they go well. But there should not be one cent of public money put into the event. They are clearly a bunch of mercenary wide boys competing for an event that has been the exclusive purview of the rich and famous during all of its life. There are much more important events for us to spend out money on.