Eric Watson: Cup win will herald a boom for NZ

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NZ hosting the America's Cup was one of the best times in the sport and it brought many benefits to the country and to Auckland. Photo / ACEA
NZ hosting the America's Cup was one of the best times in the sport and it brought many benefits to the country and to Auckland. Photo / ACEA

Apart from Team New Zealand's near disaster last weekend, is anyone describing the America's Cup as riveting entertainment?

There is no doubt that the Cup's history is steeped in drama, on and off the water.

To amateur eyes, from the outside looking in, you could easily be forgiven for thinking it's a sport for those with deep pockets and a good legal team crouching starboard.

Over the years since the Kiwis have been involved, it's the off-the-water dramas that have plagued the sport. Who can forget the famous Sir Paul Holmes interview that saw Dennis Conner storm off our screens? And various legal challenges along the way?

But even if you throw in the diving Emirates Team NZ boat, the average viewer has had little to get excited about this time, even from the comfort of your living room with the fancy-pants graphics.

The new format has created a racing-car glamour with faster speeds reached and a quicker race overall, but until this week's breakdowns, the series seemed to be a foregone conclusion.

So now we have a bit of competition, but it isn't much chop when a winner is determined off the back of their opponent's gear failure rather than athleticism or tactics during the race.

So you're probably thinking about now that I would think it was ridiculous for the New Zealand Government to put $36 million into the America's Cup.

To the contrary. I think it was a great move and a sensible investment for the country.

Why?

As a country we run great events and when New Zealand hosted the America's Cup there's no doubt it was one of the best times in the history of the sport.

It was well organised, centrally located in the heart of Auckland city, where events and festivities were encouraged and supported to spring up around the newly created Viaduct. The city was buzzing and the people were too.

I strongly believe it would be a reassuring move for the sport if the Auld Mug came back home.

In addition, the economic benefits for this country were significant. New businesses popped up based around sailing, IT experts were in demand as the pressure increased for new technologies, infrastructure around the Viaduct expanded and with all of this came not only jobs and visitors but an enhanced reputation.

New Zealand's reputation has grown as a result of the America's Cup and we are well respected as a country with top talent in marine and nautical circles.

Plus with any major sporting event a city always improves itself, which locals benefit from long after the event is finished.

So however crazy the politics and constantly changing rules are around this sport, if we win and bring the Cup home it won't only be our spirits that are soaring high.


• For live coverage of today's America's Cup races, plus the latest comment and analyses from Paul Lewis and Dana Johannsen, log on to nzherald.co.nz/sport.

- Herald on Sunday

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