As Emirates Team New Zealand push hard for victory in the America's Cup, marine companies are pinning their hopes on a win and the boost it could give an industry that has been badly affected by the high Kiwi dollar and global economic downturn.
The sector has set a goal of lifting exports of boats, marine technology and equipment to more than $1.3 billion during the next seven years, compared with $650 million last year and $850 million in 2008.
NZ Marine Industry Association executive director Peter Busfield said it was an ambitious target and one that depended on New Zealand winning the America's Cup and the competition's return to Auckland.
"It gives us a real leg-up - free profiling of the New Zealand marine industry," Busfield said.
Superyacht building has been hit particularly hard by the global downturn and strong Kiwi dollar, which makes local companies less competitive than their counterparts in other countries.
New Zealand built just four superyachts last year, while Italy built 53.
Busfield said that between 2005 and 2008 there would be up to 18 superyachts on order or in construction at any one time.
But he said opportunities were beginning to open up to build yachts in the 50m to 100m category.
"New Zealand is now touting for some of that market," Busfield said. "The America's Cup could be what's needed to push someone towards New Zealand, rather than building it in Germany or Holland."
Salthouse Next Generation Boats founder Dean Salthouse said having the Cup back in Auckland would provide a boost for the whole industry, not just the firms that built boats used in the competition, such as the racing craft and chase boats.
"The whole marine industry is struggling, to be fair," he said. "It's been struggling for a few years now."
Salthouse said Silverdale-based Next Generation was building one to two of its luxury launches a year, but it had capacity to build up to 12 annually. The return of the America's Cup could help to lift sales, hesaid.
"It's just such a massive injection of money into the economy - especially if they get a lot of teams coming to New Zealand."
Busfield said Oracle had spent $154 million in New Zealand building the yacht being used in this year's Cup.
$1.7b annual turnover last year
$650m annual exports
9000 fulltime staff
$200m Annual value of superyacht industry
Source: NZ Marine Industry Association