Cup win seen as boost for North

By Peter de Graaf, Hannah Norton

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SHOWDOWN: Emirates Team New Zealand will race tomorrow,  already two races ahead before the 34th America's Cup begins. Photo / AP
SHOWDOWN: Emirates Team New Zealand will race tomorrow, already two races ahead before the 34th America's Cup begins. Photo / AP

A win in the 34th America's Cup being contested off San Francisco could have huge spin-offs for Northland - including a possible role for the region's marine specialists in designing and building the team's new boats.

Team New Zealand's giant catamaran goes head-to-head with Oracle in the first race of the America's Cup tomorrow, NZ time, after crushing the Italian boat Luna Rossa seven races to one in the Louis Vuitton challenger series. Emirates Team New Zealand are already two races ahead, after being gifted the points after their rivals were found to have cheated.

A win for New Zealand would mean a likely return of the America's Cup to Auckland in three to four years' time, bringing an influx of fans and big-spending sailing teams.

Some teams have already been sniffing around Northland. Last year Oracle's billionaire owner Larry Ellison considered setting up a training base in Bream Bay before deciding to stay home after all.

Tourism Development Group chairman and Whangarei District councillor Jeroen Jongejans said a Cup win would be highly exciting with a number of spin-offs extending to Northland.

"It can only be super positive for us."

If Team New Zealand won he anticipated the team would redesign and build a new boat, possibly drawing on Northland marine specialists. He expected more countries would be able to participate as the boats were likely to be more affordable than the current AC72 catamarans.

"The more teams participate, the more family and friends come as well, and they can stay up to a year," he said. Being just two hours from Auckland, Northland would be a great destination for them to visit.

Included in the visitors and spectators were likely to be international superyacht owners, he said.

"Whangarei is well stationed for that with its boat builders and superyacht industry. Clientele on those boats are often very well-off."

Cafes, restaurants and hotels would also benefit, he said.

Henk Eilering, chief executive of Whangarei firm Ship Repair NZ, said bringing the America's Cup back to New Zealand would be good for business, with not only racing boats coming to the country, but all the boats that follow them. "It would be wonderful, good for the marine business as a whole across New Zealand," he said.

And he had no doubt it would happen: "Are we going to win? Course we bloody are."

Far North Holdings marketing director Noel Brown said an America's Cup in Auckland in three years' time would be perfect timing. By then Opua Marina would have doubled in size - a couple of new superyacht berths would cater to the kind of visitors the Cup attracted - and a three-year campaign to attract visitors from Auckland would be at its peak. The campaign was due to start in November, using the Bay of Islands and a series of annual events ranging from a Pro-Am golf tournament to a bathtub race, as the drawcards to persuade people to travel north.

Top-end accommodation providers such as Eagle's Nest and Kauri Cliffs were likely to be booked out before, during and after an America's Cup, he said.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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