Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Hosting of Cup regatta in jeopardy

Problems locating suitable waterfront sites for syndicate bases could see council cost blowout of up to $15 million.
Emirates Team New Zealand.
Emirates Team New Zealand.

Team New Zealand's bid to host the America's Cup qualifiers has hit a further snag, with crisis meetings held yesterday over problems with the proposed locations for the team bases.

An announcement confirming Auckland had secured the qualifying regatta in early 2017 was originally planned for yesterday but has been pushed back to next week as Team NZ try to put some distance between the fallout over Dean Barker's axing.

In the meantime, Auckland Council bodies are struggling to agree on the waterfront locations to house the team bases after the preferred site at Westhaven Marina was found to be unsuitable within the short timeframe.

Plans to build a causeway between the end of Westhaven Drive and a seawall in two stages have encountered geotechnical and practical problems.

The first stage of building the causeway and starting repairs on the seawall is sufficient to accommodate two syndicate bases, but completing the second stage to accommodate three more syndicate bases is estimated to cost an unbudgeted $10 million to $15 million.

It is understood alternative locations are being considered at Wynyard Quarter and the superyacht marina at the end of silo park.

Senior figures from Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (Ateed), which has the job of assessing the viability of the event, were in meetings yesterday discussing potential fixes and the cost to ratepayers of hosting the regatta.

Ateed chief executive Brett O'Riley was not available for comment, but in a statement said the council body was still investigating options for team bases, the race village and entertainment hub.

"Feasibility work in regards to Auckland hosting the America's Cup World Series and America's Cup Challenger Series events is under way, and this includes consideration for team bases. At this stage it's too early to speculate the outcome of where those bases might be."

Waterfront Auckland would not comment on the issue.

The latest complication follows a stand-off between America's Cup organisers and the European challengers over the selection of Auckland to host the event. The teams are unhappy with the costs and the time that will be lost shipping their operations to and from New Zealand and are seeking amendments to the protocol to negate any competitive advantage defenders Oracle Team USA may get while the teams are out of action.

There has been some suggestion the syndicates may even decide to pay the US$1 million fine for skipping the regatta as it could work out cheaper.

With Team NZ's bid for government funding contingent upon Auckland hosting the America's Cup qualifiers, the Kiwi syndicate's entire future rests on the event getting off the ground. Every mounting issue risks scuttling Team NZ.

Bringing America's Cup racing back to Auckland will also be part of Team NZ's big sell to get the public back on board following bad publicity of late after the team became embroiled in a bitter employment dispute with Barker.

Team NZ announced last week Australian multihull specialist Glenn Ashby, the team's wing trimmer in San Francisco, had been appointed as the team's sailing director - a role Barker had initially signed on to do following the 2013 America's Cup. Ashby will also fill the role as second helmsman alongside Peter Burling.

Following the restructure, Team NZ offered Barker a backroom role as performance manager, a job the long-serving skipper says he has no interest in.


Team NZ's bad run


July 2014: Stand-off with Government over funding.
February 2015: Skipper Dean Barker controversially dumped.
Yesterday: Bill for team bases in qualifying regatta may blow out by $10 million to $15 million.

- NZ Herald

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