Yachting: Fanfare absent from Cup entry

By Dana Johannsen

Team New Zealand take their AC45 catamaran for its first sail on the Waitemata yesterday. Photo / Chris Cameron
Team New Zealand take their AC45 catamaran for its first sail on the Waitemata yesterday. Photo / Chris Cameron

The long-expected news that Team New Zealand have entered the 34th America's Cup has been delivered in an unexpectedly low-key manner.

America's Cup entries would normally be accompanied with much fanfare, but Team New Zealand's confirmation they had officially signed on with America's Cup race management came yesterday in the form of an understated media release.

Nestled three-quarters of the way into the release announcing the continued support of their premier sponsor Emirates, was the news Team New Zealand had paid the fee to race management and taken possession of their new AC45 yacht.

The team took their new wing-sailed catamaran out for its first spin on the Waitemata Harbour yesterday.

If the fact they have a sparkling new AC45 in their shed didn't make it blindingly obvious, the looming March 31 deadline for entry left Team New Zealand with no choice but to confirm they've signed on for the next event.

However Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton was holding off making any firm commitment while the country deals with the aftermath of the Christchurch quake. He said he was not willing to offer any guarantees that the team would be on the startline in 2013.

Although the news that Emirates and long-term sponsors Omega and Toyota will back their next campaign is a positive development, Dalton said there was a funding shortfall to be addressed.

"I don't think it is appropriate at this time to totally confirm we are there yet, I think I've still got a bit more work to do on that.

"I've always said we'll only do this thing if we can be absolutely at the top of our game."

Dalton said the team would make a further announcement on its involvement in the 2013 America's Cup in a couple of months.

"In the meantime we are developing the sailing team; the design team is working through concepts for the AC72 catamaran and we are continuing meeting with several potential sponsors."

The guarded nature of their announcement suggests they still have a significant amount of cash to raise - some of which they had been relying on the Government contributing.

Early last month Associate Tourism Minister Jonathan Coleman confirmed the Government has money ring-fenced for a Team NZ campaign.

But in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake Dalton will be deeply conscious that accepting taxpayer money at this time will be a very bad look.

He said he had not even broached the subject with the Government since the February 22 earthquake struck.

"I haven't had any recent discussions with the Government. I've got to talk to them and there will come a time for that, but their focus is on Christchurch at the moment and that is where it should be."

The Labour government of the time faced extremely tough questions over their $33.75 million contribution to Team New Zealand's challenge for the 2007 America's Cup in Valencia.

In light of the devastating social and economic effects of the earthquake to both the Canterbury region and the country as a whole, John Key's administration will face an even sterner examination should they proceed with their planned investment in Team New Zealand's campaign.

With the next America's Cup very much technology-driven, it is likely to be even more costly to put together a strong campaign.

Conservative estimates have the cost of Team New Zealand mounting a credible campaign at around $100 million.

- NZ Herald

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