Yachting: Kiwis' Cup future rests on $120m punt

By Dana Johannsen

Team New Zealand have led the way with the design development of their boat during much of the build-up for San Francisco. Photo / Chris Cameron
Team New Zealand have led the way with the design development of their boat during much of the build-up for San Francisco. Photo / Chris Cameron

Team New Zealand's future beyond San Francisco all hinges on a $120 million punt.

With the costs of entering the Cup growing exponentially with every event, the 34th America's Cup will likely be Emirates Team New Zealand's last roll of the dice in the quest for the Auld Mug.

Win, and they will host and control the terms for the next event, giving them a chance to rein in the eye-watering budgets that scared off all but three challengers this year. Lose, and the most successful and enduring Cup team of all time will likely expire.

Team NZ are the only commercially funded team competing in this year's edition - but to get there they still had to rely on $36 million of tax-payer money to prop them up. That public money comes with conditions.

For its investment the Government expects Dean Barker and his crew to return home in September with the silverware, and with it the myriad financial benefits for New Zealand's marine, hospitality and tourism industries that would come with hosting the next event.

But the cash injection from the Government, which was grossly unpopular with the public, was seen as a one-time only deal and without it, Team New Zealand recognise they won't survive in the current climate.

"It's really, really hard to commercially fund a team. We're very efficient and have achieved a lot, but how many times can you knock on doors and ask to have another crack at it?" Barker asks. "The only way we can guarantee the future of the team is to be successful in San Francisco."

The America's Cup has always been a high stakes game, but with Team New Zealand's entire future on the line in this year's regatta, the pressure on Barker is amplified 10-fold. Yet the team's success in San Francisco will really be determined by one factor - did they get the design right?

History has shown that whenever the event has moved to a new class of boat there has been a bolter - one team has interpreted the design rule better than the others and produced a far superior boat. With each edition the boats generally move closer together in terms of design and speed, having learned from the example of their successful predecessors.

It is already apparent Artemis got their design horribly wrong, and with Luna Rossa effectively sailing Team New Zealand's first-generation boat, the Kiwi team are the favourites to meet Cup defenders Oracle in the final.

It won't be until the two boats face off in September that we will find out which team cracked the brief.

"Someone will have got it right, someone will have got it wrong," Grant Dalton says simply.

For much of the build-up Team NZ have led with the development of their boat. But since their capsize on San Francisco Bay last October, Oracle have made up ground fast.

Dalton appears nervous about the speed of the Oracle boat, mentioning its speed in several interviews of late.

Whether they are the words of a man who is trying to talk up his team as underdogs, or one who sees his $120 million investment slipping away, we won't know until September.

Why we should still care about the America's Cup
Cup has ferried us from hope to pride and anger
Financial and human cost of big cat mean it won't return

Tomorrow
The New Zealand public have always found the eye-watering budgets involved with competing in the America's Cup distasteful, but how much will it cost the country if we are not a part of it? And we look at what the future of the event might hold if Team New Zealand wins the famous trophy in San Francisco.

- NZ Herald

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