America's Cup: Prospect of hosting next contest presents only good problems

By Steve Deane

America's Cup racing might be coming to a harbour near you. Or a body of water near your harbour. Or, heaven forbid, it might not be coming anywhere near us at all.

Given the doomsday scenario of Oracle pulling off eight straight wins to break Kiwi hearts seems most unlikely, it's probably fair enough to speculate how a regatta in Auckland might look in four or five years.

Perhaps the biggest question is where the boats might race. With its in-shore stadium racing and grandstand finishes, San Francisco has changed the game in terms of spectator accessibility. It's a model Auckland would love to replicate.

Auckland's constantly shifting winds are the biggest issue. Yacht races mainly take place on upwind beats and downwind runs, over courses about 5km long. In San Francisco, where the wind blows the same way every day, it's simply a matter of chucking the buoys out and watching the boats zoom up and down the bay.

Auckland doesn't blow like that. While a cross-shore breeze in either direction would work for inshore racing in the Waitemata Harbour, on or offshore winds would be problematic in such a narrow waterway.

That's one of the main reasons previous regattas were raced out in the Hauraki Gulf. Rather than one set course in 2000 and 2003, there were three, with the wind direction determining which one was used and how it was set up.

Spectators on shore could farewell the boats as they left the dock and wave as they cruised around North Head, but that was about it. Those lining the shores had a much better view of the racing in the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series that started in 2008, with shorter courses set between North Head, Rangitoto and the foreshore. But there were still restrictions, with water depth an issue.

The huge keels on the old-style IACC boats drew about 5m of water, limiting racing largely to the shipping channels.

Catamarans - even massive AC72s - skip along the surface, which would open up more water. However, there is no guarantee cats will be used for an Auckland defence. Very little, in fact, was guaranteed, pointed out Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron vice-commodore Andy Anderson.

"It's all up in the air because we don't know who is winning. First we've got to win another race before they win eight ... Then the decision as to what, how, where and who is involved will start to unfold."

- NZ Herald

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