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Herald on Sunday editorial: Dare we consider the next?

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Who would have believed little more than a week ago the racing could be so good? The idea of catamarans hurtling around a short harbour course was far removed from the stately ocean sailing that characterised the America's Cup for so long.

It was hard to imagine that 25 minutes of hydroplaning on a wing and foils would provide an absorbing contest. The comparison with Formula 1 motor racing seemed all too apt: a high-speed procession from start to finish.

That is the way it was, too, in the challengers' series, disappointingly contested by just three entries and won too easily by Emirates Team New Zealand. But as soon as they went head-to-head with Oracle last Sunday, Sir Russell Coutts was proven right: it is a spectacle.

It helps, of course, that Team NZ is winning. Correction: it means everything that Team NZ is winning. If Oracle produce something new this morning and begin to turn the tables, the format's critics will come to the fore again. But they could not then call it boring.

Team NZ goes into today's races so far ahead that only a serious breakage may stand between them and victory, which could come as early as the first race tomorrow. It might not be tempting fate too much to start imagining what the return of the America's Cup would mean for New Zealand.

There seems little doubt it would be defended in New Zealand. Any suggestions that sponsors with a larger stake in the challenge might take the Cup to a richer venue were dismissed by the Prime Minister this week.

If New Zealand has secured the rights to the defence, it is sure to be in Auckland. That would pose an immediate challenge for the Auckland Council just as ballot papers for local body elections go out this week. The next council needs to perform much better than the last one did in preparations for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The council's inability to design a venue for crowds on Queens Wharf in time for the event forced Sports Minister Murray McCully to conceive The Cloud, a legacy that looks somewhat lost today.

Auckland's waterfront is a great deal more ready for an America's Cup now than it was when Coutts and Sir Peter Blake won it in 1995. It took Blake's rare leadership to persuade public purse holders to pay for an upgrade of the Viaduct Basin.

The council did a splendid job of the Viaduct and it remains a prime focus of the city's social life. But with the syndicate base sites mostly no longer available, and a footbridge at the marina entrance, other docks would need to be found.

There should be no shortage of possibilities around the western reclamation now being redeveloped as the Wynyard Quarter. Conceivably the America's Cup could hasten the removal of the tank farm and produce the inspiration needed for something "iconic" to be erected on Wynyard Point.

If the new America's Cup needs to be raced inside a harbour, as in San Francisco, Wynyard Point could be close to the course. Small boat regattas are already held in the vicinity. Perhaps public viewing facilities would provide a purpose for a structure worthy of such a prominent site.

The most urgent task facing the Cup holders will be to devise a format that attracts more entries than Oracle's format did. The new AC72 class has proved too expensive, if not too dangerous. One fatality in training for this regatta was one too many. But in the racing so far, crews have managed to handle these flying boats.

Helmeted and padded, they are giving us a treat.

- Herald on Sunday

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