Luxury homes, chartered yachts, security, chefs, chauffeurs and babysitters. The rich and famous are descending on New Zealand for the America's Cup and bringing in millions to our economy. Jane Phare meets the people catering to them.
Nearly two years before the America's Cup was due to descend on our shores, Kyria Warren received a call from a Cromwell businessman wanting to book her company's 70-foot launch for 46 days.
The director of Cruisetime was somewhat startled.
An approach from the owners of another big charter boat in the Auckland Viaduct asking if she could get them an America's Cup contract too was the catalyst for her to launch her new business, Luxury LAS (Land, Air and Sea), catering for the needs, wants and whims of high-end clients.
She'd soon signed up another Emirates Team New Zealand sponsor, tech company HP, whose logo will pop up on the foils of the boat, a deal HP's managing director Grant Hopkins says ran into "single-digit millions".
And still the requests came, from people wanting Warren to rent out their luxury homes in Auckland and on Waiheke Island during the America's Cup or simply find them a nanny.
She's planning, as the company expands, to cater for everything from organising heli-fishing trips to Great Barrier, or a traditional hangi experience to arranging security staff, chefs, chauffeurs, babysitters and cleaners.
"It's not just for the America's Cup. It's turned into a whole business that will carry on," Warren says.
The Prada Cup challenger series and the America's Cup itself might not be until January and March, 2021 but already a million details are being juggled and deals are being done behind the scenes.
Kiwis need to start thinking big and grasping business opportunities leading up to the America's Cup, Warren says.
"I don't think they realise what's actually coming. It's a good time to start training people up. Everyone will be crazy busy."
There's little doubt that some big spenders will be coming to town. Last month the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's vice-commodore, Aaron Young, headed for the Palma Superyacht Regatta in Spain to schmooze with superyacht owners about the America's Cup.
When they come they will bring with them hundreds of millions of dollars worth of revenue in tourism, servicing, entertainment, supplies, and refits and maintenance.
Already there are more inquiries from superyacht skippers and owners than there are berths in the Viaduct and Silo marinas to accommodate them.
In Team NZ's boss Grant Dalton's words, "It's a problem, but it's a good problem to have."
Cup organisers say many of the larger visiting superyachts — one is 120m long — will stay anchored somewhere like the bottom end of Waiheke and guests will take fast tenders into the harbour to watch the racing.
Jewellery baron Sir Michael Hill's newly commissioned, 40-metre superyacht, The Beast, will be available for charter during the Prada and America's Cups. It currently charters for $277,000 a week but industry sources say charter boats like The Beast could well be 20 per cent higher during the Cup.
When the racing's not on, guests can dine al fresco including at a teppanyaki-style barbecue area on the flybridge, go fishing in the 13m tender, take a trip to the beach in the 9m amphibious tender (no need to get your feet wet), go diving, kayaking or paddle-boarding.
Auckland will fill with sailing syndicates the size of large businesses, thousands of tourists, visitors from other parts of the country and visiting media. The city, and New Zealand, will be on show.
The event will entail thousands of hours of work by volunteers, including Young and current commodore Ian Cook, fuelled by a love of sailing and a determination to showcase the country to the world.
Real estate agents in Auckland are already busy finding rental accommodation for race syndicates with an entourage of more than 200 people.
Samantha Arnold, Barfoot & Thompson's general manager of property, says the syndicates mainly want to be within walking, biking or electric scootering distance from their bases, so the inner city and Ponsonby are in demand.
The team bases are also well under way and the Viaduct will get new sculptural street furniture. Undoubtedly Party Central will be at the Viaduct, much like during the Volvo Ocean Race last year.
But along Auckland's waterfront at Okahu Bay, the Akarana Marine Sports Charitable Trust hopes their new $13m glass-fronted headquarters will become a mini party central.
The Hyundai Marine Sports Centre will have a grandstand view of the inner-harbour course's finish line between North Head and Bean Rock Lighthouse. With views like that, Royal Akarana Yacht Club commodore Matt Woodley hopes the overflow from the Viaduct will spill along to Orakei.
There'll be a fan zone with a big screen, the club will run events each race day and organise guest speakers. A large bistro-style restaurant on the ground floor opens in September, run by a top Auckland chef.
But parties and bistros aside, it's very much a sailing club where Woodley hopes youngsters will be given the chance to learn to sail, inspired by the "rock stars" of sailing like Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and Luke Molloy who have trained at Akarana.
Tourist operators in other parts of the country are gearing up to accommodate wealthy visitors who will want to explore outside of Auckland. Helena Bay Lodge in the Bay of Islands has already received inquiries from guests planning to come for the America's Cup.
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With four private beaches and 320 hectares of privacy, it's a popular spot with visiting millionaires. The lodge's twin-engined AugustaWestland helicopter can whisk guests from Auckland to the lodge in 40 minutes for $7500 one way. Rooms cost between $3600 to $6756, including breakfast and dinner, with rates expected to increase in 2021.
Eagles Nest retreat on Tapeka Pt in the Bay of Islands is also expecting high-end guests to visit. A stay at an Eagles Nest villa will cost guests up to $20,000 a night, depending on the bespoke package, says the lodge's executive assistant manager, Ciaran Molloy.
The four-bedroomed Rahimoana presidential suite is between $10,000 and $20,000 a night and comes with a personal chef, gym, sauna, its own extensive secluded grounds, a private beach, 25m infinity pool, movie screen, Porsche Cayenne, helipad — and a golf cart to get to the helipad — and jaw-dropping sea views.
Molloy is used to the sometimes unusual demands that come with high-paying guests, like the time he arranged for a helicopter to fly the last supplies of Lewis Rd chocolate milk up from Auckland when the Bay of Islands ran out.
Nearby at Opua, Far North Holdings plans to nab some of the overflow work the Auckland marine industry can't cope with. It's building a 120m floating pontoon alongside the Opua wharf to accommodate superyachts that need refit work done. The installation of the $1.5m pontoon is a strategic move to boost business for the marine service industry already established at Opua.
But the organisers are determined the America's Cup won't just cater to millionaires and their yachts. In the list of 35 events planned by the Yacht Squadron is a Harbour Bridge to Bean Rock race for 15 classes of sailing dinghies, with 10 boats from each yacht club racing.
It'll be a chance for the owners of P classes, Optimists, Starlings, Mistrals and Zephyrs to show their stuff on what will be a long course.
"We might shorten it [the course] for the little guys," says Young. "It'll be an ocean race for those little Optimists, says Young."
The idea, he says, is to include everyone who wants to sail or watch sailing.
It's a theme echoed by Dalton and team principal Matteo de Nora, who say making sure all New Zealanders feel part of the America's Cup event has been part of their master plan from the moment Team NZ crossed the finish line in Bermuda.
They learned some lessons from Bermuda, where spectators paid high entry fees to get into the Cup village and the superyachts stayed away.
Dalton describes the berthage rates charged in Valencia in 2007 and Bermuda 10 years later as "just frankly ridiculous".
"The boats didn't come. These people [the superyacht owners] are far from stupid. They are some of the smartest people on the planet."
De Nora, who is working pretty much fulltime on the campaign, says they have worked "hard and systematically" to make sure the Cup is accessible and inclusive, to move away from the view it is an elite sport.
Spectators will be able to wander freely in the Cup village at Auckland's Viaduct. And anyone will be able to watch the Prada challenger series and the America's Cup on free-to-air TV, live-streamed on TVNZ OnDemand or on a free America's Cup app.
"For us, that is not a profit centre, it is a cost centre," de Nora says.
Does he think this will be the best America's Cup yet? De Nora dodges the question, instead saying he's more concerned about showcasing the Kiwi can-do attitude and culture, the fact that "a relatively small tribe punches above its weight", and that anyone can watch this so-called rich man's sport from a beach or hill, or free at home on TV.
Dalton wants not only Auckland but the whole of New Zealand, to get behind this boat race. He'd like to see official fan zones in other cities and other unofficial zones in pubs and clubs, or wherever there's a screen.
Much like the last time Auckland hosted the America's Cup in 2003, locals will take to the water in pretty much anything that floats, including kayaks and small inflatables, to be part of the action and atmosphere.
Although Team NZ has some major sponsors it also relies on more than 80 smaller ones, businesses who know their names won't show up on the hull of the AC75 — the team's still-secret monohull — or the Italian foil arm.
Says de Nora: "These are sometimes very small companies that believe in the project and are happy to be part of it." Those small contributors send a particular message, he says; they are part of an inclusive culture.
Team NZ supporter Paul Piebenga is a case in point. He's the Cromwell businessman who has chartered the boat from Warren, ready to share the love with clients.
He likes to tell the story of how the America's Cup came to be in Cromwell, pretty much as far from the sea as you can get in the South Island, in the office of a man who has never set foot on a yacht.
The story dates back to the last America's Cup in Bermuda in 2017. Piebenga and his business partner, having worked their guts out for 12 years building up Southern Lakes ITM (Independent Timber Merchants Co-operative), thought it was time to take a well-earned break.
Piebenga figured Bermuda would be as good a place as any. A business colleague mentioned that Team New Zealand might be looking for a building supplier to help out so Piebenga rang Tom Waterhouse, Team NZ's sponsorship manager.
Waterhouse wasn't quite sure where Cromwell was but liked the sound of what Southern Lakes ITM had to offer. Screws, gloves, plywood, glue, tape, we've got it all, Piebenga said.
It was a small contribution but within 10 minutes of him sending back the signed contract, he received an email from Dalton thanking him and inviting him to Team NZ's Bermuda base to watch a day's racing. (Dalton says that making sure that Team NZ has enough money to pull off a successful challenge is something he will be working on right up to the last day of the America's Cup.)
After Team NZ's euphoric win in Bermuda, Piebenga heard Dalton and his crew were planning to bring the cup to the South Island, and "cheekily" asked if he'd bring it to Cromwell. The rest is history.
Piebenga was on business in China when the America's Cup came to town. But there's a photograph on the wall of his office that makes him smile each day. It's of his wife Maree, daughter Olivia, 14, and son Thomas, 12, standing with Dalton; the children are clutching the America's Cup, beaming on behalf of their absent dad. It was something he could never have imagined.
Needless to say, Piebenga is hooked and his enthusiasm led the head office at ITM, a co-operative of more than 90 building suppliers nationwide, to sign up as an official sponsor for the 2021 America's Cup.
In the lead-up to Bermuda, his staff wore Team NZ uniforms every "America's Cup Friday". Now they're waiting for the new uniforms to be released after AC75 is launched and then they'll be back into it.
It's a uniform Piebenga wears with pride, not least because of his admiration of the Team NZ culture. "When you look at the team, they are the most humble group of people."
In Bermuda, he saw Team NZ staff work in hot conditions because there weren't enough air conditioners to go around. And he watched them pitch in and do a bit of everything, from hosting to vacuuming. It made Piebenga offer to help the chef dry the dishes after lunch.
"It was that sort of environment, it felt good to be part of it. People look at yachting and think it's a silver spoon thing. It's not what people perceive it to be," he says.
"Everyone pulls together. "
Young is counting on everyone at the squadron pulling together to help celebrate the yacht club's 150th anniversary, which fortuitously coincides with the America's Cup.
Apart from encouraging super-yachts to come, he considers his biggest coup at Palma in sailing terms was to secure a fleet of five or six of the iconic J Class yachts — the 130ft long America's Cup boats of the 1930s — to come to New Zealand late next year.
With around eight left in the world, they're now worth a cool $22.5m to $30m each and many millions of dollars a year to fund a fulltime crew of 35 to compete in regattas around the world.
With the J Class come their billionaire owners, passionate about sailing and their boats. And they may well want work done once the season is over.
Yacht Squadron commodore Ian Cook, who owns boat builders Yachting Developments, admits that with the closure of some of the bigger yards the local marine industry will not be able to cope with all the refit work that will come our way. But the smaller outfits that have grown up since those closures will get a piece of the action, he says.
With their huge sails and long, sleek hulls the J Class will race in early March 2021 in the days leading up to the America's Cup, the course finishing up by the Harbour Bridge and the Yacht Squadron.
"They'll be a great spectacle for Auckland," Young says. "It's a dream come true for any country to get five or six competing."
Young can't help but be a sailing fan. It's in his blood.
As the grandson of Jim Young, one of New Zealand's most revered boat builders and designers, he will have a proud legacy behind him when he takes over as commodore of the RNZYS next year.
We're sitting in a room in the squadron's Westhaven headquarters that Peter Blake used as a command post back in the 90s when he was planning to win the America's Cup in another fast, black monohull called Black Magic.
On the floor below is the America's Cup trophy itself, insured for $1.7 million, double-alarmed and sealed in a reinforced glass case that can only be opened with a single key.
It is this trophy that sailing syndicates have fought to get their hands on since the mid-1800s when a US yacht named America raced against 15 boats from Britain's Royal Yacht Squadron and snatched the Cup from under their noses.
Since then, millionaires, billionaires, and those who love sailing have fought to have the huge, silver trophy on display under lock and key at their own yacht clubs. It is a contest that is not for the faint-hearted, nor those without means.
Coming to get it is Sir Ben Ainslie's INEOS Team UK, viewed as Team NZ's biggest threat. Backed by UK petro-chemical billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, the British boys are hungry for success after their loss to the Kiwis in Bermuda.
Says Dalton: "Ben Ainslie has learned a lot of lessons from Bermuda and in no shape or form do we underestimate them. We have to be better than we were in Bermuda by quite a significant amount if we have a chance of hanging on to it [the Cup]."
Ratcliffe has tossed in a cool $200m to fund Ainslie's campaign simply because he thinks, after 168 years, it's time to bring the Cup home to Britain. But it is this "rich man's sport" label that Team NZ and the yacht squadron want to distance themselves from.
Yes, they say, it costs millions to mount a decent challenge. Two syndicates, Malta Altus and Dutch Sail, have pulled out for that very reason. They simply couldn't raise the funds. But, Young points out, the squadron is nowhere near like the powerful and wealthy New York Yacht Club. The bulk of the work is done by volunteers.