There is growing scepticism within the marine industry the projected number of superyachts set to cruise into Auckland for the 2021 America's Cup will not be met - costing the local economy hundreds of millions of dollars.
A 2017 report commissioned by Auckland Council projected 160 international superyachts would arrive for the 2021 America's Cup - estimated to inject $436 million into the New Zealand economy.
This 160 superyacht number outlined in the Market Economics report was still being pushed as accurate this month by NZ Marine's director Peter Busfield - the main recruiter of superyacht visitors to New Zealand waters.
Yet the scale of the 2021 event has continued to contract since 2017 - with an original eight America's Cup challengers reduced to four.
As a consequence, many business and marine industry experts now seriously doubt whether even 80 superyachts can and will arrive.
It could have a significant financial impact on an event that was barely estimated to have a positive cost/benefit ratio by the Ministry of Business [MBIE] in 2017.
Select NZ luxury tour company director Guy King has spent more than 20 years in the marine tourism industry, and overseen several superyacht visits to New Zealand for the 2003 and 2000 America's Cups.
King claims the 160 number is blatantly "misleading".
"To be honest with you, if we get 50 superyachts here we will be very lucky," King said.
"Keep in mind, with only four syndicates competing, you're not going to get all these superyachts down here.
"When you go back to the previous two America's Cups [held in New Zealand], we had eight to 10 syndicates. I was involved with both of them. We got a number of superyachts here, but certainly not even 50."
Lars Bjorklund is director of Auckland based superyacht charter business Diverse Projects and is currently meeting prospective clients in Europe.
While Bjorklund is less pessimistic than King, he cites the distance for most superyacht owners based in the Caribbean and Mediterranean as a major hurdle.
"There's lots of expressions of interest but who's going to actually make it over here and do it, that's questionable," Bjorklund said.
"I think that number  is a bit high. If we see anything up towards 100 that would be fantastic. My gauge, 80 maybe, but I don't know. Absolutely, more teams would obviously help."
Another major Auckland superyacht business owner, who asked not to be named, also doubted 160 superyachts would come but said "so many variables" could play out before the 2020/21 summer.
However, he said: "I think you'll see all the berths pretty much full."
Auckland marinas currently offer about 70 to 80 marina berths catering to 30m to 70m-plus superyachts. Further investment to Site 18, Silo and Westhaven marinas could raise this to 159 berths by 2021.
In contrast, Asia Pacific Superyachts NZ agent Duthie Lidgard agreed the 160 number was an "overstatement" at present because of a lack of dock space, but is an achievable "best case scenario".
"With 120 yachts on the expressions list already, I feel you could safely say 50 per cent of those would pay their deposits if offered to lock in their berths," Lidgard said.
"The longer we leave things, the harder it will get to make 160 superyacht visitors."
NZ Marine chief executive Peter Busfield said the major source of revenue for a host city of the America's Cup was superyacht spend - each averaging $2.72 million in the local economy they visit. If 160 come to Auckland, as projected in 2017, that could bring in $436 million.
But, if the superyacht number is half that projected, that could have a significant impact on MBIE's cost-benefit assessment of the event.
MBIE estimated the 2021 America's Cup would add between $0.6 billion and $1 billion to New Zealand's economy.
Following this, University of Auckland economics Professor Tim Hazledine said "my guess is the regatta will make less for the country than the amount Emirates Team New Zealand are asking the Government for."
New Zealand Initiative chief economist Eric Crampton said the 2021 America's Cup was an excuse for "the Government to spend a lot of money on what is effectively a big party in Auckland".
"The case for government funding of the America's Cup was always rather weak," Crampton said.
"MBIE reported an estimated benefit-to-cost ratio only slightly higher than 1:1, with a range from 0.997 to 1.14. So every dollar of estimated benefit was matched, nearly one-to-one, for a dollar of cost.
"The estimates would have been based on an expected number of visitors. If fewer superyachts are coming in for the event, then the benefits of the event will be a bit lower than expected."
However, Auckland economist Shamubeel Eaqub says the economic benefit of the event should also be judged by long-term infrastructure investment.
"The big benefit tends to be beautification of the waterfront. So you do it because of the race and the event, but the actual amenities remain for the people of Auckland.
"It's more of an indirect benefit. The one-off benefit of how much people spend we typically find doesn't actually have a huge impact."