Auckland may be firming a little as a potential venue for the 37th America's Cup – but reports indicate the ailing Irish bid is not yet dead, while Spain and Saudi Arabia remain intriguing possibilities.
The fact Team New Zealand are now talking to rich lister Mark Dunphy raises hopes a little for an Auckland defence – though the letter he has written to Team NZ apparently contains no solid proposal that would see Auckland carry the day.
Team NZ have gone back to Dunphy – who is trying to raise private funding for an Auckland defence – with a series of questions. However, sailing sources say the funding shortfall is still a long way from what's required and the key issue of control may still be a stumbling block.
Perhaps the most likely outcome of all this is that tomorrow's expected announcement of a venue for the Cup will be delayed.
Media reports have the Irish asking for another six months to do due diligence on holding the event in Cork. National broadcaster RTE has quoted Ireland's Department of Sport as saying they'd not had long enough to consider the issues and there was a lack of confidence about the costs involved.
Translated from Government-speak, that means the bureaucrats may be nervous about the hosting proposal – and the request for another six months is a diplomatic way of asking a question to which it is known a negative answer will apply.
However, Ireland's three-party coalition Government is not the easiest to get quick answers from - and the news Ireland is getting cold feet has already sparked a backlash from the chamber of commerce. The opposition Sinn Fein party, the champion of much of the labour force that would benefit from a Cup hosting, has also said it favours such events being held in Ireland, though with a cautionary note about the costs.
So debate seems set to continue, with Irish participation not yet dead and buried. Their bid has not been withdrawn, as Valencia's was recently.
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That puts the focus more on Spain (Barcelona) and Saudi Arabia (Jeddah). Little is known about their bids or level of interest yet. The Spanish apparently have central government monies behind the Barcelona proposal – part of the vexed Catalan region which has been the subject of a growing independence movement and which the Government is keen to keep within the Spanish fold.
Jeddah is a mystery. Popular belief has the Saudis writing a vast cheque for hosting rights, so they can hold the America's Cup alongside other big events they have captured in recent times – a maiden F1 Grand Prix in December, boxing, football and more.
However, nothing has been said about any Saudi bid – and the big cheque seems nothing more than speculation at this stage.
It's also not known what Team NZ might have up its sleeve – it has never confirmed the identity of any of the potential overseas venues through the hosting process. If the Irish bid does fall over, however, there may be worries that an overseas venue may become more of a buyers' market than a seller's.
That too could bring Auckland more into play – though sailing and Cup sources say there is still a lot of water to flow under the Team NZ-Mark Dunphy bridge.
The team want to announce their protocol – the terms and conditions, design of the boats and more – on November 17; the venue is normally part of that package.