Team New Zealand's America's Cup lifeline could lie in hosting one or more of lead-up events to the 2017 event in Bermuda.
Today's confirmation that the 35th America's Cup would be staged on the small island in the North Atlantic was a blow for the Kiwi syndicate - one they saw coming, but a blow nevertheless. Bermuda may offer a spectacular sailing venue, but in terms of commercial opportunities it is a veritable wasteland.
With the government already making it clear they are less than enthusiastic about the idea of Bermuda due to the limited opportunities to leverage "brand NZ", Emirates Team New Zealand's chances of securing further tax-payer funding will likely hinge on being awarded the hosting rights for either the America's Cup qualifying series, or a couple of rounds on the World Series circuit.
Team NZ boss Grant Dalton said the syndicate will be putting the finishing touches on their business case for the government over the next few days, but hinted their pitch centred around the potential economic benefits of hosting five other America's Cup teams in Auckland.
"As a pre-eminent country of the America's Cup and a country that understands it more than any other country, bringing the racing here - which wouldn't be able to happen without this organisation's existence - I think is a pretty big drawcard," Dalton told Radio New Zealand.
Dalton would not comment on which events Team NZ are bidding to host, but it is believed at the very least they will be aiming for two rounds of the World Series circuit, sailed in the smaller AC45 catamarans, in 2015 and 2016. However, given the World Series regattas run for less than a week and are unlikely to bring any major financial return to the Auckland, it would suggest Team NZ have their eye on staging the America's Cup qualifying series.
The qualifying series, which was originally slated for early 2017, was a controversial addition to the Cup programme as the regatta will eliminate some of the challengers before the America's Cup play-offs (formerly the Louis Vuitton challenger series).
"We're in discussion to host an event or events - one of which will be of significance to New Zealand," said Dalton.
"It's in a delicate part of the negotiation and I don't want to pre-empt any of that."
The economic benefits of hosting the qualifying series would be much greater than the World Series rounds, with the event expected to run for at least a couple of weeks. Given the high stakes of the regatta, it is expected teams would arrive in Auckland well in advance to familiarise themselves with the conditions.
There is also the potential for some of the European teams to base themselves in New Zealand for the entire summer to do their training and development down here, much like Italian team Luna Rossa did during the last Cup campaign.
While the prospect of bringing the America's Cup roadshow to New Zealand may make Team NZ's business case to the government more appealing, it raises the question as to who will foot the bill to stage the regatta. Team NZ are unlikely to be able to host an event without financial support from local government authorities.
Steve Armitage, head of corporate and council relations for Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) said the organisation has not received any formal request or proposal from Team NZ to consider at this stage.
"We look forward to hearing from ETNZ and understanding the potential role Auckland can play. Any event proposal would be considered against ATEED's Major Events Sponsorship criteria, to ensure it achieved the desired social and economic benefits for Auckland," said Armitage.
Team NZ may have an unlikely ally in wanting the qualifying series to come to Auckland. From a competitive point of view having the regatta in the southern hemisphere will play into the hands of Cup defenders Oracle Team USA as the challengers will lose up to three months in training and development time shipping their boats in and out of New Zealand.
One of the big advantages of Oracle being permitted to build two boats under the Cup protocol is that they will not have this same down time.