It could now be months, possibly even next year, before the venue for the next America's Cup is known.
The protocol for the 37th Cup is due to be released by Team New Zealand on November 17 – the rules, regulations and design specifics for the boat to be used in the regatta, as agreed by Team NZ and the Challenger of Record, Ineos Team UK. Normally, the venue for the regatta would be part of that announcement – but isn't mandatory.
With the body blow given yesterday to the Kiwi Home Defence campaign, most are assuming that is the end of Auckland as a venue.
That isn't necessarily so, even though the Mark Dunphy-led campaign copped a crippling broadside from Team NZ – and cessation of all dealings with Dunphy – over a leaked email. In it, Dr Hamish Ross, a well-known advisor to, or member of, several America's Cup teams (including Alinghi), said he was assisting "a group of prominent New Zealanders seeking to keep the Cup in Auckland". Dunphy said Ross was not representing him.
The email then went on to describe how the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) could become Challenger of Record if the club took legal action against the British yacht club spearheading Ineos's challenge. The email did not spell out the reasons for doing this but Team NZ and sailing circles have been full of conjecture that the NYYC, as Challenger of Record, could insist on an Auckland challenge and perhaps other concessions that would even the playing field for it and other challengers.
There have also been suggestions that other potential challengers might be behind the Kiwi Home Defence campaign (strongly denied by Dunphy) for other reasons, including the dilution of the nationality rule and sharing of design advantages.
The Team NZ boat, Te Rehutai, was demonstrably fastest in the last regatta, even though there were some question marks about the way it was sailed and the fact that it wasn't seen in the full range of winds. The impression of many knowledgeable judges was that it had unseen speed – and that challengers could be way behind design-wise for the next regatta.
One theory was that some of the money sought by Team NZ for a home defence could be accrued if the Kiwi Home Defence campaign controlled Team NZ and agreed to sell off some of its design IP – allowing a challenger to make a large part of the leap across the design gap.
Whatever the truth or otherwise of that, the prospect of the Kiwi Home Defence campaign gaining control of Team NZ appears to have gone the way of the dodo.
However, that doesn't mean the campaign is extinct, nor that Auckland is totally out of the question.
Legal action is still a possibility. Team NZ were preparing themselves for an interim injunction before the (postponed) date of September 17 to announce the new venue. Legal action is still possible over what some sources allege is a decision by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron to assign the venue selection to Team NZ. Though the effort to have the NYYC take action in the New York Supreme Court seems to have failed, that does not prevent other action – even though any appetite for such legal moves is not known.
The focus now swings onto the three most discussed potential venues: Ireland, Spain and Saudi Arabia. Ireland was hot favourite but political machinations there led to them asking for an extra six months to decide.
Representatives of Team NZ will soon be on the ground in potential venues and, among other things, will likely be sorting out just how much damage has been done. Sources close to the team say they've been told Irish journalists were encouraged to inquire into questions raised over Team NZ in the Beattie Varley/Mayo and Calder episode during the last America's Cup.
It's unclear whether that has had any effect on the Irish government appearing to get cold feet. However, the full extent of remaining Irish interest is not known and little has been heard out of Spain lately. Jeddah was the third option – but may have offered the least, undermining the contention they would simply write a big cheque with their bottomless resources. The possibility of a venue that has not yet been discussed should also not be discounted.
Team NZ boss Grant Dalton has been pointing out that it took over a year for Bermuda and Valencia to be signed up by the Cup defenders (Oracle Team USA in Bermuda; Alinghi in Valencia) in other examples of a defender taking a Cup regatta offshore – and that Team NZ have had nowhere near that amount of time yet.
So it could take a long time – months – to sort all this out. There remains a slight possibility that none of the three venues will agree. Which could mean it's back to Auckland – though what that regatta might look like would be anyone's guess.