Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Auckland gets deadline to make Cup work

The teams have scrapped the foiling catamarans used for the past two editions of the Cup in favour of monohulls.  Photo / Photosport
The teams have scrapped the foiling catamarans used for the past two editions of the Cup in favour of monohulls. Photo / Photosport

Regatta will go to Italy if council cannot commit to updating waterfront infrastructure within 11 months, writes Dana Johannsen.

Auckland authorities have until August next year to come up with a workable plan to host sailing's America's Cup in 2021.

Three months on from their stunning victory in Bermuda, Team New Zealand yesterday outlined the shape of the next event, presenting the Protocol for the 36th America's Cup at a function at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

The key detail to prick the ears of the gathered media was the revelation Team NZ were still unable to confirm Auckland as host city for the event, which is slated for early 2021.

Urgent work is underway by the Auckland Council to consider options for housing syndicates on the Auckland waterfront, but given the complexities of the project and the level of consultation required, it is a slow process.

Under the Protocol released yesterday, Team NZ have implemented a "drop dead date" of August 30, 2018 to make a call on whether Auckland will be ready to host the event. If Auckland is not considered feasible, the regatta will be shifted to Italy, home to challenger of record Luna Rossa.

Some pundits read into the move an attempt to strong-arm local authorities into get their act together, but Team NZ chief executive Grant Dalton said legislating a plan B was done out of prudence rather than menace.

"The only reason we went to the America's Cup was to bring it back to Auckland. We're really clear about that, this is where we want to hold it but we've got nothing in place yet," Dalton said.

"Rather than finding out next year that it's got to be shopped out all over the place to try to find a venue, we say 'if for whatever reason it can't be in Auckland, which is the intention, absolutely the intention, it will go to Italy'."

While they have allowed 11 months to address the infrastructure issues with the Auckland waterfront, Team NZ's chief operating officer Kevin Shoebridge said they would like to get it squared away sooner.

"The teams would be keen to know. They're going to start building boats next year, they'll need to know are they going to set up in Auckland? Where are they going to be? So there is a little bit of pressure to get that done," he said.

Among the options being considered by the council include a 60m to 80m Halsey Wharf extension north of the Viaduct Harbour, an extension to Westhaven Marina and Captain Cook Wharf, all of which come with a hefty cost attached.

The Weekend Herald understands Team NZ's preference is the Halsey St extension, which would leave a legacy for the event, but Shoebridge would not be drawn on his pick.

"For a successful event it's got to be visible, so I think anywhere close to the inner city, close to the transport links, close to where people are has to be the main aim. When the village and the teams are isolated and it's hard for people to get to, it just doesn't work."

The council may have to find space for as many as 10 syndicates, with Team NZ and Luna Rossa predicting the shift back to monohulls will attract more high quality challengers back to the event.

The teams have scrapped the foiling catamarans used for the past two editions of the Cup in favour of monohulls. The only further detail provided by Team NZ yesterday was the boats will be 75ft and have 10-12 crew on board.

Team New Zealand will present concepts of the boat by November 30, with the full class rule to be drawn up by March next year.

While the return to monohulls has been criticised as a backward step for the sport, Team NZ skipper Glenn Ashby - a multihull specialist - did not believe that to be the case.

"I think the trickle-down effect of the technology will keep moving forwards. Obviously over the next couple of months there is a big responsibility to make sure we do move the sport into the new era and take all the positive things from the last America's Cup forward," he said.

- NZ Herald

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