America’s Cup defence to stay in NZ? Grant Dalton keeps door open for Auckland event

Team New Zealand says it will explore the possibility of keeping the next America’s Cup in Auckland after an “11th hour” funding bid to host the defence of Auld Mug here.

But its chief executive Grant Dalton this morning sounded a note of caution, saying the team was not prepared to sacrifice winning and risk repeating the disastrous 2003 campaign for the sake of holding it in New Zealand.

It comes as the selection period to choose which venue the next America’s Cup will be held at has been extended.

The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Emirates Team New Zealand this morning said it had received a letter from businessman Mark Dunphy regarding the viability of his funding to maintain the event in Auckland.

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Dalton said there were a number of outstanding potential venues literally going down to the wire.

This morning he confirmed Ireland was one of the three offshore venues vying to hold the next America’s Cup.

He said all had “strong and competitive” bids on the table and firmly committed to completing agreements in the coming weeks.

“It’s frustrating not to have been able to close our agreement with a host venue by the planned date of September 17 as previously proposed but we are now giving ourselves more time to work through the final details of the respective venues as the current Covid situation in New Zealand has made the process more difficult,” said Dalton.

“So now that we finally have an 11th-hour letter from Mr Dunphy, it would be remiss of us not to explore the viability of an Auckland event and if it in fact can be fully and completely funded locally. To date, there has been no evidence of this being the case.”

Dalton told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking that while they wanted to have the host venue confirmed as soon as possible, Covid had confounded the process.

Today he confirmed that Ireland was one of the three venues in the running but there were problems in the application.

“They’ve put a time frame on their due diligence but it’s too long for us at this stage and we had said no to that and given them a tighter time so we’ll see where that goes,” said Dalton.

On the approach by the Kiwi businessman to keep the next cup defence in New Zealand, Dalton said he was wary of the disastrous previous cup defence at home.

“Auckland will always be in the mix but those that can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it because this is about winning – it’s not about setting ourselves up to lose – and 2003, when Team New Zealand whimpered and lost badly, not just in front of New Zealand but in front of the world, we lost a lot that day and we’re just not going to set ourselves up that way.

“This is about trying to win it, not to set ourselves up to lose.”

He said opposing syndicates would be “licking their chops” in an underfunded environment.

Dalton also revealed he had never met Kiwi businessman Mark Dunphy, who wants to keep the cup defence in New Zealand.

“I’ve had one phone conversation getting on to two months ago now and we had a letter from him which was hardly a proposal as such. I don’t think any of the team have met him really.”

Team New Zealand and the yacht squadron announced they were extending the selection period for the shortlisted offshore venues “to continue to work through final details and provide further information required for their respective bids”.

“For the benefit of both the 37th America’s Cup and the eventual host venue, we would rather allow some more time now so we make the right decision as opposed to a rushed decision,” said the squadron’s commodore Aaron Young.

Team New Zealand and the yacht squadron said it was both prudent and responsible to extend the deadline for offshore venues to continue to progress negotiations after Covid lockdown in New Zealand made it impossible for team members to visit the venues.

They said it was originally planned to carry out essential face-to-face meetings and provide final team feedback to act onrecommendations

Both Team New Zealand and the yacht squadron had to balance the need for further time to ensure they accepted a bid that was in the best interests of the America’s Cup event with the need for Challengers to know the final venue as soon as practicable, said the statement.

The search for the AC37 host venue began in May last year by Origin Sports Group but was paused for an exclusive three-month period from March 17, during which the New Zealand Government had the exclusive right to negotiate AC37 being held in New Zealand and continued once this period lapsed.

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