America’s Cup: Where will AC37 be held?

Team New Zealand and the New Zealand government have been unable to reach agreement – so where might the 37th America’s Cup be held if it goes overseas?

Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli racing in the America’s Cup World Series. Photo: COR 36 / Studio Borlenghi

Despite Emirates Team New Zealand winning the America’s Cup on home turf earlier this year, it now looks increasingly likely that the 37th America’s Cup could be held somewhere other than New Zealand, with key stakeholders failing to come to an agreement on funding for the event with the New Zealand government.

The future of the Cup is now unknown after a $99million funding offer from the New Zealand government was turned down by Emirates Team New Zealand.

The New Zealand Government and Auckland City Council had a three-month exclusivity period to agree terms to host the 37th America’s Cup with the Cup holders. However, the two parties failed to strike a deal, leaving the options wide open for where and how the 37th running of the America’s Cup might take place.

The America’s Cup is one of sailing’s biggest prizes and often sees the incredibly wealthy investing vast sums of money in teams for the bragging rights of being an America’s Cup winner.

However, there is more than merely prestige at play. The winner of the Cup gets to choose the format, class of boat and, crucially, location for the next event. This can see a significant influx of money to whichever country holds the regatta.

 

America's Cup fans

There is huge passion for Team New Zealand in their home country, with public investment in the team for many years. Photo: ACE / Studio Borlenghi

Team New Zealand has long been backed (to greater and lesser degrees) by the public purse in New Zealand and immediately after winning the 36th America’s Cup received money from the government to ensure the team would not dissolve and see talent poached by other teams.

However, although the 36th America’s Cup was a standout success in a world ravaged by the Covid 19 pandemic, the event will not have been anything like as profitable as it would have been in normal times. This fact, alongside the global economic downturn that has taken hold due to the pandemic, likely make it much harder for the New Zealand government to invest serious sums in holding the next regatta.

The spectator 'armada' for 36th America's Cup

Hundreds of locals took to the water to watch the 36th America’s Cup, but international fan presence was severely limited by the Covid 19 pandemic. Photo: ACE / Studio Borlenghi

In a statement released by Emirates Team New Zealand on Tuesday 16 June, they did not rule out holding the next event on their home waters, but also state they are now looking at other options.

The statement reads:

Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) and the Government, along with Auckland Council, have concluded exclusive discussions regarding funding for the next America’s Cup (AC37)…

During the three-month exclusive negotiating period between New Zealand agencies and ETNZ, they have not been able to reach a conclusion that works for all parties. All three parties have worked through these discussions with the best of intentions to see the AC37 hosted in Auckland, and they have not been able to reach agreement by the expiration of the exclusive period.

Emirates Team New Zealand will now commence discussions with other nations to look into options regarding hosting AC37 events.

“By all means, the end of the exclusive negotiation period does not eliminate all possibility of the event or an event being hosted in New Zealand. If resources enable an event in New Zealand we will remain open to it. But, we must explore other opportunities to ensure we can put up another successful defence. No matter where in the world we are, we will always be Team New Zealand. Our priority has always been to keep and defend the America’s Cup successfully. We certainly want to explore holding a regatta in Auckland and along with discussing the venue for AC37 with other nations, would like to work through that opportunity also”, said Grant Dalton.

Might Valencia return as an America’s Cup host venue?

Where next for the America’s Cup?

It was openly known that the Cup holders had been exploring options to run the Cup overseas – a revelation that sparked condemnation from some ardent Kiwi fans, and was seen as gamesmanship on behalf of team boss Grant Dalton by others in an effort to increase the financial support levied by the New Zealand government. 

Potential venues to host the 37th America’s Cup being discussed range from Cork in Ireland, home to the world’s oldest yacht club, to the glittering metropolis of Singapore. Bids from Middle Eastern venues potentially include Doha in Qatar, famously associated with the controversial Oryx Quest race; Dubai, the UAE city that has positioned itself as a key venue for massive sporting events; Jeddah in Saudi Arabia – not a country known for its widespread adoption of sailing  but another building its profile as a major sports host; and Oman, home of the successful Oman Sail programme for over 12 years.

Likely favourites as alternatives to Auckland will include Valencia, Spain – host to the highly successful 12-team 2007 America’s Cup and 2010 event – and the Solent, UK – home to the original America’s Cup back in 1851, and the home waters of now Challenger of Record, Sir Ben Ainslie’s INEOS Team UK.

Or could the Solent see America’s Cup racing return – for the first time since 1851?

Dalton was also keen to point out that Auckland itself remains on the table, subject to funding, and that he is hopes to retain a team base and World Series event in New Zealand. ““Everyone needs to calm down. This is not an announcement. This is a briefing. The Cup is not gone,” he said in a speech at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Club.

Organisers have a deadline of September 17 to name the next host venue.


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