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Gladwell's Line - Lines drawn in the Battle of the Waitemata

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World NZ on 15 Nov 2017
Emirates Team New Zealand was the only team integrated with the America’’s Cup Village and Media Centre in Bermuda and received the most benefit. Bob Greiser/America's Cup
On Monday morning, ahead of a workshop organised to update Auckland Councillors a graphic was published showing the sites under consideration for the hosting of the 36th America's Cup - if indeed it is to be held in Auckland rather than Italy.

Developed from leaked information, it triggered a media conference at 4.00pm at the Auckland Council while the workshop was still in progress.

The purpose of the workshop was to front-foot the Auckland venue situation and get accurate information into the public purview rather than allowing the issue to percolate using misinformation pushed out by opposition groups.

To recap, the Auckland Council had a Long Term Planning meeting back on September 5, 2017. Running interference across the decade by decade planning was the inconvenient truth that Emirates Team New Zealand had won the America's Cup two months earlier.

Despite having won the Challenger Final for the past two multi-challenger America's Cups, there had been nothing factored into long-term planning to host an America's Cup in Auckland. On their third attempt, Emirates Team New Zealand was able to win, and suddenly Auckland Council was propelled into the hot seat.


Since 2000 there has been a progressive sell-off of the Viaduct Harbour created for the hosting of the 30th and 31st America's Cups off the back of the Team New Zealand win in 1995 in San Diego.

Last to go was the team that was the catalyst for the rejuvenation of Auckland's eyesore into a glittering jewel. While in the throes of what proved to be a successful America's Cup campaign, Emirates Team New Zealand was shunted off to a disused oil company administration office at the eastern side of Westhaven Marina, and operated from there, along with a couple of tents for boats and kit.

Despite operating for 30 years, having won the America's Cup three times, and being the major catalyst for a $1.5billion a year marine industry, Emirates Team New Zealand still has no permanent home in Auckland.

Fast forward to present day and on Monday Auckland Council's CEO provided the required report on the options for Auckland.

Back on September 5, several Councillors (Darby, Casey, Collins, Hills, Hulse, and Wayne Walker) were against even having Halsey Street included in the options. 13 Councillors were in favour of having all options considered in the report, and four were absent for the vote.

The report on Monday afternoon showed that in various forms the extension to Halsey Street is the only workable option. There are three layouts which can be used.


The Integrated Model
A key message from previous America's Cups is that the team bases, media centre, and America's Cup Village must be integrated to provide a great America's Cup experience for fans and visitors. The integrated approach also encourages people to get out of their cars, get to the regatta venue using public transport and ferries in particular, and then walk.

San Francisco used a model where the Media Centre was in one location with the America's Cup Village close by and the team bases some way down the Embarcadero. It didn't work as well as it could have, and when the media centre was taken over as a cruise ship terminal, the chances of staging a repeat event became remote. The parties agreed to part company very early in the piece.

Bermuda had a more integrated model, but the bases, on the 'mainland' side of the Royal Dockyard, had public access blocked along a walkway that could have taken fans past Land Rover BAR, Groupama Team France, Softbank Team Japan and Oracle Team USA. Instead, there was a locked gate after the first two bases. Emirates Team New Zealand got a lot of fan support being on Cross Island and alongside the America's Cup Village. Artemis Racing had their main base up the end of the Great Sound, and a 'day' base alongside Emirates Team NZ - which didn't work as their AC50 stayed in the water, with no haulout, before returning to the main base.

For fans the routine seems to be to get along to the base, about the time the boat is being rolled out. Watch the rigging and launching process and the dock-out show, then wander over to the big screens and watch the boats go through the preliminaries and racing itself, and then wait for the boats to return, take in the dock-in show, haul out, spot any damage and maybe get some selfies with the crew as they work the fans along the fence.

It's a good day out - even if you do just one day of the regatta or every day. In Bermuda, the party started in the Village once the racing finished and continued until the last ferry. Auckland learned to have public parties in the last Rugby World Cup. With scattered facilities and bases it just doesn't work, and people see what they want and then go home.

Although they didn't have much option a great feature about Bermuda was the way ferries could pull up alongside the America's Cup Village, drop off the fans and then repeat the exercise every 30 minutes or so at the end of the day's racing.

Valencia got the closest to an integrated base, Village, Media Centre model with the ambitious revamp of the Darcena. However the 2007 America's Cup lacked a home crowd, as the Match was between a Swiss team, and a New Zealand team with the regatta sailed in 'neutral' Spain. For sure the New Zealand fans were there in their droves - but they was only one side of the America's Cup equation.

Auckland showed how it should be done with an integrated facility in the 2000 and 2003 Defences (result excepted). It can step up to a new level in 2021.


'A-Listers' switch sides
Those opposed to any further harbour incursion might be buoyed by a win in the 2015 stand-off with the Ports of Auckland over plans to extend Bledisloe Wharf by 92 metres into the Waitemata Harbour, effectively narrowing the harbour for navigation.

That protest had the support of the sailing community. The extension was also opposed by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and many leading yachting 'A-Listers'. Those same parties are unlikely to back opposition to the America's Cup base proposals - quite the reverse in fact. We could well see a flotilla in support of the Halsey Street Extension.

Add in the thousands of America's Cup fans who supported the team at the various homecoming parades, and support for this 2017 issue quite different from the Battle of Bledisloe in 2015. The America's Cup winners have done well with their tours of New Zealand - maybe it is time for their fans to return the favour.

Unlike the Bledisloe extension proposal the construction of the Halsey Street - in whatever form, does not progress beyond the current wharf lines (and is inside the line of the two existing wharves on either side).

Currently the primary use of this piece of Auckland backwater is for charter boats and the like to navigate from the Viaduct Harbour to the inner Waitemata harbour via a dredged channel. This passage is largely unaffected by any of the proposals and will just require a couple more turns by vessels as they enter and exit

Planning failure
The reason why we are in this situation of having won the America's Cup but with no facilities available is because of a lack of long-term planning in the area. The planners ignored the fact that ETNZ had made the last three multi-challenger Matches for the America's Cup as the top Defender and was likely to win again at some stage. In fact the last time New Zealand did not participate in an multi-Challenger America's Cup Match was 25 years ago - or the last six America's Cup cycles.


They failed to plan for this eventuality and in fact continued to sell off areas of the Viaduct harbour to hotel and commercial office developers - to the point where there was nothing left.

It is all very well to be opposed to any harbour encroachment per se, but as we saw in the harbour encroachment to create the Viaduct Harbour in 1995-1998, the development does create a much better space for the enjoyment of the people of Auckland.

The wharf that is proposed over the patch of water off the end of Halsey Street will not destroy anyone's enjoyment of the Waitemata harbour.

It is not used as a piece of recreational water - there is far too much water movement from the residual and backlash of ferry and other wakes for that to be a valid claim.


As one who owns a mooring on the opposite side of the harbour at Stanley Bay, the ferry wakes are extremely hazardous, and no-one in their right mind could ever suggest that anchoring in this piece of water is a pleasurable experience. On the opposite side of the harbour off Halsey Street, the water movement would be even worse.

The sight line from Wynyard Point is directly across to the hotel and apartment complex on Princes Wharf. It is not a great vista, in fact, it is an eyesore. No-one can seriously suggest that extending a wharf partially across that monstrosity is going to diminish the views. Those were long gone when the Princes Wharf complex was approved.

If the long-term plan to turn Wynyard Point into a public park is achieved, then the Halsey Street extension will not impact significantly on the harbour views as it is inside the sight line and the navigation line.

Deed of Gift difficulties

The option of using Tauranga as an alternative venue could run into issues with the Deed of Gift for the America's Cup as would the Italian venue option.

Most students of the Deed of Gift accept that there is an implied term in the 19th-century document which governs the conduct of the Match, that interpretation says the regatta must be sailed in the home waters of the current holder - in this case, the RNZYS. While that provision has not yet been tested in the New York Supreme Court. The argument has been set out yet again in 'Exposed' by Larry Keating and Alan Sefton, and someday it will be tested to stop an instance of shopping the Venue.

This is an opportunity for Auckland to wake up and take the opportunity that has been offered by the America's Cup win on June 26th and spend the money to do this venue properly and make the best utilisation of available assets and create the best water sports facility in the world.

The overriding message from the cities that have hosted the last few America's Cup and Olympic Sailing Regattas is that those who have done it well, have an excellent legacy asset. Those who have cut corners do less well. None have the payback that Auckland will receive from the 2021 America's Cup and beyond.

We need a City of Sails not a City of Wails.

For America's Cup commentator Peter Lester's view on the options for Auckland click here











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