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One year on: Inside Team NZ’s America’s Cup defence

by Suzanne McFadden 4 Jun 2018 16:28 PDT 5 June 2018
Spectator stadiums - Round Day 8 - Robin2, America's Cup Qualifier - Day 8, June 3, 2017 (ADT) © Richard Gladwell

It's almost a year since Emirates Team New Zealand brought the Auld Mug home. Suzanne McFadden talks to operations chief Kevin Shoebridge about Team NZ's plans to defend it in 2021 in Auckland.

The village

After the fraught and drawn-out wrestling match over where the teams will be based, Team NZ will move into their new home, taking over the entire Viaduct Event Centre, in October.

A redesign of the building, which they have rent-free till 2022, is now underway to turn it into a functioning boatshed. Massive doors need to be installed so the 75ft (23m) yachts can easily slip in and out.

This, of course, wasn’t what Team NZ envisaged. They wanted a legacy – a permanent base on Hobson Wharf that would be an enduring marine centre for the city.

“No, it’s not what we were hoping for long-term,” says Team NZ COO Kevin Shoebridge. “But it’s a very good position for us for this defence. It means we can operate out of there later this year, when we could have been waiting up to two years for a new base. It’s going to be a great use of a prime spot.”

It ticks the box for getting up close and personal with the public - one of Team NZ boss Grant Dalton's key requisites - and will form the heart of the America’s Cup village. Parts of the base will be open to everyone, and the victorious Aotearoa catamaran will be on display.

The six other base sites available for the challengers – one double-sized site on the Hobson Wharf extension, and two doubles and three singles on Wynyard Wharf – are in the process of resource consent. Construction needs to start at the end of the year, with teams having to build their own bases.

The challengers

Three challengers have already made it public they will line up on the Hauraki Gulf in January 2021.

Italians Luna Rossa, the Challenger of Record, have two decades of experience behind them; American Magic have the unrivalled Cup history of the New York Yacht Club and INEOS Team UK, Sir Ben Ainslie’s British challenge, have a whopping $217 million.

Another four or five potential syndicates have contacted Team NZ in the past six months. Three have been in constant communication, Shoebridge says, with one from left-field.

That’s likely to be Norway. Norwegian sailors Christian Loken and Petter Morland Pedersen have been investigating the America’s Cup, and say Norway’s marine technology and Viking heritage will give them a good shot - providing they find the money.

A second US syndicate – 2018 Congressional Cup winners Team USA21 – and another Italian challenge - Adelasia of Torres from Sardinia – have also been making the right noises.

The first entry period ends on June 30. Late entries, until November 30, will incur an extra US$1 million on the entry fee. Further entries can be accepted after that if all syndicates agree.

Team NZ haven’t officially announced entrants yet, because the teams “want to do their own thing in their own time”, Shoebridge says. It’s likely we’ll hear who has entered soon after the June 30 deadline, when Team NZ are confident there will be more than three names to announce.

“Remember we didn’t enter until an hour before the entries closed for the last Cup,” he says. “You always want more teams, but you have to be realistic. These teams are hard enough to run and fund when you’ve been going for years. Starting from scratch is a big ask, but it is possible.”

The event

Get used to the name ACE, because you'll hear it a lot over the next three years. ACE, America’s Cup Events Ltd, is a separate company created to control the 2021 America’s Cup.

“For the first year, we’ve run as one organisation working on the rules and infrastructure. But the time is almost here that ETNZ needs to be isolated from the event, to get on with the business of defending the Cup,” says Shoebridge.

“ACE is in its early stages, but it will have very good people in place to run the event.”

For the rest of this story click here

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