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SailGP comes to New Zealand in 2023 for four seasons - Auckland and Christchurch venues

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 7 Dec 2021 20:33 PST 8 December 2021
New Zealand SailGP Team is linked with Live Ocean - the charitable environment trust founded by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke © Bob Martin/SailGP

The New Zealand round of SailGP was launched today in Auckland, following a worldwide announcement overnight.

Originally scheduled for January 2022, the series was called off after organisers were unable to negotiate Managed Isolation and Quarantine spaces for the 170 competitors.

The hope is that the MIQ imperative will have faded by the time the first New Zealand event is staged at a date to be advised, but expected to be in January 2023 - which will be at the tail end of Season 3.

There are two more SailGP regatta venues negotiated and announced before the complete season is known. However it will be contested by 10 teams - with Canada and Switzerland being the latest to join the eight strong Season 2 fleet.

Two new F50's are under construction at the Larry Ellison owned Core Builders Composite facility in Warkworth, about an hour's drive north of Auckland.

The launch session was light on detail - being attended by a largely non-sailing audience. Audio recording and photography were also banned - save for one snatched phone shot at the end.

In the graphic posted of the Christchurch venue - showed the event located at Naval Point, just outside the working port of Lyttleton, and separated from the city of Christchurch by the Port Hills.

The area was only slightly damaged in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes which devastated the City. There's plenty of surrounding waterfront land, a ramp, and a new club - opened in 2001 after the merger of two yacht clubs.

It's an excellent, picturesque venue with Lyttleton harbour being less than 1nm wide at Naval Point - the surrounding hills will offer excellent spectator viewing. The harbour is also sheltered in most wind directions and offers flat water - ideal for the foilers.

Racing will be held just off the existing sailing club, on the current SailGP course configuration.

Little was said about the Auckland venue, outside of the official release.

Our guess is that the bases will be located on the southern end of Wynyard Point facility alongside what are now the INEOS Britannia base and American Magic base.

There was no indication as to where racing will be held, but the likely location is between Wynyard Point, and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron - the location used for the 1990 World Match Racing Championships - which like Lyttleton, has a width just under 1nm wide.

The water is sheltered - ideal for foilers - but without the surrounding high ground like the South Island venue. Whether spectator boats are allowed to ring the course in the numbers and way they did at the 2021 America's Cup, remains to be seen.

There was no comment on the Womens SailGP in Season 3 - whether there will be a full womens crew event, or if a partial mix crew will be mandated is unclear.

The Auckland event is scheduled for 2024 - had the America's Cup been sailed in Auckland in that year, sailing fans would have had a feast of sailing events including the Challenger Selection Series for the America's Cup, the Womens America's Cup, the Youth America's Cup, Sail GP, and preceded with a stopover for The Ocean Race in February 2023 - had that event not been pulled for COVID/MIQ considerations.

Major Events New Zealand, the event management arm of the NZ Government, along with the Auckland Council is tipping in NZD$5.4million across the four SailGP regattas. Given their stance over the America's Cup, it was a little surprising to hear the Major Events representatives say that they saw the staging of major sporting events in New Zealand as enabling the revival of business and tourism - all but shut down as a result of COVID lockdowns.

Walking back from the launch function, and hour or so before lunch, the bottom of the City was near-deserted, and the once vibrant North Wharf area was stunningly silent.

Given the tax generated, injecting a $100million into an America's Cup hosting and the associated buildup, as part of a major tourism and downtown Auckland rejuvenation strategy, looks to be a very cheap investment to get a stagnant City of Sails foiling again.

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