Exclusive: Grant Dalton wants lead-in America’s Cup event in Auckland, seeks council meeting

Exclusive: Grant Dalton wants lead-in America’s Cup event in Auckland, seeks council meeting

Grant Dalton wants a conversation with Auckland Council about the city hosting an America’s Cup World Series lead-in event. Photo / Supplied

Despite controversially selling hosting rights for the next America’s Cup event off Kiwi shores, Team NZ head Grant Dalton has privately asked Auckland Council’s chief executive for a discussion with “someone sensible” about hosting a separate sailing event in the City of Sails.

On April 8, Dalton emailed Auckland Council’s chief executive Jim Stabback as part of negotiations for the relocation and rent of Team NZ’s new base on Auckland’s waterfront and exit from the Viaduct Events Centre.

The email was obtained by the Herald as part of a request under the Local Government Official Information Act and indicates Dalton is keen on a potential America’s Cup World Series regatta in Auckland.

“Seems to have died down a bit now, but as we know, everyone has an opinion on the Cup, everyone!!!” Dalton says in the email.

“At some point it would be good to have a sensible discussion with someone (sensible) on a AmCup World Series.”

The World Series events are lead-in preparation events held in both the host country of the actual America’s Cup – which in 2024 will be in Barcelona, Spain – but also in countries of the other syndicates in the year before the main event.

A Team NZ spokesperson told the Herald there hadn’t been any further conversations with anyone at Auckland Council “beyond the mention in April” of Dalton to Stabback.

However, the spokesperson did indicate their enthusiasm to hold such an event in Auckland over the coming 12 to 18 months.

“In terms of America’s Cup World Series Events, Emirates Team NZ is working with the Government of Sardinia towards a planned event next October in Cagliari. We would welcome dialogue with the council on having an ACWS event in Auckland if they are interested,” the Team NZ spokesperson said.

An Auckland Council spokesperson also confirmed they had checked with Stabback’s office and said: “as far as we’re aware there has been no further discussion or correspondence between Jim and Mr Dalton”

“The council [group] is not aware of any plans for a world series event in Auckland,” the spokesperson said.

Team NZ head Grant Dalton. Photo / Michael Craig
Team NZ head Grant Dalton. Photo / Michael Craig

However, despite Team NZ’s enthusiasm for a home event in the next 18 months, Auckland Council’s planning committee chair, councillor Chris Darby, says there are still very raw emotions after Dalton and Team NZ leadership abandoned Auckland as a location for defending their 2021 Auld Mug win.

Auckland Council invested $215.2 million on the 2021 event but, because of Covid travel restrictions and a lack of international tourists and superyacht arrivals, failed to recoup anywhere near its costs.

“I wouldn’t say there was a huge appetite [within council for such an event],” Darby said.

“I think a lot of us are feeling pretty bruised by Team NZ’s exit and they are going to have to rebuild their relationship not just with the council but with Aucklanders if they want to have a way back into having a racing event on the Waitematā and the Hauraki Gulf.

“Before they start talking about an event they need to reset their relationship, not just with Auckland Council, but with Aucklanders, because it got totally eroded.”

Team NZ received widespread disappointment and criticism from Government ministers, Auckland mayor Phil Goff and many figures in the New Zealand sailing community after they decided to sell the hosting for the 37th America’s Cup event to Barcelona, Spain in March this year.

Dalton obtained a $112 million price tag for the hosting rights from Spanish public institutions and private entities.

That $112m sum did not include any potential spend on infrastructure – which was one of the sticking points of the New Zealand Government’s rejected hosting offer of $99m that was not all discretionary funds for Team NZ.

Yet a source within the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron told the Herald there was general support and positivity for an America’s Cup World Series event in Auckland as Dalton was proposing.

“[Team NZ] actually decide where those [World Series events] are going to be, no one else. But it has been encouraged by a number of us to try and get an event in Auckland,” the source said.

“But the issue frankly is timing, because it’s quite a tight time frame. Hopefully they do get together and Jim [Stabback’s] a very reasonable bloke… and I know Grant [Dalton] would love for an event to be here, but it is really up to them. There’s no one else involved in those conversations.

“It’s got to be a partnership both ways. I mean Team NZ wouldn’t put in a request to go wherever. Really it’s ultimately up to the city. The city’s the one who’s paying and hosting an event.”

In the protocol of the 37th America’s Cup document it indicates that such a lead-up as Auckland could host would be raced on the AC40 yacht – designed for Team NZ on-water testing and development programme.

“There will be up to three Preliminary Regattas, the first two raced in AC40s, the last one at the Match venue in AC75s. The Challenger Selection Series and the America’s Cup Match will be held in 2024, with the Match Venue and approximate event dates to be announced by 31st March 2022.”

The AC75 yachts are what the actual 37th America’s Cup in 2024 in Barcelona will be raced on.

But Team NZ has just begun testing their AC40 yachts on the “back paddock” between Auckland’s Waiheke Island and Howick Beachlands this September.

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