America’s Cup: Kiwi Home Defense is nearing the 11th Hour bid to host AC37 in Auckland
by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz Feb 26 3:21pm PST
February 27, 2022
Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour, site of the 36th America’s Cup © Carlo Borlenghi
The Kiwi Home Defense Group appears to be about to launch a concerted effort to host the 37th America’s Cup in Auckland.
Her 11th Hour bid is believed to be backed by Auckland-based PR agency Topham Guerin but is better known for running several PR campaigns for the likes of the British Conservative Party and the Australian Liberal Party .
The Kiwi Home Defense campaign features several Youtube vignettes featuring high profile New Zealanders, some of whom have had direct ties to previous America’s Cups.
Radio advertising and signage are already up and running.
The campaign comes as Emirates Team New Zealand is still negotiating with a shortlist of venues that has not yet been officially announced. A final decision on the venue should be announced in just over four weeks, on March 31, 2022. It remains to be seen whether this date will be reached. The announcement of the first venue was set for last year but was delayed when Delta and then Omicron viruses swept Europe.
Short video clips on the Kiwi Home Defense website play on the same patriotic theme as the 37th America’s Cup was defended in Auckland and to make use of the facilities built for the 36th game, part of a planned rejuvenation program for Auckland’s eyesores were waterfront promenade and harbor environmental rehabilitation.
The New Zealand government and Auckland Council had exclusive negotiating rights for a period of three months after successfully defending the America’s Cup, but the government offered a hosting fee intended to cover part of the cost of the regattas, namely $9 million less than the 36th America’s Cup. This was despite record viewing figures for AC36 and the preliminary Challenger Selection Series, backed by Italian fashion house Prada, who also sponsored Italian Challenger Luna Rossa.
Relations between the team and the Department for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the New Zealand government agency that handles major sporting events, came after a series of media barrages that were expelled from Wellington and made some very negative claims about the Kiwi team , severely strained , its management and directors. These claims were later subject to an investigation conducted by a firm of forensic accountants, who dismissed all of the claims made, except for a finding that timesheets were not kept for the design time spent by the team developing the AC75 class rule, for the $3 million fee was charged.
Despite an exclusive negotiating right and a plea bargain from Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Commodore, Aaron Young, who alerted members that the MBIE bid was below that for the 37 private money.
At the end of the exclusive negotiation period, Emirates Team New Zealand had no choice but to proceed with the venue started prior to the 36th America’s Cup to establish a shortlist of potential venues to be selected should the New Zealand team succeed in their cup defence.
For an Auckland defence, there still remains a significant lack of $200m Emirates Team New Zealand, who say they must host a defensive event in Auckland or elsewhere in the world and manage the team. This amount represents team and event costs for the Prada Cup and America’s Cup match at AC36. AC35 in Bermuda had an event cost of US$65 million or NZ$95 million. ETNZ’s team cost of NZ$120 million is comparable to previous campaigns.
While others speculate on various numbers and revenue streams, ultimate financial responsibility for running America’s Cup Defense rests with Emirates Team New Zealand, who have made it clear they have little confidence in the reliability of the bids.
Since the NZ Govt/Auckland Council and Emirates Team NZ withdrew from the exclusive negotiation process, the New Zealand government has been quick to commend its financial success in managing the far ahead of forecast COVID pandemic. But the closed borders policy comes at a huge cost to New Zealand’s near-collapsed tourism industry, which now accounts for just over 10% of its pre-COVID $17 billion annual revenue. Currently, New Zealand’s border remains closed to international visitors for another six months and no program is announced to bring tourist and market share back to 2019 levels.
The New Zealand government’s actions have also hit the New Zealand shipping industry hard, with $300 million in superyacht overhaul revenue lost from ships booked to visit Auckland via AC36. The GST component of this expense would have covered the cost of the $40 million hosting fee for AC36. Unlike other New Zealand sports, sailing and the America’s Cup is an invaluable showcase for New Zealand’s shipping industry, which turns over $2.5 billion each year.
Additionally, downtown Auckland, which borders the former America’s Cup village, now resembles a ghost town as multiple COVID-related factors are forcing businesses to close, coupled with Auckland Council’s construction of a light rail system. Again, it’s hard to understand why the New Zealand Government and Auckland Council are unwilling to invest in an event that offers a better return on investment than the expensive international marketing campaigns New Zealand Inc needs for its post-pandemic economic recovery.
At least six teams are expected to attend the 37th America’s Cup.
Unlike the previous edition, the protocol requires teams to be in the host country for an extended period of time and the event is expected to return to a situation where teams operate away from the host country for 12 months – reflecting the expenses for the venue increased significantly by the participating teams.