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AC37 - superyacht suitors

What is the best Americas' Cup 37 venue for the superyacht industry?

The venue for the next Americas' Cup is still very much up for grabs. As a New Zealander, I wish it was as simple as, well, we won; see you in Auckland in 4 years. If only it were that easy, but there are more than feelings to consider for a successful 37th iteration of The Cup. 

It was intriguing to be in both a media and an at-sea role in the years leading up to AC36. Essentially, from the moment Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) crossed the line in Bermuda, the excitement grew in the yachting community for an event that held so much promise (I joined a vessel just as they returned to West Palm Beach from Bermuda in September 2017 - near miss no.1).

New Zealand and the South Pacific has matured as a superyachting destination. More superyacht-specific infrastructure, cooperation between countries, and more conducive charter regulations seemed to align to make the event a potential cornerstone for a region that was purposefully evolving its superyacht proposition. The early movement of vessels in 2020 further bolstered the excitement as we watched the stream of vessels move through the Panama Canal and via Asia on Marine Traffic... everything seemed to point to an amazing showcase for the region, with an ensemble of high profile superyachts to match. 

Being privy to many behind the scenes conversations with organisers of the event and vessels planning the trip south made it all the more heartbreaking when the pandemic hit, and the reality dawned that the event would be forced to adapt significantly. As we watched the superyachts get held up in Tahiti and Fiji, and the New Zealand Government's strict border closure position crystalise, I, like so many others on all sides of the superyacht industry, gave up on the idea that I would see the racing return to the Hauraki Gulf in person (near-miss No.2).  

I am now faced with the tough question, do I think that Auckland remains the best destination for the next iteration of The Cup? My gut instinct is: yes, of course, it does! Auckland has the right to host again. If nothing else, New Zealand and the region deserve to have the superyacht showcase that they were robbed of by a virus that appeared on no contingency planning document. However, I am not sure I can be arbitrary when considering what is best from a superyacht industry perspective.  

Team New Zealand also seems reticent that hosting may have to move, as inferred from the media statement from ETNZ CEO Grant Dalton in June 2021. “By all means, the end of the exclusive negotiation period does not eliminate all possibility of the event or an event being hosted in New Zealand. If resources enable an event in New Zealand, we will remain open to it. But, we must explore other opportunities to ensure we can put up another successful defence. No matter where in the world we are, we will always be Team New Zealand.”

With an announcement due by the 17th of September, a shortish list of candidates appears to have taken shape, with one of either Dubai, The Solent (UK), Cork, Valencia or New York the most likely suitors should the cup move on. 

Since assuming the principle naming sponsorship in 2007, ETNZ has been connected to Dubai. While not a traditional sailing hub, Dubai may look to bring The Cup and its sponsorship home. While the financial devastation that the airline has faced from the pandemic has been highlighted, few could doubt the financial resources of a state-backed bid from The Emirates. It could be an intriguing option with established, if not spectacular, cruising with relative accessibility from The Med.  

The Solent, and the challenger of record, INEOS Team UK, would represent a return to the home of the first Americas’ Cup in 1851 and undoubtedly would be please some sailing purists. Still, I don’t think it represents an enjoyable three weeks on a large motor yacht. Likewise, perhaps the most left-field of the venues to put its hat into the ring, Cork may present exciting sailing conditions and beautiful scenery. Still, the superyacht infrastructure, in my opinion, cannot support a full complement of large motoryachts.

From a superyacht perspective, New York and Valencia offer the most supporting infrastructure. Valencia is not the most unique of superyacht destinations, but concerning the likely on-water representation and potential economic impact deriving from the maximum number of superyachts, it surely represents the most logical destination. This is further reinforced by Valencia's hosting credentials and position in the yachting heartland of the Western Med. 

Considering the progress that the South Pacific has made concerning infrastructure, outlined in more detail in The Pacific Superyacht Report, coupled with more accommodating charter regulations in Australia, Fiji and Tahiti, it is still a tantalising option.  If the Cup was to stay in Auckland, I remain hopeful that the superyacht community would re-energise its enthusiasm for the region, with the Americas' Cup as a catalyst once again. However, from a risk-averse and superyacht industry-specific perspective, and with a heavy heart, I conceded that an easier win might be to host in Valencia once again. I would, however, be more hopeful that I would not make it three misses in a row! and be on the water in the Med, with thousands of others. Not especially exciting or groundbreaking, but still surrounded by others, which would be a welcome change. 

Please let us know your thoughts; where do you think the next Americas’ cup should be held? Please submit your answer.

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