Four-year deal secures NZ on global SailGP racing circuit

Glamour sailing league SailGP will race in New Zealand for four summers from early 2023, salvaging the nation’s place on a global circuit after an MIQ refusal scuppered races planned for next month.

The high-speed catamaran regatta will see nations including New Zealand race alternately on Lyttelton Harbour in Christchurch and Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, SailGP has announced.

The deal includes a Government contribution of $5.4 million from its major events fund over the four years. Regional promotion agencies ChristchurchNZ and Auckland Unlimited will both pay million-dollar incentive fees for each year they host a leg.

New Zealand's SailGP team in action.

SailGP

New Zealand’s SailGP team in action.

One SailGP event alone is forecast to bring up to $28 million of economic benefits to the nation and a TV audience of 50 million.

READ MORE:
* SailGP proposed saving NZ round with privately-run MIQ or self-isolation
* Covid-19 sinks SailGP’s multimillion-dollar NZ yachting event
* Millions in visitor income at risk after Government says no to MIQ for SailGP
* Multimillion-dollar upgrade begins to prepare Lyttelton for SailGP

Karl Budge, head of the New Zealand events and commercial director for SailGP, said the league was growing quickly, increasing the financial benefits to host countries.

Making contributions to attract major events was now standard practice and New Zealand could expect a “ten-to-one” dollar return on its outlay, he said.

Christchurch was due to have hosted the first-ever New Zealand leg of SailGP’s second season in January, but in August the Government refused places in managed isolation and quarantine [MIQ] to sailors and support crews.

Lyttelton Harbour will host two legs of SailGP.

Iain McGregor/Stuff

Lyttelton Harbour will host two legs of SailGP.

The event, intended to showcase the region and attract 10,000 spectators along the shore, was cancelled in September.

The city will now host a leg of the regatta’s third and fifth seasons in 2023 and in 2025, with Auckland hosting in 2024 and 2026.

Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash said the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which runs the major events fund, was “now working through the investment agreement with SailGP”.

SailGP is a grand prix event with mixed-gender crews from eight nations competing in identical foiling catamarans at speeds up to 100kmh.

Kiwi sailors Blair Tuke, left, and Peter Burling, centre, with SailGP boss Sir Russell Coutts.

Supplied

Kiwi sailors Blair Tuke, left, and Peter Burling, centre, with SailGP boss Sir Russell Coutts.

Each leg is sailed in a different location, with a US$1m [NZ$1.48m] prize at the end of each season.

The league was launched in 2018 by Kiwi Olympic and world champion yachtie Sir Russell Coutts and American billionaire Larry Ellison, who has underwritten the regatta for a minimum of five years.

Nash said the race series would bring New Zealand “significant economic benefits”, help the tourist industry, and celebrate its culture “on the global stage”.

“SailGP is one of the most exciting sailing races on the global sports calendar,” he said.

Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf will host SailGP in 2024 and 2026.

RICKY WILSON/Stuff

Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf will host SailGP in 2024 and 2026.

Next month’s cancelled event would have been held at no cost to taxpayers, but was secured with an undisclosed ChristchurchNZ incentive offer.

Auckland Unlimited confirmed it would pay $1m for each upcoming SailGP event in its city plus provide $500,000 worth of marketing, venues and other items.

ChristchurchNZ refused to reveal its contribution, but a spokesman said they had “an equal partnership” with Auckland Unlimited and the government.

Nash said the partnership with ChristchurchNZ and Auckland Unlimited had been “vital to get New Zealand onto the global SailGP circuit”. Both agencies are owned by ratepayers.

The SailGP fleet will number 10 next season.

Mark Lloyd/Getty Images

The SailGP fleet will number 10 next season.

The New Zealand SailGP team, headed by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, has raced this season alongside teams from Britain, the United States, France, Spain, Japan, Denmark, and Australia. Canada and Switzerland will join the league from next year.

Events in all locations outside New Zealand including Saint-Tropez and Bermuda have gone ahead this season, with Sydney and San Francisco to come.

Government ministers Grant Robertson and Kris Faafoi defended their MIQ decision at the time, saying SailGP’s application came at a time of “high demand” for spots.

Alternative options put forward by Coutts and Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel to land the teams in the country fell on deaf ears.

SailGP subsequently applied to the major events fund for cash.

Following SailGP’s latest announcement, Dalziel said she was “thrilled” with the outcome.

“Securing one SailGP event for Christchurch was exciting, so getting more than one year is a significant win for our city.”

USA SailGP Team helmed by Jimmy Spithill almost capsizes during practice in Denmark in August.

Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

USA SailGP Team helmed by Jimmy Spithill almost capsizes during practice in Denmark in August.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the deal was “a strong endorsement of Auckland as a world-class host city for major events” and would promote it as a maritime city.

Budge said the four-year deal was the longest yet signed by SailGP, and events in two cities was an ideal outcome as it would momentum.

Dates were not finalised, but the New Zealand legs would likely be between January and March, he said. SailGP will provide all the on-shore infrastructure.

Tuke said the deal would boost sailing’s popularity and participation in New Zealand, while Burling said they were “incredibly excited to get the opportunity to race on home waters”.

New Zealand’s boat in Saint-Tropez earlier this year.

SAILGP

New Zealand’s boat in Saint-Tropez earlier this year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *