A trio from Emirates Team New Zealand visited Tauranga this week assessing the harbour and vicinity for the America's Cup challenger series and the America's Cup.
“This was to be a top secret visit but by the time they got here yesterday they had changed their minds about that and were happy for us to publicise it,” says Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club commodore Nick Wrinch.
Dick Meacham, Kevin Shoebridge and Ray Davies from Emirates Team New Zealand are considering Tauranga as a possibility to host the America's Cup Challenger series and the America's Cup between January and March of 2021.
“It seems that preparations and even plans for preparations are going very slowly in Auckland and they are getting concerned,” says Nick in his newsletter this week.
“They have to announce the venue by August of next year and they believe that works would have to be underway by June.
“They are concerned that that deadline might not be achievable and so they are considering other options. If all else fails the event would be held in Italy and we all understand that would be a tragic loss for NZ.”
Hosting the cup in Tauranga would require a big involvement from the Port of Tauranga to accommodate the three hectares for the eight or so teams, plus a village somewhere, plus facilities to host a lot of superyachts, says Nick.
“To me, the thought of achieving this is mind boggling, but you could tell that these guys were used to getting things done and were not put-off by these logistical challenges,” says nick.
Their next stop after seeing the harbour and race area outside the harbour off the Mount and Papamoa beaches was a meeting with Port of Tauranga.
“They said at that stage that ‘Tauranga was still a legitimate option'.
“So who knows what will happen from here. If nothing else our contribution will probably have ruffled a few feathers in Auckland at least, and may get things moving up there.”
The Team New Zealand delegation was taken on a boat ride out of the entrance and is interested in holding America's Cup races somewhere between Motiti and Karewa, either towards the Mount or Papamoa Beaches says Nick.
“That's the zone that will suit them and given them plenty of room,” says Nick. “They are looking at 40 minute races, I think.
“It's just a question whether they would be able to sort out the infrastructure on land, that's the big issue as it is for Auckland.”
He thinks Team New Zealand is becoming seriously concerned about how long things are taking in Auckland and is keeping its options open.
If they fail to secure a New Zealand venue the next Americas Cup racing will be taking place in Italy.
“The port is the place where they have got to get some land if they are going to use it for three years,” says Nick.
“The area where they really liked was where the cruise ships berth. They could have the village over at the mount there too. It would be perfect.”
He still can't help suspecting Tauranga is being used to ruffle Auckland's feathers a bit.
“That's a useful purpose, if it makes them get their backside into gear.”