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Ian Taylor: Dear Chris and Christopher, America's Cup should be on your 100-day shopping list

Ian Taylor,
Publish Date
Tue, 3 Oct 2023, 5:00am
Team New Zealand’s Base in prime position at one of the busiest tourism ports in Europe (Image: supplied)
Team New Zealand’s Base in prime position at one of the busiest tourism ports in Europe (Image: supplied)

Ian Taylor: Dear Chris and Christopher, America's Cup should be on your 100-day shopping list

Ian Taylor,
Publish Date
Tue, 3 Oct 2023, 5:00am

Dear Chris and Christopher,

One thing we can be certain about is that, after the election, one of you will be the Prime Minister of New Zealand when Emirates Team New Zealand defends the America’s Cup in Barcelona, Spain, in 2024.

Having recently returned from Barcelona, I can report that there is a 3rd Christopher, the Columbus one, who, as you can see from the picture below, is already clearly on board with Emirates Team New Zealand.

I appreciate that right now a yacht race is probably not high on your list of priorities, but it should be something that you put on your 100-day shopping list as soon as the results are in.

Why? Well, here are just a few stats I picked up while I was in Barcelona.

During the first 6 months of 2023 Spain has had 37.4 million visitors, 7 million of those have travelled to Catalonia, the province of which Barcelona is the capital.  

Add to that the fact that Barcelona itself is within reach of more than 300 million people, in a flight radius of Auckland to Sydney, and you can see the enormous marketing opportunities that Emirates Team New Zealand has created for Aotearoa New Zealand right in the heart of Europe.

There are 5 countries challenging for The Cup; the United Kingdom, France, the USA, Switzerland and Italy, and if there was any doubt in the interest the Cup has created from the move to Barcelona then here are a few more stats from the first weekend of preliminary racing that took place just up from Barcelona in the coastal town of Vilanova, population 66,000.

There were 165 media representatives from 111 different media organisations representing 16 different countries.

Added to that were 55 TV rightsholder representatives. And we are still a year out from the main event.

Scenes from the first preliminary race in Vilanova

In Barcelona itself it is impossible not to see the exposure both the America’s Cup, and New Zealand, are enjoying.

Every day people line the beaches watching a flying machine called Te Rehutai, hitting speeds of up to 50 knots, and marvel at the spectacle being delivered to them from a country they have now embraced as their own.

Not far from the Team New Zealand base, one of the biggest iMax theatres in Europe has been converted to a major tourist attraction featuring the history of the America’s Cup. A history that New Zealand has been a part of for the past 36 years.

Grant Dalton, and many of the team representing New Zealand in 2024, have been involved for the last 20 of those.  Winning the Cup in 2017 in Bermuda, notably without the aid of government funding, and then successfully defending it in the middle of the Covid pandemic in 2020/2021, has created an amazing opportunity for New Zealand to showcase itself on this international stage.

 Are either of you up to taking on this opportunity?

I appreciate both of you will have to work with minor parties post-election and you will obviously have to deal with arguments around the best use of taxpayers’ money at a time of a cost-of-living crisis. One thing you can both be thankful for is that, by moving the defence to Barcelona, Emirates Team New Zealand has at least relieved you of the pain of trying to justify government spending, to your potential coalition partners, on this ‘rich mans’ sport being staged in Auckland.

The America’s Cup has always been, a race of technology – one where this little country at the bottom of the world has always challenged traditional thinking, starting with KZ7 “the Plastic Fantastic” in 1987. I am not sure where ACT or matua Winston stand on taking our technology story to the world but here’s something for both the Greens and Te Pati Māori to contemplate.

Spain has embraced the America’s Cup as part of its €70 billion transition into green energy. The hydrogen powered, foiling catamaran, designed and built in New Zealand by Emirates Team New Zealand is already featuring extensively in media coverage of the event. In 2024 every challenger has to have at least one of these as well.

There are many other New Zealand initiatives in this space, the recyclable boat made from wool, the land yacht powered by wind that holds the world land speed record, the Richardson Transport Groups hydrogen plant in Gore that is helping them move away from fossil fuels. And those are just the start of an impressive list of initiatives that cover a wide range of climate change initiatives here in Aotearoa.

Imagine if we were to stand on this stage, that Emirates Team New Zealand has built for us, and share these kiwi stories with the world. Stories about solutions rather than feel good targets!

And Te Pati Māori. What if we used this global stage to tell the story of our Polynesian tupuna whose voyaging across Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa has been described as ‘the greatest story in the history of human migration’.

A story that began 400 years before Christopher Columbus embarked on his first transatlantic voyage, with the voyage of Kupe to Aotearoa – the land of the long white cloud – in the world’s first catamaran - the waka hourua – using nothing but the stars, sun, and ocean currents to guide him to a land he knew was there.

He pushed the waka out – let’s walk in his footsteps, and do it again.

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