AP flown on America's Cup 37 venue decision deadline

Emirates Team New Zealand bows to the inevitable and extends the venue bidding process for AC37 to give Ireland, Spain, and Saudi Arabia time to get their bids finalised.

The waiting game to discover where the next edition of the America’s Cup will take place continues after the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand announced an extension to the selection period for the shortlisted offshore venues.

The three bidding cities are believed to be Cork, Ireland; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and an ‘All of Spain’ bid centred on Barcelona.

The announcement came jointly from Emirates Team New Zealand and their partner yacht club the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. It described the three – un-named – foreign bids as ‘compelling and professional international proposals.

The reason given for the delay was to allow the bidders time to ‘continue to work through final details and provide further information required for their respective bids’. For the Irish and the Spanish campaigners that means obtaining government sign off on the funding proposed in their bids.

The Irish had thought they were out of the race earlier this week when government sources appeared to dial back their support for spending money on bringing the America’s Cup to Ireland. But I am told that the deadline extension has breathed new life into the campaign.

Meanwhile the America’s Cup holders might also be hoping perhaps that the deadline extension gives the Saudis a chance to up their initial offer.

The announcement also makes reference to a letter received in the last few days from the Kiwi Home Defence campaign – a group led by New Zealand businessman Mark Dunphy – giving more details of its plan to run the next America’s Cup in Auckland.

Judging by the tone of the language used by Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton a partnership with Dunphy’s outfit does not seem like his preferred route.

After saying that staging AC37 in New Zealand has ‘never been off the table’, Dalton confirmed that the team was exploring whether an Auckland America’s Cup could be fully and completely funded locally.

“To date there has been no evidence of this being the case,” Dalton concluded.

The Emirates Team New Zealand announcement did not include a new deadline for concluding the bidding process.

Negotiating with foreign governments over deals worth hundreds of millions is a daunting task in the best of circumstances. The process has been made all the more difficult by the Covid 19 lockdown in New Zealand which – the announcement says – prevented Emirates Team New Zealand representatives from visiting the proposed venues.

Given that all three bids involve government sign off to move forward, and the level of complexity involved in negotiating host city agreements at this level, we could be waiting weeks – hopefully not months – for a decision.

The 37th America’s Cup is not expected to be contested until 2024, so a few weeks delay at this stage is probably not mission critical. However, also looming is the next milestone on the road to AC37 – the scheduled announcement of the event’s full protocol on November 17.

That announcement defining the detail of the 37th America’s Cup will be pored over by any potential challenging teams, and Emirates Team New Zealand will want to have a venue agreement squared away long before then.