America's Cup in Barcelona 'sad' but 'understandable' - Lester

Source: 1News

Veteran sailor and broadcaster Peter Lester says it's "sad" that the America's Cup won't be defended in Auckland, but that he "completely understands" Team New Zealand's decision.

Overnight, it was confirmed that Barcelona would be the host of the next contest in September and October of 2024.

Despite winning the Auld Mug in Auckland in 2021, Team New Zealand had been citing funding difficulties in its decision to effectively put the 37th America's Cup hosting rights up for tender.

"The reality is, for the board of Team New Zealand, to keep the team together, they need money," Lester told Breakfast.

"It's sad that it's not going to be in New Zealand."

In particular, it was expensive to retain the team's "wonderful designers and engineers", he said.

"We shouldn't be surprised - this was flagged very early on that they were looking offshore because they needed the money to be successful.

"So, although I'm a bit gutted that it's not going to be here, I completely understand what's driven it."

Lester said Barcelona was a "great venue", and that defending the cup thrice - something no one had done before - would be weighing on Team New Zealand's mind for 2024.

He also said it wasn't fair to point fingers at the likes of the Government for a lack of funding to retain hosting rights in Auckland because of the "crazy times" people lived in with the Covid-19 pandemic and now a war in Ukraine.

Taxpayers invested more than $136 million in the regatta in 2021. In addition, Auckland ratepayers provided $113 million.

However, Team New Zealand chief executive Grant Dalton said he "felt the responsibility to grow the event, the audience, and the sport of sailing on a global scale".

"Certainly having the event hosted in a significant city such as Barcelona will allow us to propel the growth trajectory on the global sporting stage," Dalton said.

"When thinking ahead to the 37th America's Cup and the AC75s racing within a few hundred metres of the Barcelona beach, waterfront and race village fan engagement zones, it will be nothing less than spectacular."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last week: “As a Government, we've tried our bit to support it being here, but these decisions aren't just down to us.”

National leader Christopher Luxon said it was "really disappointing" that the 37th America's Cup wasn't going to be held in Auckland, especially for businesses in the Viaduct that had struggled because of Covid-19.

He didn't believe there was much more the Government could have done because it was ultimately Team New Zealand's decision.

"I think the Government put its best foot forward."