Government to aid NZ challenge as 'vultures' circle

Fri Oct 4, 2013 11:15am EDT
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WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand's government will help fund another America's Cup challenge after Team New Zealand had said members of their design and sailing personnel were being approached by 'vultures' in rival syndicates.

Team New Zealand (TNZ), were beaten by defenders Oracle Team USA, backed by software billionaire Larry Ellison, in a winner-takes-all final race on San Francisco Bay last week, after leading 8-1 at one stage with nine needed for victory, and the future of the syndicate had come under scrutiny.

TNZ's campaign, put in excess of NZ$120 million ($99.50 million), was partially funded by a central government injection of NZ$36 million, and politicians had wavered about committing more funding from the public purse.

Economic Development Minister Stephen Joyce, however, told thousands of people packed onto Queen's Wharf in Auckland at a welcome home ceremony for TNZ on Friday the government would be willing to help fund another tilt at sport's oldest trophy.

"This country and this Government stands ready to be part of the next America's Cup challenge," Joyce told the cheering fans, who had packed into Shed 10 and its surrounds to catch a glimpse of skipper Dean Barker, syndicate head Grant Dalton and other members of the team.

"As I've said to Grant and Dean 'you've got a lot of work to do'. I said 'work on a proposal and we'll help you out with it'."

Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club (HIYC), owned by wine tycoon and sailing enthusiast Bob Oatley, have already been confirmed as the Challenger of Record and will work with the defenders to determine the format of the next regatta, likely to be in 2016.

After New Zealand's previous challenge in 2007, the government pledged the money early to lock up talent for the next America's Cup cycle before sponsors were found for more funding.