Andrew Gourdie: New Zealand must host next America's Cup regatta

OPINION: The moment of truth has arrived. Team New Zealand versus Oracle, the race to seven is underway in Bermuda. It's time to bring the cup home. 

When I say "bring it home", I'm talking not just about the Auld Mug, the oldest trophy in sport - I'm talking about the regatta. 

At the end of the day, what is the reason we support "Team New Zealand"? Is it because we feel passionately as a nation about being seen as the best sailing nation in the world? I suspect the answer's no. 

I don't know about you, but a big part of the reason I'm enthralled by what's going on in Bermuda at the moment isn't just the sight of these spectacular war machines flying on the water, or the press conferences featuring Jimmy Spithill which have become must-see TV over the last month. It's the thought of winning the cup, and being able to host this great event in our great country once again.

For those old enough to remember - and we should acknowledge there's an entire generation who do not - hosting the America's Cup in 2000 was brilliant for our country, and especially for Auckland. That regatta gave us the Viaduct as we know it.  

But what assurances do we have that we'll host the regatta down here if Team New Zealand get the job done? A couple of weeks ago Russell Coutts told the Times: "An event in Auckland alone wouldn't work these days, both commercially for the teams and commercially for the sponsors."

Celebrations at Auckland's Viaduct harbour after beating Prada to win the America's Cup in 2000. Photo credit: Photosport
Celebrations at Auckland's Viaduct harbour after beating Prada to win the America's Cup in 2000. Photo credit: Photosport

Now it's hard to know if Larry Ellison's mate, the traitor in chief, is just trying to wind us up. Maybe it's a threat from Oracle that they wouldn't come to Auckland. Boo-hoo. Beyond that however, this notion is cause for concern.  

If Team New Zealand wins in Bermuda, then New Zealand simply MUST host the next regatta. Make it happen. 

The Government's major events fund has come under the microscope in recent times for refusing to get behind Joseph Parker's world title fights. Last year, the now former Economic Development minister Steven Joyce said they don't usually support "profitable" events, but also said there would "need to be a clear understanding whether it was going to happen anyway, with or without the funding support".

If there's a risk that this regatta would head somewhere else, then I think the Government has a responsibility here to step in and ensure the regatta can be hosted in New Zealand. This is surely the very point of having a major events fund. After the successful hosting of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, co-hosting of the 2015 Cricket World Cup, we've proved we can do it. But once the Lions series is over we have precious little to look forward to on our shores when it comes to major sporting events. If presented with the opportunity, we cannot let this one pass us by.

If they want to hold an America's Cup World Series in other ports around the globe, go for it. If that's the way to keep other teams interested, and maybe even some of Team New Zealand's own sponsors happy, then so be it. But the big dance needs to happen here. 

We have to win the thing first, but then let's hope we get to bring it home in every sense. 

Andrew Gourdie is a Newshub sports reporter/presenter and host of Radio LIVE's Sunday Sport

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