America's Cup 2021: Team NZ says regattas will continue under COVID-19 alert levels 3, 4

By Tracy Neal of RNZ

Team New Zealand says preparations for the 36th America's Cup can and will continue under the COVID-19 alert levels 3 or 4.

But the office of the mayor of Auckland said major events would go ahead only if it was safe to do so.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said decisions were yet to be made about whether international media would be able to enter New Zealand for the event, but strict rules would apply.

They included a limited number of exemptions to border restrictions and media representatives would have to pay for their quarantine.

The lead up was scheduled to start in four months, with the last of the America's Cup World Series events scheduled for Auckland in December.

The World Series were match races and fleet regattas staged overseas throughout the year as heats leading up to the main event.

The series to decide the Cup challenger would follow in January, before the event proper in March.

A spokesperson for Team New Zealand, the America's Cup defender, said the dates of the America's Cup Match were fixed and would not change.

"The ultimate decision on the America's Cup lies with the Defender Team New Zealand, as the America's Cup rights holder and ACE - the event management arm continues to look at all event scenarios at all levels and will adapt as required," Team New Zealand said in a statement.

A statement from Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the situation was highly changeable, and any decision on the event could only be confirmed if and when the government confirmed any potential further lockdowns.

Grant Dalton after winning the America''s Cup in 2017.
Grant Dalton after winning the America''s Cup in 2017. Photo credit: Photosport

"While we hope that major events will be able to go ahead, that will only happen if it is safe to do so," a spokesperson for the Mayor said.

Two of the four America's Cup teams were based in Auckland.

New York Yacht Club challenger American Magic told Scuttlebutt Sailing News on Friday that it was committed to protecting the health and safety of not only its own personnel, but of the greater New Zealand community.

It said it was adhering to all WorkSafe guidelines as it continued preparations for the America's Cup.

"Our team has been in regular consultation with Team New Zealand regarding best practices."

Media coverage important

The America's Cup was heavily reliant on broadcast coverage. Team New Zealand released a video on Friday to show the scale of the dedicated media room.

MBIE manager of New Zealand major events Susan Sawbridge said media coverage was an important component of the America's Cup, but it was too early to say if COVID-19 would disrupt entry to New Zealand by foreign media.

She said representatives of broadcast and media outlets had to apply for the necessary border exceptions before gaining entry to New Zealand.

"Until those applications are received, and decisions are made about whether international media will be able to enter New Zealand, it's too early to talk about any potential impacts on the event."

Sawbridge said government policy on border exemptions was clear, and there were a limited number of exceptions that would be made.

"The bar for being granted an exception to the border restrictions is set high to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of people already in New Zealand.

"All individuals must meet the strict border exception criteria to be granted an exception; Immigration New Zealand has no ability to apply discretion when considering requests."

Once granted a border exception, all international arrivals into New Zealand were required to go into managed isolation.

"In line with the government policy, any arrivals for broadcast or media associated with the 36th America's Cup will be charged fees aligned with the recently introduced fee structure," Sawbridge said.