America's Cup: Returning challengers Alinghi name Auckland as their preferred venue for 2024

The Swiss-based America's Cup team Alinghi wants the next regatta to be held back on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour.

After an 11-year absence, boss Ernesto Bertarelli has announced his team’s return as a challenger for 2024 and made a point of naming Auckland as his preferred venue. 

The Hauraki Gulf has been the backdrop to some of the most memorable moments in America’s Cup history, including Alinghi's victory over holders Team NZ in 2003 - one of the reasons Alinghi want to see the event return for their next bid for the 'Auld Mug'.

"You have some venues who make a difference and the Hauraki Gulf is America's Cup history, so to go sailing there will be best for us," says Bertarelli.

"Good memories, not only winning, but the friendship that was established."

History aside, it's certainly not the easy option for the Swiss syndicate.

Alinghi's Kiwi skipper Brad Butterworth would know. He was aboard Alinghi when it last happened and has also put his vote in for a return in 2024.

"To beat them in Auckland is a very hard ask," says Butterworth. "It's been done before but it's hard to do." 

Team NZ has made no secret of their stance. The decision is a business one, and they are currently $50 million short of it being a viable option. 

"My experience is that, historically, Team NZ has been just as well resourced as Alinghi has been and I'm sure it’s going to be the same thing this time around," says Ernesto Bertarelli.

But billionaire Bertarelli dismisses rumours he's so keen on Auckland he'd be willing to front the shortfall out of his own pockets.

"We are giving money to Team NZ, we have paid the entry fee," he jokes.

The Red Bull Alinghi team have made it clear they are prepared to race anywhere but the sooner a decision is made, the better. 

"Looks a bit like a mess to me, but that's the way it’s panned out," says Butterworth.

While COVID-19 cursed the crowd sizes of the Cup earlier this year, the spectacle of racing on the Gulf still caught the eye of the Swiss sailors.

"The people out on the water is what makes it really special," says Alinghi sailor Arnaud Psarofaghis.

Team NZ are still considering bids from Ireland, Spain and Saudi Arabia, with a decision expected before the end of March.

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