Well, it’s official.

No surprises, I suppose – the intention to head offshore was flagged very early on – but Auckland will not host the 37th America’s Cup event in 2024. Instead, the Spanish city of Barcelona will have that honour – and responsibility.

Staging a successful America’s Cup event is no easy task, as Auckland found out last time around when the pandemic made a difficult logistics task even harder. That the 36th America’s Cup took place at all is something of a miracle, for which ETNZ deserves credit. Not only was the team instrumental in staging a memorable event, it also handsomely won the contest – at home in front of Kiwi fans.

However, ETNZ won’t be the home team in Barcelona. For many Kiwis they will no longer be ‘Team NZ’. With all the bad blood and bad press of the last 18 months, it seems a sizeable portion of the public no longer feels that ETNZ deserves our support. Others are happy no more public money is being spent on such an ‘elitist’ event.

But let’s put things in perspective. Firstly, hosting the event in Auckland was never a given, just as the decision to take the Cup offshore was never Grant Dalton’s alone. ETNZ and RNZYS, the Trustees of the America’s Cup, are equally responsible.

RYNZ’s Commodore Aaron Young shared the Squadron’s view with members: “Any venue decision must ensure the viability and success of Team New Zealand, the Event and our organisation”. Between them, ETNZ and RNZYS concluded that “Auckland in the end was not an option.”

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Reasons given include: ”limitations of the Government offer (while valued at $99m of support, only $31m of this was in cash investment); and an understandable lack of appetite to invest more given the state of the economy and the impact of Covid.” In addition, RNZYS insists “no confirmed private funding was available.”

The decision to host the Cup in Barcelona also got the thumbs up from Challenger of Record, the Royal Yacht Squadron, and the other Challengers.

Secondly, it should be remembered ETNZ is not ‘our’ team in the way the All Whites, Black Caps, Silver Ferns, All Blacks and other representative sports teams are seen to be. ETNZ is a privately owned commercial entity, just like other AC teams (or Formula One teams, SailGP teams, professional football clubs and other sports organisations…). That ETNZ often enjoyed a measure of New Zealand government funding was fortuitous, but never guaranteed – other teams were never so lucky, though city and provincial governments are partially funding the Barcelona event.

With the Cup going to Barcelona, there’s a sense New Zealand, and especially Auckland City, has lost a wonderful commercial opportunity. Or maybe not – 2020-21’s event was hardly a stellar success in dollar terms.

Clearly, for ETNZ and RNZYS, hosting AC37 in Auckland in 2024 was never a viable alternative. It’s now Barcelona’s turn to enjoy some of the world’s most spectacular and exciting sailing.

I suspect there will be more than a few Kiwis heading to Spain in 2024 to support Emirates Team New Zealand. There will be many, many more watching at home, because, while ETNZ might not be a national team, it is full of Kiwis. And we always support our own.