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America’s Cup conqueror heading syndicate’s event bid

Team New Zealand and Oracle during racing on the second day of the America's Cup final racing. - Photo: ACEA Giles Martin-Raget

A two-time America's Cup winner is rumoured to be heading a Dutch sailing syndicate's last ditch-bid to take part in the next event in Auckland.

Yacht clubs have until the end of the day to apply to take part in the 2021 event, but some who have paid the $1.5 million application fee will still be turned down.

The number of challenger teams will determine how many bases need to be built on Auckland's waterfront, and the number of people who travel to the City of Sails.

Three teams have been confirmed so far - the Italian Luna Rossa, the American New York Ross Club and INEOS Team UK.

Each application has to be scrutinised by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, the club behind New Zealand's America's Cup campaigns, to make sure they're legitimate.

Team New Zealand chief operating officer Kevin Shorebridge said they'd had interest from eight potential challengers, in addition to the three that have been accepted.

"Some of those are not going to make it and we don't really have any firm idea of how it's going to pan out ... but we're thrilled with the feedback and the input we've had from these new teams that have started up and are trying to get into the America's Cup."

He said there will be a great deal of interest in the number of challengers that are successful in their bids.

"We've looked at all sorts of plans and scenarios, the problem is we can't sort of leap ahead and figure out what that is until ... these challenges come in and are accepted."

And teams have to be pretty serious if they want to make a bid to take part - it costs nearly $1.5 million just to apply, and another $1.5m if they're accepted.

"I think to even get to that point where you enter you probably are a good quality team. You know, we had six [challengers] in Bermuda, including Oracle.

"The time before in San Francisco we only had three. So we're pretty happy with what we've got now but it's going to be great to be able to bolster that number."

Yachting aficionado Peter Lester said he'd heard talk of teams applying from Italy, the United States, China, Norway and, within the last 48 hours, an entry from the Netherlands.

It would be the first time a Dutch team has competed in the America's Cup.

"Simeon Tienpont is the skipper and of course he's won two America's Cups, both with Oracle.

"So he knows the game, he knows it very well, and I think the one out of Holland might have some legs because they have a really strong marine industry and they've got some excellent sailors."

Mr Lester said some of the teams who've purportedly applied are hiring new staff - a good sign for their prospects of being accepted.

He said Ben Ainslie's team from the UK was his pick for the top challenger, but Team New Zealand are still his favourites.

"Team New Zealand, I think, are going to be very, very hard to beat here in Auckland."

Teams have until 5pm today to get their applications in.

Team New Zealand won't be announcing who's been accepted, leaving that to the teams themselves, but we could know what the Kiwis will be up against very soon.


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