Final America's Cup options in Auckland narrow to two

Halsey St Wharf extension bumped off preferred options list for America's Cup. 

The bases for the America’s Cup will either be at Wynyard Point or Wynyard basin.

Auckland councillors voted in favour of the two options today after removing a 220-metre extension of Halsey Wharf from the mix when Team New Zealand decided it would be flexible on where the bases are located.

The two locations will be able to accommodate eight syndicates and Team New Zealand is confident of getting this number and possibly more competing in the challenger series after entries for the America’s Cup open on January 1 2018.

The Wynyard Point option came into contention after Economic Development Minister David Parker met the council, Team NZ, Urban Auckland and Stop Stealing our Harbour group at the weekend.

The Wynyard basin is favoured by Mayor Phil Goff and Team NZ and council-controlled Panuku Development Auckland, which has done all the work into finding suitable locations for the bases, will now carry on extensive design work for both sites.

Sir Stephen Tindall, who has taken a year away from governance of The Warehouse to work for Team NZ, told councillors the decision to be flexible about the bases' locations comes because of Aucklanders’ concerns about extending wharves further into the harbour, and the cost and the difficulty of getting a resource consent for Halsey Wharf.

Wynyard Point – a dispersed base model – will cost $170 million while Wynyard basin will total $130 million.

Panuku design and place director Rod Marler told councillors the locations for the bases had to be fit for purpose, there had to be water space and water depth available, they had to meet the tight programme of delivery and work within a budget.

The latest deadline for making a decision on the final option for the bases is December 14, if a resource consent application is going to be lodged by January. “If we can’t deliver in time, we cannot offer the event,” Mr Marler reminded councillors.

Team New Zealand head of operations Kevin Shoebridge says the syndicate is confident it will get at least eight syndicates racing in the cup challengers series. “If we get more entries, we could have two single syndicates share a double base or, under the rules, we could limit the number of entries.

“What is critical is we have quality water space for the boats to be launched and retrieved for health and safety reasons, sheltered water space so the yachts don’t move around too much so gear doesn’t get broken and a 5.5-metre depth alongside the syndicates’ wharf space.”

The good and bad
Both the two options at Wynyard Point and Wynyard Basin have pros and cons.

The government’s favoured Wynyard Point location is the most complex option.

It would take 14 months to build the bases, would have to be dredged and would require extensive negotiations with companies holding existing leases at the tank farm. A timeframe can’t be given for those negotiations, Mr Marler says.

According to the investigation so far, the wind and tide range will be unacceptable for the syndicates.  

Brigham St would have to be closed, affecting Sanford and ASB Bank car parks, which would also involve extensive negotiations. 

Opportunities for a village atmosphere and the public to become involved with the cup festivities would be limited as the bases would be more remote than at other locations.

“There are cost and time issues that can’t be determined,” Mr Marler says.

At Wynyard basin, it would take 10 months for construction, require dredging and a wharf extension.

Having the bases there would displace Sealink (car ferries) and the fishing fleet. They would have to be moved elsewhere.

However, there would be suitable areas for the public, it is close to existing services and businesses and the cluster model would deliver a cup village atmosphere. Tide and wind ranges are still under investigation.

Whether a dispersed model at Wynyard Point and cluster model at Wynyard basin wins, Mr Shoebridge says America’s Cup teams are not friendly with each other and don’t mind a dispersed base option. “Most teams would like some privacy. It is not an issue from an operational point of view having a dispersed or cluster model and Team NZ would not see it as a negative.”

Team NZ doesn’t favour the government’s pick of Wynyard Point as a couple of the bases are exposed to the north and north-easterly winds and would find it difficult to launch their boats. There is also water depth of only 2.5 metres.  

Mr Shoebridge says there would be no village atmosphere there either, which he says is essential to the cup. He said that is why teams loved the 2000 and 2003 races in Auckland and still talk about them.

 “That is why San Francisco failed. The teams were over a 5km area and it took 10 minutes to get from base area to another. There was no village and most people in San Francisco didn’t know the racing was on.”

The cup’s sailing course will be much the same as the last time – off Takapuna, Mr Shoebridge says.

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