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Tom MacSweeney’s Weekly Maritime Blog August 7

COULD THE AMERICA’S CUP REALLY COME TO IRELAND?

Whether the America’s Cup will come to Cork is an ‘open question’ that will not be decided for a few months yet. That attempts are being made to achieve that was revealed by Cork TD and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney on the day of the Cabinet meeting before the Dáil Summer receess. He announced that a group had been working on making a bid for the event since last January and that it has got Cork included in the final shortlist for th choice of venue. Interestingly that was the same day when he presented, unexpectedly it appears, the proposal to appoint former Minister Katherine Zappone to a United Nations position, which caused a lot of controversy. He said he had outline the Cork proposal to Cabinet, but it seems, without specific financial costs. There had been some publicity previously about the AC attempt, but it hit the headlines this time when RTE ran an interview with him about it. Could Cork succeed?

AC Cup holders, Team New Zealand, began looking for an alternative to Auckland, where this year’s event was held, because they didn’t consider the offer to hold the next one there, made by State and local authorities to the equivalent of Euros €58m. was enough. New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is being cautious about the value of the event, though organisers said there had been 50,000 visitors in March this year on one day alone, The caution follows expenditure of Euros €205m. (NZ dollars 348m.) on this year’s event. Costs rose substantially beyond what had been predicted, due to Covid 19 restrictions and less teams competing in the event. “A cost-benefit analysis identified that, when considering financial returns only, New Zealand got 48 cents back for every dollar put in,” according to the Ministry. Auckland’s Mayor, “Phil Goff, was more blunt in his summary: “NZ’s economy $293m. worse off by America’s Cup.”

Cup holders, Team New Zealand, began looking for an alternative to Auckland, where this year’s event was held, because they didn’t consider the offer to hold the next one there, made by State and local authorities at the equivalent of Euros €58m. was enough.

“It is not too far-fetched for Ireland to host an event like this, given that Galway hosted two Volvo ocean races. It would be wonderful for Ireland to host it, but the stakes are a lot higher, the risk is a lot higher and I’m not sure if the benefit is a lot higher.” That was the comment of Damian Foxall one of Ireland’s top, highly respected international sailors who has competed in six Volvo world ocean races and won one,. He was cautious -any America’s Cup bid would have to be pursued with “eyes wide open” due to the high cost involved.

There is a Cork connection with the America’s Cup going back to July of 1870 and the 108-foot yacht ‘Cambria’ which, on her way to New York as the British ‘challenger ‘ for the then Cup, stopped off to race across the Atlantic against an American opponent. ‘Cambria’ had been built for the AC over the previous two years and was owned by James Ashbury of the Royal Thames Yacht Club. The race was against ‘Dauntless’ owned by the Vice-Commodore of the New York Yacht Club, Gordon Bennett Jnr. The Royal Cork Yacht Club, then based in Cobh, started the race between the two schooners on July 4 near the Daunt Rock. There was a big  presence of spectators on many different types of observing boats. ‘The History of the RCYC’ written by Alicia St.Leger records that the scene “was certainly such as had never before greeted the eyes of the most aquatic Corkonian.” ‘Cambria’ got to New York first and, buoyed by that success went on to race against  seventeen other yachts in what, however, was an unsuccessful attempt to win the America’s Cup. The RCYC made good use of its connection to the race, though –  by electing both owners as members of the Cork club.

Seventeen years later, in 1887, there was another race involving ‘Dauntless’ in the reverse direction – New York to Cork – described as the ‘Great Ocean Yacht Race’ across the Atlantic, for which the prize was $20,000. ‘Dauntless’ was now owned by C.H.Colt and her opponent was ‘Coronet’ owned by R.J.Bush. The two owners had to deposit a cheque of $10,000 each with the New York Yacht Club for the prizemoney. This race started on March 12 and the RCYC provided race judges at Weaver’s Point to adjudge the outcome at the finish line between there and Roche’s Point.There had been predictions that the race would take 20 days. ‘Coronet’ was the winner, crossing the line in fifteen on Sunday, March 27. That could have caused problems for the RCYC men assigned to the finish as ‘The Cork Examiner’ reported: “The prognostications of the ‘salts’ of the oldest yacht club in the world were very much at fault and were it not that ‘Coronet’ had to lay-to for nearly half-a-day in a cyclone, she would have dropped in during Saturday when the members of the club charged with the judging of the race were minding their business in Cork and elsewhere.”  It was a second transAtlantic defeat for ‘Dauntless’ and the loss of $10,000 for its owner!

The New York Yachr Club has been a proud and jealous guardian of the AC trophy, known as the ‘Auld Mug,’ for 132 years. Its nominated teams defended successfully until it was wrested from them by the challenge of the Royal Perth Club’s Australian team in 1983. That series of was won 4-3 in the waters off Newport, Rhode Island.

Valencia in Spain hosted the AC in 2007 and 2010, after a Swiss win by Société Nautique de Genève when Lake Geneva was considered unsuitable for the racing.. It cost the central Spanish Government and local government in Valencia three billion US dollars to get the harbour ready. Valencia benefited considerably and is one of the opponents Cork faces to hold the next Cup.  

So far there has been little indication of how much acquiring the event would cost Ireland nor how that funding would be raised. It is not expected that there will be a decision on the location for the next America’s Cup, the 37th, to be held in 2024.

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Tom MacSweeney

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