Spy claims hit America's Cup in New Zealand


Wellington (AFP)

Team New Zealand have fired a number of employees for leaking confidential information about next year's America's Cup defence, managing director Grant Dalton said Tuesday.

New Zealand officials said they were investigating "structural and financial matters" relating to the prestigious yacht race in Auckland.

"We're not 100 percent sure what they (wanted) or what they got," Dalton told radio station NewstalkZB.

"But what I do know is that the game was up quicker than they expected."

Team New Zealand said in a statement that those involved had also made "highly defamatory and inaccurate allegations" against the organisation and some of its personnel.

"These allegations are entirely incorrect," it said.

Team New Zealand holds hosting rights for the America's Cup after winning the sporting world's oldest trophy in Bermuda in 2017.

It is organising next year's event with oversight from the New Zealand government, which has poured more than NZ$120 million ($77 million) into infrastructure and associated costs.

New Zealand's Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said it was examining claims relating to the organisation of the event.

"This includes claims around structural and financial matters... as there are contractual agreements in place, we're unable to go into further detail at this time due to commercial sensitivity," it said in a statement.

Dalton confirmed the sacked employees were New Zealanders working for the event-planning arm of the organisation, not the yacht racing team.

He refused to saw how many people were involved, or speculate on their motives.

The yachts for next year's regatta are 23-metre (75-foot) monohulls that use a cutting-edge foiling design, making them expensive to develop and unpredictable in the water.

Dalton said he was concerned Team New Zealand may have lost valuable intellectual property about the vessels.

"Of course I'm worried, absolutely," he told RNZ.

"But I know the competitors and I know their ethics and I can't imagine for one millisecond that this has gone (to them)."