Ban on Auckland's in-city America's Cup courses lifted

Wellington (AFP) –


America's Cup host Team New Zealand (TNZ) expressed relief Wednesday after Auckland port authorities moved to reinstate racing in the city's harbour during next year's prestigious yachting regatta.

TNZ had feared a ban on harbour racing, imposed last month after a protest from Italian team Luna Rossa, would hinder efforts to showcase Auckland to the world during the competition for the America's Cup trophy.

Luna Rossa complained all competitors did not have equal access to the courses, but Ports of Auckland said that issue had now been resolved.

The maritime authority said it was originally concerned racing would clog busy shipping lanes, but that was no longer the case as the Covid-19 pandemic meant harbour traffic had fallen.

"The situation has changed considerably since January because cruise ships are no longer able to visit Auckland," port chief Tony Gibson said in a statement.

The decision means spectators will be able to see foiling catamarans competing at high speeds close to the Auckland coast and offer TV broadcasters spectacular shots of racing with a city backdrop.

"(It will) deliver on the promise we made years ago, to make this America's Cup the most accessible and inclusive event ever," TNZ chief executive Grant Dalton said.

The event will see challengers compete for the Prada Cup in January-February, with the winner then racing TNZ for the America's Cup in March.

The three confirmed challengers are Luna Rossa (ITA), American Magic (USA) and INEOS Team UK (GBR).

Another US syndicate, Stars & Stripes Team USA, has said it intends to race but its participation is not yet confirmed.