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Damian Foxall Welcomes Ireland's America's Cup Bid But Advises Pursuit With "Eyes Wide Open"

28th July 2021
The world’s biggest and oldest sailing event is ranked third only to the Olympics and a Football World Cup in sporting value for a host country
The world’s biggest and oldest sailing event is ranked third only to the Olympics and a Football World Cup in sporting value for a host country Credit: Stdio Borlenghi

Round the world sailor Damian Foxall has expressed support for Ireland’s attempt to host the prestigious America’s Cup yacht race in Cork harbour.

The Kerry-born professional sailor who has competed in six Volvo ocean races and won one, says any America’s Cup bid would have to be pursued with “eyes wide open” due to the high cost involved.

"The America's Cup is the pinnacle of match racing, and the boats are out of this world in terms of technology," Foxall said.

"To have in Cork would be such a great venue - if we can host Volvo Ocean Races as we did in Galway, and sail in the Olympics and have Tom Dolan competing in La Solitaire du Figaro, then why not have the America's Cup here in Ireland," he added.

Round the world sailor Damian FoxallRound the world sailor Damian Foxall - advises of high costs involved in staging an America's Cup in Ireland

“It is not too far fetched for Ireland to host an event like this, given that Galway hosted two Volvo ocean races - and fair dues to anyone trying to bring it here,” Foxall said.

“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,” Foxall said.

As Afloat has reported, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has confirmed that a team has been working on Ireland’s bid since January of this year.

The world’s biggest and oldest sailing event is ranked third only to the Olympics and a Football World Cup in sporting value for a host country.

The current cup holders Team New Zealand, have not yet decided if the 37th such event in 2024 will take place again in Auckland, Coveney said.

Spectator boats in AucklandSpectator boats watch the 36th match racing in Auckland in March Photo: Studio Borlenghi

It was recently reported that Team New Zealand began discussions abroad on alternative venues after turning down a bid from their home nation’s government worth NZ$99 million, or some €58.3 million.

Ireland has been among several venues explored for the New Zealanders by global sports investment group Origin Sports, headed by Cork-based Stewart Hosford.

Coveney confirmed that Belfast and Dublin had also been assessed initially, but Cork won out in terms of infrastructure and international links – and the fact the city is built on one of the world’s finest natural harbours.

The former Cork dockyard, a 44-acre site in Cobh, could provide a race village, and owners Doyle Shipping Group have been very supportive, Coveney said.

“We have made the case that we can replicate a home here in Cork harbour for Team New Zealand which has many similarities to Auckland,” he said.

Racing at the America's Cup in AucklandRacing at the America's Cup in Auckland - New Zealand’s business ministry estimated the America's Cup would be worth between 355 million euros to 592 million euros to the economy between 2018 and 2021 Photo: Studio Borlenghi

Coveney declined to comment on a figure for hosting the event, but said that Ernst and Young were liaising with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on a detailed cost-benefit analysis.

“How we fund it, whether it is through a combination of urban renewal and other funds, has to be worked out, but it won’t happen if we don’t show the economic benefit”, he said.

In 2017, New Zealand’s business ministry estimated the America's Cup would be worth between 355 million euros to 592 million euros to the economy between 2018 and 2021 and hosting the event would create between 4700 and 8300 jobs.

However, New Zealand recorded heavy losses on hosting the event due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A spokesman for New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment confirmed to Afloat that a total of NZ$348.4 million (205 million euro) was spent by State authorities on America’s Cup-related capital and operating expenditure over four years.

Racing at the America's Cup in AucklandThe current cup holders Team New Zealand, have not yet decided if the 37th such event in 2024 will take place again in Auckland

“ A cost-benefit analysis identified that, when considering financial returns only, New Zealand got 48 cents back for every dollar put in," the spokesman said.

" The overall economic return of hosting the America’s Cup was lower than forecast due to the lower-than-expected number of Challengers, the impacts of Covid-19 and costs being higher than forecast,” the spokesman said.

Coveney has said that a successful bid to host the America’s Cup yacht race would establish Ireland as a “leader of the blue economy within the EU” and would also be a significant expression of the Government’s “Global Ireland” initiative”.

“Some 2.5 million people came to see it when it was last in Europe, and we have taken a lot of learning from the Valencia experience,” Coveney said.

Tea merchant Sir Thomas Lipton, the Aga Khan and media and business tycoons Ted Turner and Alan Bond are among those associated with supporting the sailing event.

The match racing between a “defender” and a “challenger” was first won by a syndicate from the New York Yacht Club in a race against Britain around the Isle of Wight in 1851.

The US successfully defended the trophy 24 times until 1983 when Australia secured it, and it was last hosted in Europe by the Spanish port of Valencia.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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