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Cup Critiqued: Irish back away... Two AC40's for Spain?

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World 15 May 05:17 BST 15 May 2022
Looking down the River Lee, Cork, with the proposed Race Village area on the rightLooking down the River Lee, Cork, with the proposed Race Village area on the right © Ministry of Sport, Ireland

Second of a new series taking an off-piste view of what isn't said in the media releases from the teams, Cup organisers, other Cup related parties and anything that isn't being done to death elsewhere.

Irish bureaucrats claim venue not ready until 2025

An article in today's Irish Business Post has revealed why Ireland withdrew their America's Cup hosting bid, hours before the announcement that Barcelona's successful was leaked on social media, causing the planned announcement date to be brought forward.

Peter O'Dwyer and Cónal Thomas of the Business Post lodged Freedom of Information requests with the Irish Ministry of Sport to reveal the reasoning for Ireland withdrawing their bid, leaving Malaga, Barcelona nd Jeddah in the race.

An analysis conducted on behalf of the Ministry of Sport claimed that the city centre venue would not be complete until after 2025 - a year after the Cup was due to be contested (now in September October 2024, instead of May june 2024)

"Department of Sport officials reviewing the since-abandoned bid concluded that “hosting in 2024 is not possible and that even an extension to 2025 is laden with risk and most likely to not be deliverable”, says the Irish Business Post

Documents released to the Business Post under Freedom of Information legislation show that the officials’ findings were relayed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin and a number of senior ministers in March 2022, who agreed that the bid should not proceed.

The cabinet members were also warned of the possibility of “protracted appeals” being launched against any development, given Cork Harbour’s designation as a special protected area, documents show.

Furthermore, Ireland’s proposed bid to host the America’s Cup sailing competition would have cost the state more than €180 million, a government analysis found.

The officials’ analysis found a positive cost-benefit analysis of 1.57, meaning the benefits outweighed the costs."

That contrasts with the cost benefit analysis from Auckland being measured at only $0.72c return for every dollar invested and $0.58c for every $1 invested for New Zealand.

The Irish Business Post claims the Irish coalition government abandoned plans to bid for the event earlier this year, after ministers were told that the projected estimated outlay was €181 million, made up of €66 million in capital investment and €115 million in current spending.

An initial report compiled by EY, for Foreign Minister Simon Coveny estimated the cost of hosting the event to be in the region of €150 million with two-thirds of the outlay to be spent on infrastructure projects.

The benefits identified in the EY cost-benefit analysis were pitched at between €400 million and €500 million.

In contrast the PWC report on the Bermuda hosting of the 2017 America's Cup put the cost at €63million with an economic of over USD$5 for every USD$1 invested. Unlike Auckland Infrastructure costs were excluded from the America's Cup costs on the basis they are a legacy beyond the America's cup.

The report commissioned by the New Zealand Government had it that the "cost" of the 2021 America's Cup was around €400million (NZD$774million), however report in the Irish media - apparently based on information from New Zealand had it that the costs could have gone to €600million (NZD$1billion) for an original plan that had the America's Cup bases located much closer to the entrance to Cork Harbour.

The second plan hatched by the Irish Ministry of Sport had the facilities located in the City Centre revitalising the waterfront in a similar way to the three America's Cup hostings in Auckland, and leaving a legacy use. This plan appeared to have the support of the Irish Government before the handbrake was yanked.

Government sources at the time said their internal preliminary estimates put the cost at between €200 million and €400 million, the Business Post reports. However the costing for the City Centre venue came out at €180million - well under the original forecast. The EY report on the Doyles Shipyard proposal projected the investment cost at €150 million

Costs reduce

It now appears the government’s final analysis of the City Centre venue costs associated with the bid were less than the best-case scenario €200 million outlined at the time, coming in between it and the €150 million figure suggested by EY instead.

Like their New Zealand counterparts the Irish bureaucrats appeared to to overlook the fact that under the 2024 AC Protocol, teams were likely to spend 12 months at the venue - given that it was the only permitted sailing venue from June 1, 2023 to September 30, 2023 - with the Challenger Selection Series getting underway in September 2024.

Ministers were also told that delays in delivering the infrastructure required for the event would reduce the amount spent in Ireland by competing teams and reduce the economic benefit to the state.

“It was further noted that even if national planning processes could be expedited, EU environmental law would constrain the pace of development, and this is the opinion of the planning experts consulted,” the documents state. That appeared not to address the usual approach of fast tracking planning process while protecting the public and private rights.

For the full story click here

A decision in favour of the Cork venue had been made two days before the original announcement date of September 17, 2021. However that was changed, and delayed for over six months after the Irish Ministry of Sport claimed they needed another six months to conduct their analysis independently of the EY report. Ireland remained in the mix, however the delay they requested allowed the chosen venue Barcelona, to make a late, but successful bid for the venue hosting.

Spanish to enter Youth and Women's America's Cup

Reports in Spanish media have it that Spain will be entering a Youth and Womens teams in the 2024 America's cup to be staged in Barcelona in September 2024.

Despite entering the 2007 America's cup when it was sailed in Valencia, the Spanish group believes that it is not possible to mount a challenge given the regatta now gets underway in 33 months in late 2024. That is also despite the option of buying a design package from Emirates Team New Zealand which would reduce the campaign cost from NZD$120million to NZD$80million or €48million.

The planned Spanish entry, which appears to be confirmed, gets around the issue of the 2024 America's Cup venue not having any skin in the game, and would kindle interest in the event by Spanish fans.

Spain would appear to have a good base in both the events winning two Bronze medals at the Tokyo2020 Olympics in the Mens 470 and Mens Finn class. Spain also won two Gold medals in the Womens RS:X windsurfer at Weymouth 2012, and in the Womens Matchracing. The Bronze medalist in the Mens 470 class, Jordi Xammar is currently skipper of the Spanish entry in the SailGP circuit - and it is likely that most of a Spanish Youth team would come from that group. Xammar is two years older than the 25yrs old age limit set for the America's Cup Youth event. However Joan Cardona who won the Bronze medal in the Finn class is only 23yrs old. There is no age limit on the Womens America's Cup and they could also draw on the Spanish SailGP team roster.

A formal announcement is expected.

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