European arrivals in the 18th Century built vessels from native timbers, signalling the beginning of the country’s now NZ$1.7 billion marine industry, of which NZ$650 million is generated from sales overseas.
It is little wonder, then, that the country has been a feisty competitor in successive America’s Cup campaigns for nearly 30 years.
Innovative New Zealand boatbuilding technology has always been a feature of its Cup entries, from the ‘plastic fantastic’ fibreglass boats that shook up the racing circuit during the 1987 challenge through to 1995’s NZL-32, nicknamed ‘Black Magic’, which swept to victory in San Diego.
Spirited personalities on and off the water, such as New Zealand merchant banker Sir Michael Fay and sailing legend, the late Sir Peter Blake, have spearheaded New Zealand’s efforts to win.
And the nation itself has grabbed the opportunity to fly its flag at America’s Cup events, using, for example, the Auckland and Valencia regattas to successfully promote its business, investment, and tourism industries.
These savvy approaches to participation are being replicated during the 2013 Cup in San Francisco.
For starters, Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) has received NZ$36m in backing from the New Zealand Government, without which it would be difficult for the syndicate to be competitive.
ETNZ chief executive Grant Dalton says it takes pride in being the "arrowhead" of the New Zealand marine sector, which is a major export industry for the country.
Another unique aspect to funding the campaign was the team’s mutually beneficial technology-sharing arrangement with the Italian syndicate Luna Rossa to develop and build their AC72 catamarans.
Long-established Auckland boat builder Cooksons Boats has constructed the two ETNZ AC72 catamarans that it will race in San Francisco. This continues a 20-year involvement by Cooksons with New Zealand teams in the regatta.
Another New Zealand company, Core Builders Composites (CBC) has engineered key components of Oracle Racing’s AC72, such as the sails. Oracle’s Larry Ellison has invested in the company’s world class facilities north of Auckland.
Ever since New Zealand pioneered the world’s first fibreglass racing yachts, companies like CBC and Cooksons have built a solid reputation for their skills with lightweight composite carbon fibres. That expertise is spilling over into other industries, such as New Zealand’s aviation sector.
New ideas and design
New ideas and design are also behind New Zealand marine excellence in boom-furling systems, sails, masts, booms and rigging.
For example, Auckland-based Southern Spars has built four America’s Cup AC72 wing sails and is currently producing a new era of Grand Prix racing rigs and 10 One Design rigs for the Volvo Ocean race.
As well as its slick racing boats, New Zealand is known for its specialist luxury superyachts, providing an attention to detail the owners of these vessels clearly appreciate.
New Zealand companies regularly take honours at the annual World Superyacht Awards - known as the Oscars of the marine industry. This year, Auckland-based Alloy Yachts and Yachting Developments won prestigious categories at the awards which were held in Istanbul.
Clever technology from the country is also evident in other aspects of New Zealand’s involvement in the America’s Cup campaign and the way it is promoting itself in San Francisco.
For example, technology developed by Wellington-based digital storytelling company STQRY is being used to provide multimedia information about New Zealand in San Francisco.
Spectators, tourists and locals, can scan special QR codes from venues around the ETNZ base which will invite them to download the STQRY app. This then delivers a multimedia-rich experience of New Zealand straight to the user’s mobile phone or tablet, tailored according to the QR code they have snapped and to their actual location.
So, if somebody is sampling a New Zealand wine at The Waterbar (New Zealand's base at 399 The Embarcadero), they can use the app to learn about the vineyard, watch a video about how the wine’s been made, and find out where to buy it.
"It will also direct them to other content about New Zealand, such as stories about the technology being used on the boats. So it’s information that’s relevant and specific to where they are at that moment," says STQRY founder and chief executive, Chris Smith.
Animation Research Limited (ARL) transformed television coverage of yachting with 3D software for Television New Zealand’s reporting of the 1992 America’s Cup regatta in San Diego, allowing viewers to visualise the boats’ progress around the course in real time.
ARL’s sporting division Virtual Eye is now a world leader in real time sports graphics for television and big screen broadcast, as well as architectural visualisations. In fact, a Virtual Eye control centre on the ETNZ spectator boat will give those fortunate enough to be on board unprecedented access to live video and analysis of the races.
New Zealand businesses
Some of those who will get the opportunity to see ETNZ up close are business partners, customers and investors in more than 150 New Zealand companies. These special guests have received invitations as part of a promotional programme being coordinated by the New Zealand Government and businesses.
Companies that are hosting guests can take them onto the ETNZ base where they arrive at the Waka Māori, a 70m long pavilion which is styled like a traditional Māori sailing canoe. Inside is footage of New Zealand that highlights its sailing culture, invites people to do business with the country and shows off its spectacular scenery.
The guests also get an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the base itself before watching the sailing action up close on the water. Their day finishes with an opportunity to meet others at the Waterbar near the base and sample New Zealand food, wine and craft beer.
More formal showcases of New Zealand’s food, beverage and marine industries - and also its health technology and aviation sectors - will be taking place during the regatta. Eleven New Zealand tech companies that are planning to expand their presence in North America are also taking part in an Investment Technology Showcase during the Cup.
All of this activity in San Francisco is expected to boost New Zealand’s profile, but the country would no doubt relish a chance to host the Cup again too.
Rachael Carroll, General Manager Destination & Marketing of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), says the legacy of the 2000 and 2003 America’s Cups was economic growth and an Auckland region geared up to deliver world-class sporting events.
If Emirates Team New Zealand triumphs in San Francisco, ATEED - on behalf of the Auckland Council - would be keen to work with the Government and ETNZ to bring the America’s Cup back to Auckland.
"Any future regatta would be another chance to showcase Auckland’s world-class waterfront and marine industries, and a fantastic addition to the region’s impressive portfolio of major events," Carroll says.
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