NZ's 'what if' plans for hosting the America's Cup are a big step closer today. But what exactly are they?

Until now, Team New Zealand’s ‘what if’ plans in the event of winning the America’s Cup have been hypothetical, but in claiming the Louis Vuitton Cup today they suddenly move up a gear. The possibility of the Cup returning to Auckland is very real, and possibly as close as 2010.

What exactly that will mean has been the subject of much speculation. One of the most persistent rumours is that the Cup will go to Dubai, courtesy of the oil money and the Emirates connection. While this is not being ruled out for some of the preceding Acts, the Cup itself would most definitely be fought in New Zealand.

“If the Cup is won it will be held in New Zealand. It’s part of the contractual agreement we have with Team New Zealand,” Trevor Mallard, New Zealand’s Minister for Economic Development told me. “Certainly we wouldn’t rule out doing similar acts outside New Zealand but from a government point of view the idea of us hosting the Cup outside New Zealand is not a runner.”

The New Zealand government pumped NZ$33 million into the team after the last America’s Cup and has been working hard to use the base in Valencia to court business. Some 53 Kiwi companies have hosted more than 500 businesspeople there this summer, many of whom they believe would not have come all the way to New Zealand. So Valencia could remain as a venue prior to the Cup. “A lot of thought is going into leveraging round here,” says Minister Mallard. “And from a New Zealand perspective there is quite a good window [for the Cup] in the summer of 2010/2011.”

He also indicated that, no matter what the outcome of the America’s Cup, Team New Zealand is expected be more independent of state funding. “I’m sure funding is something they would be talking to us about, but its not currently a commitment, and with sponsors like Toyota and Emirates, I am sure they wouldn’t need anything like the same level of support.”