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NZ government will honour Emirates Team deal

Gritting its teeth and clearly unhappy, the New Zealand government has confirmed it will honour a pledge by the previous administration to support Emirates Team New Zealand’s challenge for the 2013 America’s Cup.

The taxpayers will stump up NZ$36m (about £17.5m) at a time when they are facing both public debt and coping with the consequences of the earthquakes, still continuing, which caused death and destruction in Christchurch. The country is also more focussed on this year’s Rugby World Cup.

John Key’s government had taken legal advice to see whether it could break the contract, which was drawn up after the team reached the finals of the 2007 Cup in Valencia and comes out of not the sports budget but the ministry of economic development.

The country hopes that winning back the cup it first won in San Diego in 1995 and successfully defended in Auckland in 2000 would provide another significant boost to both the regional and national economy. ETNZ, not short of good legal advice, had drawn up a watertight agreement but had delayed the announcement sufficiently to separate it from the Christchurch disaster.

Talks at ministerial level in France have so far failed to elicit government support for either of the two challenger groups announced in that country and it would have been inconceivable that the British government would have given money to the British challenge abandoned by Sir Keith Mills last autumn. The Team Origin bid was very sceptical it could even attract funding from the National Lottery, which supports sailing in the form of the Olympic squad.

The 14 challengers, some yet to be named, have until the end of the month to stump up the first payments of their performance bonds and confirm, with a deposit, orders for the AC45 catamarans which will be used for the first set of regattas.

For the Volvo round the world race, Rob Greenhalgh will join skipper Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi team, having been on ABN Amro and Puma in the two previous races. And top French sailor Thomas Coville will exchange his Sodebo shirt for a set of Groupama oilskins for the Volvo.

In Charleston, Chris Stanmore-Major coped with storm conditions 15 miles – he had to turn the boat round and run in front of the weather at one stage - from the finish of the Velux 5 Oceans leg from Punta de Este, Uruguay, taking third place.

And in Barcelona Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss, sailed by Andy Meiklejohn and Wouter Verbraak after Thomson was first hit by appendicitis and then stayed with his partner when their first child was born with a heart problem, finished the Barcelona two-handed round the world race in seventh place.