Kiwi SailGP driver Phil Robertson has thrown his support behind the league moving its New Zealand event to Christchurch after Auckland was ruled out as a host.
The global foiling league was scheduled to take to the waters of the Waitematā Harbour in March 2024, but with land at Wynyard Point not available to be utilised for spectators, SailGP made the call that without that land, they could not put on an event that could run to their standards and scrapped the Auckland regatta.
However, SailGP is hopeful of finding another suitable location in New Zealand, with a return to Christchurch – racing on Lyttelton Harbour - after a successful debut early in 2023 the most likely option.
“That gets our vote, that’s for sure. We’d be very excited to go back to Christchurch. That was one of the best venues this series has raced on. We had perfect conditions, flat water and a lovely time,” Robertson, who drives for the Canadian SailGP Team, said at a press conference ahead of the event in Dubai at the weekend. Robertson’s Canadian team finished third in Dubai, with New Zealand winning and Australia in second.
SailGP chief executive Sir Russell Coutts has indicated time is running out regarding securing a venue for the New Zealand event, and the short-notice nature of the move is likely making things a bit tougher for those working to secure a venue. However, an announcement about the future of the 2024 event is expected to be made in the coming weeks.
In the league’s New Zealand debut earlier this year, Robertson led the Canadian team to their first event win on Lyttelton Harbour after a weekend of perfect conditions and fast-paced racing.
New Zealand SailGP Team driver Peter Burling voiced his disappointment at the New Zealand regatta having to be moved away from Auckland, but said it wasn’t something the team could control.
“It’s a real shame not to be having an event in Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand. We’ve had a whole heap of racing on the Waitematā [Harbour] - it would’ve been a beautiful place to sail, but SailGP as a league decided it wasn’t viable to host there with the amount of space we had on the shore, but hopefully we’ll have some exciting news in weeks to come.
“We definitely did everything we could to have it in Auckland, but the decision was made that it wasn’t an option.”
The land at Wynyard Point, which used to house petrol tanks, was deemed to be a health and safety risk as the remediation process is yet to be completed. The process is being overseen by Eke Panuku Development Auckland but is being carried out by a third party, which complicates their ability to make it available for short-term use.
The Herald understands the infrastructure used during the 36th America’s Cup – including the team bases, Hobson, Halsey and Wynyard Wharves and the breakwaters, as well as Hamer St itself – were made available to SailGP as alternatives for spectator areas.
Christopher Reive joined the Herald sports team in 2017, bringing the same versatility to his coverage as he does to his sports viewing habits.2023-12-11T03:08:32Z dg43tfdfdgfd