Americas Cup on the Gold Coast step closer

Key stakeholders from Council, state government, the GC Waterways Authority, Yachting Australia, Queensland Tourism & Events and the marine industry met on the Gold Coast to examine the logistics and requirements of hosting a round of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series on the Gold Coast Broadwater.

Friday 18 March, the team behind the push for the Gold Coast to host the Grand Finale of the America’s Cup preliminary circuit in February 2017 met with key stakeholders to discuss the requirements of being an official host city, not just once, but as a regular host city every two years.

The group comprised the Mayor Tom Tate, representatives from Gold Coast City Council, state government, Gold Coast Waterways Authority, Queensland Events, Yachting Australia, tourism and the marine industry.

The Broadwater is the ideal venue, given the prevailing winds, pristine water quality and newly built Parklands precinct.

It was unanimously agreed that the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series represents a massive opportunity for the Gold Coast and Queensland, both economically and culturally, to be a part of this high-profile sporting event that has a cumulative global TV audience of close to 1 billion.

In a closed and confidential meeting, the parties referred to official documentation supplied by the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) and broached challenges such course design and logistics, budgets, timeframes and total investment compared with anticipated Return on Investment.

Tony Longhurst and Charmaine Webb from The Boat Works with Iain Murray, Race Director for the America’s Cup.

Facts & Stats: Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series in Portsmouth, July 2015 (audited by KPMG)

* A total of 248,505 spectators and attendees attended the ACWSP 2015, held 23 to 26 July Overall spectator spending linked to attendance at the ACWSP 2015 was £5.9 million (AUD$11.2 million) and was felt across the board by hotels, restaurants, charter companies and other attractions

* 43% of businesses surveyed experienced an increase in sales during the event and 17%

* Following the event 20% of businesses surveyed took on additional temporary staff during the events

* The event had a wide global reach and hosted 118 media outlets from 15 countries Coverage began in November 2014, when Portsmouth was announced as the host, and continued until after the end of the event in August 2015

* Cumulative total viewing/readership audience reach, for the entire 10 month period, was 1,006,819,339 across all media outlets; with TV and radio accounting for 57% of this. The AVE for the exposure over the entire period was £18 million in the UK with an additional £4 million from abroad.

* A further £4 million would have been expected had Sunday’s racing gone ahead as planned Almost two-thirds of non-resident spectators surveyed said they were very likely to return to Portsmouth or the local area for a reason other than attending a future ACWS event

* Business interest and investment in the area: The ACWSP 2015 attracted a significant number of high profile VIPs, including senior executives of large multinationals and those associated with America’s Cup teams and sponsors, providing exposure of the city, and the wider UK, and what they can offer to the business community. Longer term positive economic impacts are expected in one in six business respondents, with reports of increases, or planned increases in business investment as a result of the event.

Iain Murray showing a prospective race circuit close to the Broadwater Parklands and other vantage points.

Legendary Australian sailor and America’s Cup Regatta Director, Iain Murray fielded questions and provided an overview of the World Series circuit and its significance to a host city.

“I am 100 percent behind the Gold Coast bid,” he said. “You have the ideal venue, the ideal conditions and so many of the sailors racing on all six teams are Australian. Jimmy Spithill, the skipper of the Defender, ORACLE Team USA is an Aussie, ORACLE crew member, Ky Hurst is from the Gold Coast. Three out of the six skippers are Aussies! It would be a great home-coming for them.”

The proposed Grand Finale event would be held in February 2017, when wind conditions and weather are ideal for this form of stadium racing involving the AC45 foiling catamarans which travel at up to 80kms/h – close to three times windspeed.

Spectators are so close to the on-water action they can see the sailors’ expressions and hear every creak and groan of these phenomenal vessels.

The Race Village would occupy the Broadwater Parklands and become the epicentre of entertainment and enjoyment, where visitors can literally rub shoulders with the sailing teams, get hands-on and experience of sailing, savour the excitement as performers and presenters create a buzz that is equal to the exhilarating on-water competition.

Anticipated benefits of hosting the final event in the America’s Cup preliminaries include a significant boost to the economy from high-net worth tourism, investment and sponsorship, as well as securing the global media spotlight for several months in the lead up to the event and during the four-day festival – particularly valuable ahead of the Gold Coast hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Social and economic benefits to the community include the positive impact on volunteering and skills, the opportunity to showcase the region’s manufacturing and marine/boating industry and Queensland, Australia as a destination both for tourism and for investment.

“The Gold Coast is a water city with a ‘can do’ attitude,” said Mayor Tom Tate. “We have proven that with the X-Cats and numerous other high profile international events over the years. When Gold Coasters get together, nothing can stop us. Let’s get this event for the Gold Coast!”

America’s Cup veteran and current Race Director, Iain Murray lets the media know of his full support.

CEO of The Boat Works, Tony Longhurst, one of the key proponents behind the ‘AC for the GC’ push, said the launch meeting was extremely positive.

“It was amazing to get over 20 key stakeholders in the same room. Everything was positive and they provided great feedback. The summary from Iain was informative. He clearly stated the Gold Coast could win this bid.

“Iain said the Broadwater is ideal. These foiling cats don’t need much depth and once they’re up on their foils they draw no water. February is a great time of year for the AC. The February average wind conditions are south east to nor-easterly winds at 7 to 15 knots, which is the AC45’s ideal racing conditions.”

According to Longhurst, the biggest plus for the Gold Coast is the Broadwater Parklands set up. “Iain was particularly impressed with the newly opened Broadwater Parklands. The Council has done a wonderful job with this purpose-built area for the Commonwealth Games, and it would make the ideal venue for the Race Village.”

Longhurst continued: “What we need now is a groundswell of passionate sailors and the marine industry to get behind this and push it in their own communities. We have to make some noise so we can lock it in over the next four weeks and secure it for the Gold Coast, Queensland and Australia. There will be a rush of visitors who will come to enjoy the sailing spectacle and the Festival.

“We have worked very hard for this past month to get to this position and now we need the support from the yachting community, from the Yacht Clubs, boaties and the marine industry – a community call to arms for the ‘AC on the GC’. This is not a private enterprise concern. It’s now in the hands of the City and the State. We’ve done our bit.

“We had a dream to get this on the water. We built the boat, we’ve launched it, now we all have to pitch in and deck it out, get the crew onboard to make it work, and get it sailing.”

State government and Council will examine the ACEA documents to determine the potential value to the region, format and event management, while Gold Coast Waterways Authority will work with initial drafts provided by Iain Murray on course design and logistics.

A formal response is required by the end of April.