WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand's government has provided a NZ$5 million (2.62 million pounds) investment to the Team New Zealand America's Cup syndicate to stop their top design and sailing personnel being poached as they look to build another campaign for world's oldest sporting trophy.
Team New Zealand (TNZ) were beaten by holders Oracle Team USA, backed by software billionaire Larry Ellison, in a winner-take-all final race on San Francisco Bay last month, capturing the imagination of the nation and providing valuable global exposure and networking possibilities to local businesses.
Syndicate head Grant Dalton and skipper Dean Barker had said key design and sailing personnel had been approached by rival syndicates hours after the final race and funding needed to be secured quickly if the team was to remain intact for a future challenge.
"Cabinet agreed to provide $5 million in bridging funding to Team New Zealand to ensure key team members including designers, sailors, support crew and administration staff are secured until May 2014, by which time Team New Zealand plans to finalise a decision on its involvement in the next regatta," Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said in a statement on Monday.
Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club (HIYC), owned by wine tycoon and sailing enthusiast Bob Oatley, have been confirmed as the Challenger of Record and will work with the defenders to determine the format of the next regatta, likely to be in 2016.
After New Zealand's previous challenge in 2007, the government pledged NZ$10 million early to lock up talent for the next America's Cup cycle before sponsors were found for more funding.
The Government eventually contributed NZ$36 million to the total cost of the campaign, which was estimated to be around NZ$120 million.
Joyce said a similar arrangement was in place with TNZ to seek more sponsorship options.
The Government would act as one of those sponsors, though it would first conduct an economic analysis of the benefits of the 2013 regatta, which helped highlight New Zealand's marine, ICT, tourism and wine and food industries to a global audience.
"There is no doubt the 2013 Americas Cup in San Francisco was hugely beneficial to New Zealand businesses," Joyce added.
"A thorough evaluation of the benefits to the New Zealand economy of the Government's $36 million investment in the 2013 Americas Cup is under way and is expected in March 2014.
"Team New Zealand has now commenced planning for the next challenge.
"However it will not be possible for them to finalise their involvement until such time as they know key elements of the regatta, including where and when it will be held."
($1 = 1.1757 New Zealand dollars)
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Patrick Johnston)