American billionaire Larry Ellison will bring his America's Cup holding Oracle Racing Team to Northland to put his high-tech racing catamarans through their paces ahead of the next defence of the Auld Mug.
Oracle won the 33rd America's Cup regatta in 2010 from holders Alinghi and the team's preparation for their defence next year is going to be undertaken off Marsden Pt, which will see Oracle's two America's Cup AC72 wingsail catamarans going head-to-head in some spectacular matchracing, just off the Ruakaka coast.
The first of the Oracle team will arrive here in October, with the yachts expected in January and racing going on until April 2013.
The training is expected to pump several million dollars into the Northland economy, with the yachts based at Northport, and several hundred people expected from Oracle as yacht crews and support and shore/operation crews.
Paul Shanahan, marketing manager for Hopper Development which controls Marsden Cove Marina, said Oracle had approached Hoppers asking it to find 50 houses suitable to accommodate the influx of crew, support team and their families. There were not enough spare properties on Marsden Cove so Hoppers were looking for other homes in the surrounding area.
Mr Shanahan said Oracle scoured the world looking for a suitable place to carry out blue water race testing ahead of its defence and chose Marsden Pt because of Northport's deep water conditions and its proximity to Core Builders Composites in Warkworth, which is building many of the key components for Oracle's two AC72s.
Northport also has ample shore space and easy access to open waters, where the team can test its two AC72s, Oracle said.
"Bream Bay won out against a lot of international competition, which is a huge feather in the cap for the area. We'd like to hope that if they win the Cup again they will consider holding the next defence regatta in Bream Bay. Wouldn't that be wonderful?" Mr Shanahan said.
He said people would be able to watch some of the world's top matchracing yachties going head-to-head in some of the world's fastest racing vessels just a few hundred metres off Ruakaka Beach.
Mr Shanahan said having Oracle based here for so long would bring huge economic benefits at a time when the region needed them.
"If you have a few hundred extra people in your community they all need somewhere to sleep and eat and drink, and they need to do their shopping. Then there's the work it will provide directly and there will be international media and supporters and we may even get a fleet of superyachts coming here to watch the racing."
Whangarei Mayor Morris Cutforth said Oracle choosing Marsden Pt as a testing base was an honour for the district.
"Next summer promises to bring a spectacle like no other to Whangarei. The enormous sails of America's Cup yachts slicing through the waves off our coast," Mr Cutforth said.
"I have been following the America's Cup events from the early'80s. I never for a moment thought that we would have a team basing itself here, on our own turf, one day. Oracle won the cup last time. It is the team everyone is watching. It really doesn't get much better than this. Everyone with an interest in the next America's Cup will be looking our way."
He said the decision reinforces Whangarei's growing reputation as a marine industrial/manufacturing hub, and there will be benefits for the sector as people with a fascination for yachting activities around the America's Cup are drawn here.
LARRY ELLISON FACTS
- Born August 17, 1944 in the Bronx, New York City.
- Co-founder and chief executive officer of Oracle Corporation, one of the world's leading software companies.
- Is the third wealthiest American citizen, with an estimated worth of $36 billion.
- Has been married and divorced four times.
- Financier of the BMW Oracle Racing team, which won the 2010 America's Cup.
- Styled his estimated $110 million Woodside, California, estate after feudal Japanese architecture, complete with a man-made 2.3-acre (9300sq m) lake.
- Earlier this decade is believed to have considered building a software development laboratory in the Bay of Islands and has visited the bay a number of times.