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Friday August 8, 2014 MYT 10:08:57 AM
Friday August 8, 2014 MYT 10:09:35 AM
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand has officially challenged for the next America's Cup in 2017 after months of doubt over funding and reported disputes with holders Oracle Team USA.
The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) issued the challenge late on Thursday on behalf of Team New Zealand, the organisation that funds and races in the regatta.
All challenges had to be with the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which is represented by the Larry Ellison-funded Oracle, by Aug. 8.
"New Zealand has a distinguished history in the America's Cup and we expect ... Team New Zealand will once again make New Zealand proud, just as it has done many times in the past," RNZYS Commodore Steve Burrett said in a statement.
Team New Zealand had what looked to be an unassailable 8-1 lead over Oracle in the last America's Cup in San Francisco last year only for the Americans to roar back and clinch a winner-takes-all final race and retain the trophy 9-8.
The team, which is partly funded by New Zealand's government, had indicated they were having difficulties raising finances for a challenge, before saying in late June they had secured enough private sponsorship to at least meet the deadline for a challenge.
The event had been shaken with the withdrawal last month of Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club, who were the official challengers of record for the 35th America's Cup, because of the rising costs.
Four European challengers, Italy's Luna Rossa Challenge, Sweden's Artemis Racing, Britain's Ben Ainslie Racing and Team France, however, all committed their involvement in the event, which will be held either in Bermuda or San Diego.
A decision on the venue will be made in October.
Team New Zealand Chief Executive Grant Dalton said the team were pleased to have been able to progress to the next stage of the challenge.
"This is the official start of a long, hard journey," Dalton said. "We do not underestimate the challenges ahead (and) we look forward to working with the other teams to create a great event."
(Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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