There's much to gain by supporting Aloha Racing

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (04/03/99)
By Ray Pendleton

For people with limited knowledge of the America's Cup Race, Waikiki Yacht Club's Aloha Racing Team request for some state funding assistance may sound out of line.

I'm sure they would ask, "What could Hawai`i and its taxpayers get in return that would possibly be worth a $3 million sponsorship?"

At a recent legislative hearing, Aloha Racing's public relations coordinator, D.J. Cathcart, gave those in attendance answers that should satisfy most critics.

One important point she made was in clarifying that the state's contribution would only be a part of the team's $18 to $20 million budget, and that HealthSouth, a nationwide sports medicine corporation, is the major sponsor and is picking up the lion's share.

Another point was that much attention had been given to what Hawai`i can look forward to (around $2 billion), if Aloha Racing is successful in winning the Cup and subsequently holding the next race here. But, not enough attention has been given to the benefits that will come from the team just competing in New Zealand.

It should be remembered that the America's Cup - the oldest trophy in sports - was won by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in San Diego, Calif., in 1995, and will now be up for grabs in February, 2000.

But, to determine which of the 16 challenging teams from around the world will race against the Kiwi defenders, there will be a lengthy selection series of races, beginning in October of this year. Overall, ESPN coverage alone is predicted to be in excess of 100 hours.

By coming on board at the $3 million level, the state will achieve at least $10 million in favorable exposure, due to television and other media coverage. With Hawai`i lettered on the sail and its hull painted by Wyland, Aloha Racing Team's Abracadabra 2000 should be one of the most photographed boats in New Zealand.

"During the nearly five months of training and racing in New Zealand," Cathcart said, "Hawai`i can expect 40 million favorable impressions in U.S. households and a billion, worldwide."

And then, there is the Polynesian connection. New Zealand and Hawai`i share a common Polynesian heritage. As such a relationship is bound to promote friendly rivalry and notoriety, Aloha Racing has encouraged the association by offering up its challenge for the Cup in both the Hawaiian and Mauri languages.

Another payback to Hawai`i from the Aloha Racing Team's activities is already beginning to be felt locally.

"Three and a half million dollars will have been spent by Aloha Racing in this state before our boats even leave to compete in New Zealand," Cathcart said.

For instance, behind the closed doors of its Ko` Olina construction site, Aloha Racing has created a state-of-the-art boat-building facility, complete with a custom, 80-foot curing oven.

Aloha Racing has also hired 30 workers who are now learning boat construction techniques that were previously used only in the aerospace industry.

So along with money going into the local economy, the facility and the knowledge gained by those workers should leave a lasting legacy for the marine industry of Hawai`i.

After hearing Cathcart's testimony, I think it became much clearer why the state, and indeed everyone in the state, has much to gain by supporting the Aloha Racing Team and it's challenge for the America's Cup.

Call Waikiki Yacht Club at 955-4405 if you can help.

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