Prime Minister Helen Clark joined Team New Zealand for a sail on the Hauraki Gulf yesterday, after announcing an additional Government spending on activities related to the America's Cup.
Under the watchful eye of skipper Dean Barker, the Prime Minister took the helm of NZL60, one of the boats used in the 2000 defence, during a Team NZ training session.
She had never been on a Cup boat before but she proclaimed herself to be confident, as she was `in good hands'.
The boat ride followed the announcement by the Prime Minister and America's Cup Minister Trevor Mallard that the Government will give $3 million to help ensure New Zealand reaps the full benefits from hosting the event.
The money is on top of the $5.6 million pledged to Team New Zealand in May 2000 to prevent the defection of more members after skipper Russell Coutts, tactician Brad Butterworth and others left to join rival syndicates following the last America's Cup.
Helen Clark said she was determined the country would cash in on the economic opportunities presented by the second defence of the America's Cup.
`There are big opportunities for New Zealand, beyond the actual sailing,' she said.
`We want to bill New Zealand as innovative and upmarket and having a lot to offer on and off the water.'
She hoped the return on $8.6 million of taxpayer money would surpass the $640 million of economic activity generated by the 2000 defence.
The Government did not pledge any money directly to Team New Zealand for the first defence, but contributed $10 million for the reconstruction of the Viaduct Harbour.
Mr Mallard said the activities covered by the $3 million included promotion in the home countries of challenging syndicates, supplements in international marine industry magazines, and superyacht `welcome packs'.
Other initiatives include: funding for two business organisers to work with groups on pushing development opportunities, and for promotion and marketing of planned events to ensure New Zealand's culture is at the forefront during the Cup.
Fifty foreign journalists will be brought to New Zealand to watch a build-up regatta to the cup this month and to see the country.
Team New Zealand spokesman Murray Taylor said construction of the boats that would defend the Cup for the second time had not begun.
`We're a few months off revealing ourselves,' he said. `We hope to launch the first one in August or September.'