In 1983 at Newport, Rhode Island, Australia II became the first challenge team to wrest the America’s Cup away from the Americans. The cup was taken to Perth, and New Zealand saw an opportunity that couldn’t be ignored.
As the bare hull of New Zealand (the ‘Plastic Fantastic’) was lowered into the water in Auckland in 1986, Bank of New Zealand announced it would sponsor the New Zealand challenge for the America’s Cup. In return for financial support, the Bank had the right to brand the yacht and call New Zealand’s quest for the America’s Cup the ‘BNZ Challenge’.
The prime sponsorship objective for Bank of New Zealand was to provide $3 million. Logan Russell, Chief Manager of the BNZ Challenge, worked with his team to launch Victory Bonds and create the country’s most memorable fund-raising roadshow - a replica of New Zealand on wheels. For three months the boat moved through 55 major cities and towns, from Kaitaia to Invercargill, building the profile of the bank and igniting public interest in the challenge.
While the BNZ Challenge didn’t secure the America’s Cup, the eyes of the world were upon New Zealand as she raced Dennis Connor’s Stars and Stripes in the finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup (the racing series that decides which boat will race the cup holder). The BNZ Challenge will always be seen as the first step towards New Zealand’s eventual America’s Cup success in 1995.Visit this story on the timeline