Bermuda banks on lasting America's Cup benefits

Emirates Team New Zealand (L) races against Oracle Team USA in the Great Sound during the 35th America's Cup, near Hamilton, Bermuda, June 25, 2017 (AFP Photo/Chris CAMERON) (AFP)

Hamilton (Bermuda) (AFP) - Bermuda, with $77 million invested in the 35th America's Cup, is hoping the buzz of yachting's most prestigious event continues to ripple through its turquoise waters long after the regatta concludes.

It was a massive outlay for a country of 65,000 people occupying 21 square miles (54 square kilometers) in the Atlantic Ocean.

Michael Winfield, chief executive of the America's Cup Bermuda Development Authority, says that despite pockets of opposition the risk is proving worth it.

"Bermuda looked to get a 3- or 4-to-1 return and I think we will do that," he told AFP. "In fact, I think we will probably exceed that figure.

"But more important," he added, "was the opportunity to re-brand Bermuda to the world."

The self-governing British territory, whose economy was hit hard by the Great Recession, can benefit from increased exposure that can boost tourism and business investment, Winfield said.

"We have been seen in what I view as pretty spectacular photography and television by well over 100 million people," he said. "A succession of events has enabled Bermuda to emerge again as the destination of choice from the tourism perspective and the international business perspective."

Those concerned about an increasing socioeconomic gap in Bermuda have argued that the money invested in hosting the Cup would have been better spent on infrastructure and services.

Prime Minister Michael Dunkley, a vocal supporter of the America's Cup, will have a chance to gauge how many have been won over after calling a snap general election for July 18 -- aiming to head off a possible no-confidence vote by the opposition Progressive Labour Party.

- Critics won over? -

Winfield is confident that doubters have been won over.

"There were in the beginning those that questioned this perceptually rich, white sport coming to Bermuda," he said. "What were the benefits going to be? I think those numbers now are very small."

While the jobs that came with construction of the America's Cup Village, super-yacht slips and the like don't last, he insisted that Bermuda won't be stuck with white elephant facilities once Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand have concluded hostilities sometime in the coming week.

"Within weeks this village on a new island that we have created will be back effectively to a flat surface enabling it to be used," he said.

While there's no telling yet if the America's Cup proper will return to Bermuda, Winfield said he was confident of a continued relationship via America's Cup World Series events, as well as an expanded Bermudian presence in the sport as "much more of an international sailing hub".