Emirates returns as Team NZ top sponsor

America’s Cup syndicate Emirates Team New Zealand finally got some good news after a rough year and a half.

Emirates airline announced on Monday it will return as the team’s major sponsor, which could help it reach the starting line of the challenger series in Bermuda in 2017. In a Cup cycle full of upheaval, this is the most significant commercial sponsor to announce backing of a team. “It’s a brick in the wall but a significant one,” Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton said from Auckland. There had been speculation that Emirates might not return as the team’s top sponsor, perhaps forcing the Kiwis to drop out. Oracle Team USA, which stunned the Kiwis with a dramatic comeback to defend the America’s Cup in 2013, picked Bermuda to host the 2017 regatta, causing sponsorship problems for teams and the event itself. Emirates doesn’t fly to Bermuda and thus would have no direct marketing tie-in. “Nobody flies to Bermuda,” cracked Dalton, who was among those opposed to the choice of the British territory over San Diego to host the 2017 America’s Cup. But both Emirates and Dalton said the relationship was strong enough to continue.