By: Aimee Shaw
Boat builder Southern Spars warns a “chronic” labour shortage may stall the speed of progress on work for the 2021 America’s Cup.
The West Auckland boat company is not only building the masts and rigging for Team New Zealand’s giant foiling monohull for the next America’s Cup in Auckland, it is doing the same for most competing teams.
In addition to work for the regatta, the company is working on a “big project” believed to be for a superyacht owned by one of the world’s wealthiest businessmen.
Mark Hauser, Southern Spars co-founder and managing director, says his team of 250 will be “all go” in the two-and-a-half-year lead-up to the event.
But Hauser says labour is an issue. He is looking overseas to bring in at least 30 workers.
“It’s going to slow us down — it’s going to hold us up,” he says. “Unemployment here is so low and the construction industry has taken a lot of our people. We’re looking everywhere.”
Southern Spars’ team is made up by about 30 per cent offshore workers, many from South Africa.
“We’re looking all round — for designers, for composite people to fitter-welders, to machine shop guys. It’s a wide skill base.”
Work for the America’s Cup began with Team New Zealand about eight months ago.
America’s Cup projects combined are worth more than $15 million, says Hauser.
Southern Spars has a group revenue of US$80m ($119m) and claims a 95 per cent share of the global race boat market.
Over the next five months, the company will build the first rigs for the competing teams and send them to Europe. The second release will be next year and another just before the racing starts.
For the last America’s Cup event, Southern Spars built the entire boat for Team New Zealand. This time it will build everything above deck. It has designed, and will build, the rigs and masts.
The company has 11 projects on the go, plus its servicing arm.
“We have a fairly big service side to our business, we do race boats and super yachts, and we’re seeing a lot of super yachts starting to say they are coming down [to New Zealand] now,” Hauser says.
“Most of these boats are going to come down from Europe and the States and they’ll do a fairly big service while they are here. The rigs, masts will come out and we’ll service everything.”
About 100 docks around the country are going to be set up to host visiting boat owners that come to New Zealand to watch the regatta unfold, he says.
Hauser says America’s Cup offers big opportunities for New Zealand businesses.
“For our business it is fantastic but it’s also fantastic for New Zealand.
“New Zealand has become such a destination now for people and to have that sort of event here brings in international teams and their following — it’s just all upside for New Zealand.
“Big opportunities [are] coming our way with a lot of these wealthy people coming into New Zealand so it’s bloody exciting. It’s so good that Team New Zealand have done it and brought it here.”
Aside from marine projects, Southern Spars is also building carbon fibre wheels for Cycling New Zealand and the Olympic cycling team.
It began making carbon fibre wheels six months before the last Olympics and is now in the design development stage for wheels for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.