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Kiwis question America's Cup future

  • Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker, center, waves to the crowd on the podium after losing to Oracle Team USA in the 19th and final race of the America's Cup sailing event on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, in San Francisco.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealanders have started to question whether their team's loss in the America's Cup marks the end of the country's 26-year involvement in competing for sailing's oldest trophy.

Team USA's 44-second win on Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco capped a historic come-from-behind victory which saw Team New Zealand lose 9-8 after leading 8-1.

New Zealanders had seen its sailors move within one win of an overall victory in the first week of the finals series, then watched with growing anguish over the next seven days as Team USA rallied to retain the Cup with eight consecutive wins.

2013 America's Cup

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Tens of thousands gathered at yacht clubs, bars and cafes around New Zealand again on Thursday morning to watch what seemed to many to be the last act in a slow-moving horror story as their hopes of winning the Cup for a third time sputtered and died.

The final race screened at 8.15 a.m. New Zealand time, lasting around 25 minutes, at the end of which fans, whose numbers had swelled steadily through the finals series, made their way to work or to school in a mood of numbed disappointment.

A national debate has already begun about New Zealand's future in the America's Cup and whether this nation of 4.5 million can find both the ambition and the resources, financial or otherwise, to challenge again for the "Auld Mug."

Team New Zealand relied on a $36 million contribution from the New Zealand government on top of a collection of sponsorships to mount its latest challenge.

Surveys showed that at the height of the regatta in San Francisco, as Team New Zealand edged closer to victory, a majority of New Zealanders favored further government funding in the expectation of a major economic boost from a Cup defense in Auckland.

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