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New Zealand finds funds to contest America's Cup

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand has confirmed it will contest the 35th America's Cup in 2017, seeking to win a trophy it had within its grasp last year only to lose in one of the great sporting comebacks.

A challenge from Emirates Team New Zealand, which lost 9-8 to Oracle Team USA after surging into an 8-1 lead, had been in doubt because of reported difficulties raising finances and the government's reluctance to contribute.

However, the team said on Wednesday it had secured sufficient private and sponsorship funding to proceed to the next stage without needing government assistance.

The America's Cup was first staged in 1851 and is the oldest international sporting trophy.

"The funding support for the team that has coalesced over the past week means we can continue the design and engineering development, and keep racing, until main sponsorship funds begin to flow," chief executive Grant Dalton said in a statement.

He said the team's designers and engineers had been working on the software needed for the next challenge.

"The Protocol and the design rule has been published so we know what we are working with and we are confident we can mount a challenge that has the potential to win."

The 2017 America's Cup will be held with a smaller version of the catamarans used in last year's regatta in San Francisco Bay and will include new crew nationality minimums.

Oracle Team USA, owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, has negotiated the rules for the next Cup with Team Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club, the Challenger of Record.

Ellison has yet to agree on whether the next America's Cup will be held again in San Francisco. Other possible sites include Hawaii and San Diego.

(Writing by Gyles Beckford; Editing by John O'Brien)

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