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Has America’s Cup gone a step too far?

Published on June 24th, 2019

When the boat for the 35th America’s Cup was changed from 62 feet to 50, Patrizio Bertelli, Chairman of Luna Rossa Challenge, had enough of the Larry Ellison era and withdrew from the 2017 competition. It was a shocker for a team involved since the 30th edition in 2000, but his focus now would be to end Ellison’s reign.

Bertelli redirected his resources to help Emirates Team New Zealand defeat the USA defender, but his support had a condition. If the kiwis won, the 36th America’s Cup would return to monohulls. So the shift to monohulls for the 2021 competition was less a surprise than the kind of monohull revealed.

With Bertelli now the Challenger of Record, the Italian and New Zealand teams raved about the AC75 once revealed. “This is not a return to the past, but rather a step towards the future,” said the Chairman. “The boat has the potential to be faster than an AC50 both upwind and downwind,” noted kiwi CEO Grant Dalton. Love was in the air.

But as much as the designers loved entering this new territory, fulfilling their vision has not been too lovely. Teams that planned on launching their boats when the Protocol allowed on March 31 have been on standby due to problems with the one design parts being provided. And now in the report below from the kiwi press Stuff, Bertelli is wondering if the AC75 has been a step too far towards the future:

Italian challenger of record Luna Rossa have labelled the new America’s Cup boats “too difficult, too extreme.” The criticism comes as the wealthy syndicate have launched a smaller test version (above) of the 75-foot foiling monohull to continue their development.

Patrizio Bertelli, team principal of Luna Rossa Prada, believes the revolutionary design is too complicated and is proving prohibitive to new teams.

At present Luna Rossa, American Magic, and Team INEOS UK are the only confirmed challengers to defenders Emirates Team New Zealand. Late challenges from the west coast of the United States and the Netherlands have until July 1 to confirm their participation at Auckland 2021.

Bertelli, never shy to offer an opinion during a long association with the America’s Cup, was a driving force in returning monohulls to the competition after three editions in multihulls but says he would have preferred a more simple option than what Team New Zealand have come up with.

“I had suggested to the Kiwis to choose a less extreme boat than this one. A sort of modern VOR60 (the boat of the former Volvo Ocean Race) on which to develop two rudders with foils. Instead, they [Team New Zealand] wanted a hyper-technological solution, they insisted … ” Bertelli told La Stampa in a hard-hitting interview.

“The electronic part is especially complicated. We have been working on it for two years.”

Francesco Bruni, in line to helm the Italian challenge, agrees with his boss and said the new boat was a step beyond the foiling catamarans used in San Francisco and Bermuda.

“The AC75 is a harder boat than the catamarans. The latter rose on the water, resting on four points, didn’t they? The two rudders and the two foils,” Bruni told La Stampa.

“These rest only on three, the two rudders and the arm-foil, with the other arm weighing one ton and protruding from the hull for five meters. Do you understand? It’s a question of balance. You have to come up with a new way to navigate, and it’s not easy. We saw it after a year on the simulator and with the first outings at sea with the prototype.”

Bruni did admit that his first sail in Luna Rossa’s three-man test boat was “a pleasure, one of the most beautiful sailing days of my life”.

“It’s a question of speed and balance, you have to find the magic,” he said.

The new design has had problems with the building of the foil arms which failed to withstand initial testing and had to be redesigned. They had largely been the responsibility of the Italians who are sharing production of some of the one-design elements with Team New Zealand.

That serious issue was resolved but has caused a delay in the production of the first boats which finally are expected to be launched soon.

Luna Rossa announced they intend to launch their first boat on August 25. Teams are allowed to have two AC75s.

All three challengers now have test boats at their disposal while Team New Zealand have been relying on their simulator.

Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena revealed that multiple America’s Cup skipper Jimmy Spithill was astonished with what was happening in front of him on their simulator screen, declaring: “We’ll s… ourselves”.

When the concept was first revealed Spithill, who has moved from Oracle Team USA to the Italian syndicate, predicted the monohulls would be “a beast of a boat … another level”.

In addition to Challenges from Italy, USA, and Great Britain that were accepted during the initial entry period (January 1 to June 30, 2018), eight additional Notices of Challenge were received by the late entry deadline on November 30, 2018. Of those eight submittals, entries from Malta, USA, and the Netherlands were also accepted. Here’s the list:

• Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)

• Luna Rossa (ITA) – Challenger of Record
• American Magic (USA)
• Malta Altus Challenge (MLT) – WITHDREW
• Stars & Stripes Team USA (USA)
• DutchSail (NED)

Key America’s Cup dates:
✔ September 28, 2017: 36th America’s Cup Protocol released
✔ November 30, 2017: AC75 Class concepts released to key stakeholders
✔ January 1, 2018: Entries for Challengers open
✔ March 31, 2018: AC75 Class Rule published
✔ June 30, 2018: Entries for Challengers close
✔ August 31, 2018: Location of the America’s Cup Match and The PRADA Cup confirmed
✔ August 31, 2018: Specific race course area confirmed
✔ November 30, 2018: Late entries deadline
✔ March 31, 2019: Boat 1 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ 2nd half of 2019: 2 x America’s Cup World Series Preliminary Events (CANCELLED)
February 1, 2020: Boat 2 can be launched
During 2020: 3 x America’s Cup World Series Preliminary Events
December 10-20, 2020: America’s Cup Christmas Race
January and February 2021: The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series
March 2021: The America’s Cup Match


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