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America’s Cup: Going old school

Published on January 24th, 2020

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
When the America’s Cup World Series was initiated in advance of the 2013 America’s Cup, it provided early exposure for the teams and a fresh look at how the 34th Match was now in catamarans. It was a smart move to heighten the hype except the format revealed an unfortunate truth.

While the opening stage was in fleet racing, the finals were in match racing, and the match racing was not as riveting to watch. For a platform intended to promote the America’s Cup Match, the wheels were wobbly.

The America’s Cup World Series 2.0 was launched for the 2017 America’s Cup, with the format now to have only fleet racing. Lots of fast boats on a tight course guaranteed that positions, somewhere in the race, would be close enough to maintain interest. While teams got training, and sponsors got fulfillment, this was about producing a better show.

And now with the build-up underway for the 2021 America’s Cup, the America’s Cup World Series returns again for a 3-event series in Italy, England, and New Zealand. While the 2020 edition will deliver an early look at the AC75s to face off for the 36th Match, the plan is for only match racing.

With little else known about the competition format (is this any way to run a railroad?), somebody forgot how the 2011-13 World Series was at times… boring. Either that, or this America’s Cup will be more focused on promoting quality racing over show production.

The race course used for the 2013 and 2017 America’s Cup, which began with a reach leg toward the first turn, has been replaced with a windward leeward configuration in which an upwind start mid-leg will  ensure a conventional match race pre-start.

Course diagram for Cagliari, Italy.

While no details have been released regarding the race schedule, all entered teams are required to compete so expect to see the New Zealand defender and the challengers from Italy, England, and USA. That’s an even number, which is good for match racing, but glaring when you consider there is also a fifth team – Stars+Stripes USA.

Led by Mike Buckley and Taylor Canfield, they have yet to reveal a boat or a crew, making it seemingly impossible for them to compete at the first ACWS stage on April 23-26 in Cagliari, Italy. While nobody is talking, their continued status appears to be a contractual issue which keeps them from withdrawing.

And that, my friends, is America’s Cup controversy. That’s how you produce a show.

2020 ACWS Schedule:
April 23-26 – Cagliari, Italy
June 4-7 – Portsmouth, England
December 17-20 – Auckland, New Zealand

36th America’s Cup
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) – WITHDRAW
• Stars + Stripes Team USA (USA)
• DutchSail (NED) – WITHDRAW

Of the three late entries, only Stars+Stripes USA remains committed, but they still must complete the entry fee payment process before they will be eligible to race. They have allegedly made their initial payment but as a late entry challenger under the Protocol, they also have a liability to pay a US$1million late entry fee due in installments by October 1, 2019. However, it is not yet confirmed if they have paid the fee, nor is there any knowledge of a boat being actively built or sailing team training as of January 8, 2020.

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 events (CANCELLED)
October 1, 2019: US$1million late entry fee deadline (NOT KNOWN)
February 1, 2020: Boat 2 can be launched
April 23-26, 2020: First America’s Cup World Series event in Cagliari, Sardinia
During 2020: 3 x America’s Cup World Series 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

AC75 launch dates:
September 6 – Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Boat 1
September 10 – American Magic (USA), Boat 1; actual launch date earlier but not released
October 2 – Luna Rossa (ITA), Boat 1
October 4 – INEOS Team UK (GBR), Boat 1


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