America’s Cup: Where are we now?

Published on March 15th, 2020

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
As the COVID-19 pandemic flooded the headlines, the first reaction within professional sports was to close locker rooms to the media. The goal was to control the environment for the safety of the players, but media access is an integral aspect of professional sports.

There are league rules which require players and teams to offer media access, as professional sports recognize the media is the conduit between their game and the audience that pay the bills. The better job the media can do at sharing information, the greater connection there is with fandom.

This is what the America’s Cup struggles with, as it wants people to care, yet the secrecy among the teams remains prevalent. In the absence of a league office mandating access, the fan connection exists though event history. However, as the event continues to distance itself from this history, access is now needed more than ever.

This was my mindset when I wrote on March 13 about how every professional sport was reporting on their reaction to the pandemic yet only silence was coming from the America’s Cup. Considering the competition schedule was to begin with the first America’s Cup World Series on April 23-26, and that event is in the virus hotbed of Italy, this was a topic not to avoid.

Later that day, the news finally came out that the Italian event was postponed, but perhaps of even greater note was the deepening fracture between the New Zealand Defender and the Italian Challenger of Record. Once close allies to the extent the Italians helped the kiwis win in 2017, these two teams appear more foe than friend.

The big question now is what to do with the second event of the World Series, as none of the Challengers wanted this event on June 4-7 in Portsmouth, England. A Protocol Amendment was needed for the Defender to make it happen, but with only one event in Europe, pushing the abort button would save a lot of time and money for an America’s Cup that needs both.

For now, the America’s Cup challenger American Magic (USA) is in limbo. From the team’s winter base in Florida, their AC75 DEFIANT was packed up and ready for transport, as they were fully prepared to participate in the first competition of the 36th America’s Cup as required by the Protocol.

For their next move, the team had this to say on March 14, 2020:

“We have noted the independent statements made by Emirates Team New Zealand and COR36 in recent days, and as a Challenger have nothing further to add at this time. We await an official updated event schedule from the Challenger of Record and the Defender and will revise our plans accordingly once that is made available.”

Standing by for good news, heck, any news.


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:

Defender:
• Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)

Challengers:
• Luna Rossa (ITA) – Challenger of Record
• American Magic (USA)
• INEOS Team UK (GBR)
• 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.

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 (DELAYED)
April 23-26, 2020: First (1/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Cagliari, Sardinia (POSTPONED)
June 4-7, 2020 – Second (2/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Portsmouth, England
December 17-20 – Third (3/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Auckland, New Zealand
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

Details: www.americascup.com

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