Will America’s Cup seize opportunity?

Published on March 22nd, 2020

An international health crisis has the sporting world on hold, with the 2021 America’s Cup feeling the pinch. While the challenger trials don’t begin until January, the inclusion of pre-events – a tradition began for the 2007 edition – has added a layer of complexity the America’s Cup can no longer weather.

This grand event has an opportunity, but will it seize it? Stuff Senior Sports Writer Duncan Johnstone provides the landscape in this report:

The yachting world awaits the first taste of racing in the new America’s Cup 75-foot foiling monohulls but that wait could be quite a while as the syndicates find themselves victims of the sporting shutdown via the coronavirus pandemic.

The opening America’s Cup World Series regatta due to be sailed in Cagliari in late April has sensibly be cancelled with Italy reeling from the virus that has seen them the epicenter of the European zone.

The focus is now on the second regatta in Portsmouth, England, due to be sailed on June 4-7. British syndicate INEOS Team UK have said it can’t be held and expect a decision this week reflecting that.

It’s been fascinating to see some spite come into the Cup scene as the countdown clock ticks away.

Relations between defender Emirates Team New Zealand and challenger of record Luna Rossa are testy to say the least. That’s not a bad thing given the far too cozy situations of the last two Cups run by Oracle Team USA. Adding extra intrigue this time is the Italians clearly out of kilter with their fellow challengers.

As usual, the devil is in the detail of any America’s Cup legal issues and the nine-page summary by the arbitration panel on the bitter dispute over the Cagliari event, held some telling facts.

“The competitors should now accept that neither ACWS Cagliari nor ACWS Portsmouth will be able to go ahead as planned,” INEOS Team UK said in their submissions, adding, “it is simply not practicable to postpone and reschedule either event.”

The most relieved syndicate with the early decision to cancel Cagliari are American Magic. They didn’t want to commit to putting their new boat on a container with so much doubt over the event, preferring to have it available for more training at home of an early transfer to Auckland which now seems most likely.

Interestingly, their correspondence in the dispute offered a solution to having this first phase of racing wiped out.

“American Magic would welcome the addition of a further ACWS regatta in Auckland to replace the now cancelled regatta,” they said, though they noted “this can only now be (done) by way of a collective agreement of all competitors.”

Collective agreement has been short on supply as legal teams have been needed to sort out the wind limits and the World Series mess. But there is sense to the sentiments of both the British and Americans.

Call off Portsmouth early and get the syndicates to Auckland if and when the travel restrictions on foreigners entering New Zealand are lifted. The challenging syndicates are hustling into their work building their bases in Auckland already.

The best thing that could happen if the virus cloud hanging over the event does lift, will be to see them training and racing on the courses that are laid out for the Prada Cup challenger series next January and February and the America’s Cup match in March.

Auckland already has a World Series regatta slated for December and with the teams assembled it would take little to organize a second, as suggested by the New York Yacht Club. They’d be sure to get the backing of Team New Zealand but first they need the green light from Luna Rossa.

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.

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 (CANCELLED)
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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