America’s Cup: Getting there from here
Published on April 19th, 2020
As Skipper and Executive Director of America’s Cup challenger American Magic, Terry Hutchinson had formed a plan to bring the America’s Cup back to America. But with the considerable disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checked in with the boss for an update:
Let’s start with what was the plan was for this period of time, and what has become now of that plan?
We’d planned on being in Italy for the first America’s Cup World Series, getting ready to line up with other teams and their America’s Cup 75-foot boats. The fun and learning would’ve really and truly began in earnest, but that changed and came to a screeching halt in the middle of March.
So now, what we’ve been doing here in Pensacola (FL) is really just being prepared and evaluating week-to-week the state of safety for our sailors, safety for our team, and safety for the Pensacola community to make sure that we’re not doing anything to put anybody in a real position of risk.
The boat has been ready for the last three weeks to go out on the water for training and developing, but we’ve taken a conservative decision to stand down in that interest of protecting everybody.
You could go out on the water with face masks and other measures that would be steps towards fulfilling health guidelines, and yet, I’m not quite sure you’d ever guarantee anything 100 percent, so it just feels prudent to pull the handbrake and put safety ahead of ambition, so that’s the decision we made.
You had your AC75 Defiant packed up for Italy?
Yes. In the month the March, it was becoming more and more obvious the World Series event would be cancelled, even though the organizing authority in Italy was not ready to concede despite what was happening in the world. We were hinting that what was going to happen happened, but it is still disappointing as that was an opportunity for all the teams to get in amongst each other and learn where we’re all at. But with cancellation, we got Defiant back into a position where she’s ready to go sailing.
Will you remain in Florida to train on Defiant, or will you move back up to Newport?
The next steps for us is Florida and then to New Zealand. However, we’re incredibly respectful of everything that’s going on in the world and following the guidelines that are in place. New Zealand’s going to follow a process that protects their country, and we’re going to have to fit into that. But we do look forward to getting there when they deem it’s safe for everybody to arrive and become a part of their community, allowing us to support the New Zealand economy in the ways that we can.
What is the status of Boat Number 2? Has construction in Bristol (RI) been interrupted?
We give high marks to the Rhode Island governor and leadership. They have done a great job of keeping manufacturing going, and so when you look at the state of our build operation, we’ve basically been able to keep Boat 2 on a good trajectory. We’ve been able to set up our shop and manage the workforce in a way that respects all the rules and health guidelines in place, keeping everybody safe while continuing to run our operation.
We can’t say enough positive things in how the Rhode Island leadership has handled the situation as, from our perspective, they’ve done exactly what you would want. They provided safe guidelines for us, given us great direction, and yet recognized the importance of marine trade and manufacturing to keeping people going, so that side of it’s definitely been a highlight.
Your race calendar had World Series events in Italy (April 23-26) and England (June 4-7), and while these are now both cancelled, was your initial plan to go from England to New Zealand?
Yes, our plan was to go from Portsmouth to Auckland, and while we are now adjusting that plan, it is gratifying to observe the excellent effort of the New Zealand government in managing the situation.
We’ve had very positive communications, and what that means is that they’re very clear and succinct about the pathway forward. Now, positive is not necessarily the answer that we want to get sitting here today, but they’re very responsive and proactive, staying in touch with us.
When the time is right, and the teams can safely set up their operations in Auckland, I would hope for the America’s Cup to be a beacon of hope on the horizon. For me, it’s hard to see it any other way.
There are four teams, all currently based in their countries, yet each country has different guidelines and restrictions. Has there been any discussion to ensure one team doesn’t gain an advantage due to more lenient restrictions?
No, and frankly, I think it’s pretty difficult to impose something like that. There’s a certain component – at least in the sport – in how each team has to make their own decision, and so it’s hard to instill a will based on something that’s completely out of my control.
We’ve been operating with the idea that it’s all swings and roundabouts, and the only thing that we can control is us, and so we manage all the risks that we can take or not take. We apply common sense to our decision-making, yet without question, the ambition to go sailing and continue developing Defiant is massive.
By standing down, we’ve missed three and a half glamour weeks of sailing in Pensacola Bay. However, what we don’t know is if we had done that, with all health protections in place, and still furthered the spread of the disease by infecting a team or community member, that would be unacceptable.
Therefore, we are applying a little bit of common sense and faith in the work that we’ve done leading up to this point, and trust that we’re not going to give up too much in our effort to win the America’s Cup. To operate in any other way would be doing a disservice to the competition itself. We have all thrown curveballs here, so how we deal with it and how we move forward with it, that’s going to be the measure.
So currently in New Zealand, are you allowed to have boots on the ground?
We have team members that are New Zealand citizens and New Zealand residents, so they can go in, and as we watched this health crisis evolve, we had them go home to fulfill their two-week quarantine so they could be there with family. Having that local presence also helps to facilitate our needs, processing the requirements for our team to work in the country and be on site for when our equipment and gear arrives in the future.
What is the status of your team base in Auckland?
The building of the base hasn’t started. All the equipment for our base is with us in Pensacola.
What is the schedule for Boat 2?
Boat 2 right now is scheduled to come out of the shed in late August, get on a plane for transit to New Zealand in September and be on the water in early-to-mid October.
What’s the plan now for your travel to New Zealand with Defiant?
We’re still working on them. They’re evolving, and again, so much of that is predicated by New Zealand. The Prime Minister does these great updates, and she gives a lot of great insight there. We already know they’re preparing to lower the threat status to Level 3 which then allows certain things to happen. So we continue to track the discussions of what will take place next, and thankfully they’re very good at communicating. You basically know a week out what’s kind of coming at you.
When the light goes green, how long does it take then for you to be sailing in Auckland?
When we sense the pathway is positive to go there, the wheels get turning fast. We’ll pack up our gear in Pensacola, get Defiant on a 35-day ship transport, and once we get all the people moved and in place, I suspect it will be a two-month process from start to finish.
On April 1st, Scuttlebutt reported that the America’s Cup would be postponed. How close has this been to occurring?
Not that you’re predictable, but I did send a note to all our supporters to remind them about what they may be reading on April Fools’ Day. However, from where we’re sitting, there’s really no reason to postpone.
While this might bite us because we don’t know what the future holds, but I do see the America’s Cup as a positive sporting event in the future. It’s got the history, it’s got the intrigue, and it’s an unbelievable competition, and so we should allow that to flourish. It’s going to be in a great venue against great teams, so I choose to look at it, there’s no reason to stop the trajectory that we’re on.
Obviously, we have to be smart and practical and safe, and the New Zealand Defender has been very clear with their communication to us, and we’re very supportive of that. We’ve been preparing for an event in March of next year, and that’s just what we’re going to continue to do.
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)
• 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 (CANCELLED)
June 4-7, 2020: Second (2/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Portsmouth, England (CANCELLED)
December 17-20: Third (3/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Auckland, New Zealand
January 15-February 22, 2021: The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series
March 6-15, 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