America’s Cup: Need light in the tunnel

Published on June 2nd, 2020

The New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all travelers to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and while the country is preparing to remove many of its restrictions, the border ban is not one of them.

However, there are exemptions being issued, and America’s Cup challenger American Magic is eager to gain entrance. Considering their boat is to arrive at the race venue in Auckland on June 20, they’ve bet all their chips on it.

While the team had previously revealed their frustrations for getting their people on the ground, it appears recent publicity over their plight and revelations that exemptions for the film crew of Hollywood blockbuster Avatar, who flew into the country last week, appears to have gone a long way to resolving the impasse.

Said team CEO Terry Hutchinson to the New Zealand Herald, “In typical Kiwi fashion the folks that we have dealt with in MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) have been exceptionally positive and receptive to the communication that we’ve had over the weekend and things are going in the right direction.

“In the same breath until we are standing in the viaduct, we are not, but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel and everybody is happy the communication has improved and you can see a genuine sense of health and urgency to help facilitate the teams coming down there.

“If it goes well, and again I’m optimistic, then we are in a position that our first 20 team members would really need to be there to meet the ship and would have already gone through quarantine and are a day or two ahead of the ship.”

However, from the transcript of the New Zealand Parliament session on June 2, it’s hard to gauge the brightness of that light in the tunnel:

STUART SMITH (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Immigration: Have he or his officials received correspondence regarding visa exemptions for foreign teams in the America’s Cup; if so, when?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): I am not aware of any correspondence relating to visa exemptions regarding any of the foreign teams in the America’s Cup. None of the syndicates have indicated that they want to be exempted from our usual immigration requirements. However, to be helpful to the member, I can inform the House that I have had regular correspondence with Dean Barker as the head of the American Magic syndicate on the subject of travel to New Zealand for the America’s Cup since he contacted my office on 23 March 2020; this has included a video conference on 25 March 2020 and further correspondence since.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: It’s an exemption from the closed border.

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Immigration New Zealand officials have also been in regular discussions—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Some of us think this is quite an important question, Dr Smith, and it’s not helped by your loud interjections, which appear to be coming through your colleague’s mike behind you.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: No. I want to hear the end of the answer. If there’s a point of order then, I’ll take it.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Some members get points of order and some don’t?

SPEAKER: I think the member is lucky that his colleague’s mike was turned off.

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I’ll pick up where I left off, which was to say that Immigration New Zealand officials have also been in regular discussions with the America’s Cup syndicate since July of 2019, and the member will appreciate that the context for those discussions has changed significantly since that time.

Stuart Smith: Why have some visas for America’s Cup teams not been approved, given Immigration New Zealand provided specific instructions to staff on 18 August 2018 on issuing visas to America’s Cup teams in a timely manner?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Because we have established a process for exemptions from the restrictions that are in place.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Oh, there are now exemptions? So there are exemptions now?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Exemptions from the restrictions that are in place, Dr Smith—listen carefully. And I understand that applications for exemption have been lodged with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and are being processed for consideration by the Minister for Economic Development.

Stuart Smith: Does he expect America’s Cup teams to apply for visa exemptions under the “significant economic value” category; and, if so, how can they do this given the criteria is unpublished?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As I’ve already explained to the member, there is no way to apply for a visa exemption.

Stuart Smith: Why, then, has he not communicated that to the America’s Cup teams?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: The America’s Cup teams are well aware of the process for seeking an exemption to the border restrictions, and I understand that applications have been lodged and are being processed by MBIE.

Stuart Smith: Is he confident that visas will be granted in time for the first America’s Cup team members to arrive by 15 June in order to adequately prepare for the event?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I am confident that the process that has been put in place and has been discussed with the syndicates will be applied appropriately.

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 (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


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