America’s Cup spying in broad daylight

Published on October 26th, 2020

The America’s Cup defender traveled from New Zealand to Florida to watch American Magic train, while the American challenger revealed how observing the other teams impacted their design approach. Spying in broad daylight is part of the game as Italian challenger Luna Rossa explains:

The America’s Cup is an event linked not only to sport, but also to the world of innovation and technology. To win the America’s Cup it’s not enough to have the strongest crew, you also need to have the most technologically performing boat.

The technology on the AC75 boats is so advanced and in constant development that each detail is studied with obsessive attention. Day after day, new components are being developed and the challenge is a race towards innovation in which ideas, patents, discoveries and intellectual property are at stake.

Everyone tries to protect and reveal their projects as little as possible and each team tries to keep tabs on what the others are doing. Everyone observes and studies each other trying to gain insight on the results achieved by their opponents.

Stories of espionage in the America’s Cup happen all the time, and anecdotes of these have filled the pages of newspapers. There have always been ears ready to capture every little piece of information and eyes open to steal each possible detail.

In the more recent editions of the America’s Cup, the so-called “recon” – or observation – has been approved and regulated, so much so that it has become an important activity within the team, with dedicated people. Recon data can be a source of inspiration to improve ideas and understand in which direction the design is going.

Training at sea is often studied and photographed by observers on other teams, who must comply with very specific rules: the use of drones is prohibited, interception devices cannot be used. In this edition, Article 55 of the Protocol defines the criteria and areas where reconnaissance can be carried out.

The Competitors are prohibited from engaging in any of the following in an attempt to gain information about another Competitor:
a) any illegal act;
b) the use of eavesdropping devices;
c) accessing correspondence, electronic communications or communication frequencies
or channels allocated to other Competitors or used by other Competitors via a commercial service provider;
d) the unauthorized entry into any servers or computer system;
e) interception of information emanating from telemetry, instruments, computers, etc.;
f) without the prior consent of the affected Competitor, use of satellites, aircraft, drones, and/or other means of flight to observe or record from above another Competitor’s yacht;
g) the acceptance of any information from a third party that a Competitor is prohibited from obtaining directly; and
h) obtaining positional data about another Competitor’s yacht via electronic means, other than from publicly available sources.


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) – WITHDRAWN
• Stars + Stripes Team USA (USA)
• DutchSail (NED) – WITHDRAWN

Of the three late entries, only Stars+Stripes USA remains committed, however, it is unclear what entry payments have been made, nor is there knowledge of a boat being actively built or sailing team assembled.

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, 2020: 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

Youth America’s Cup Competition
• February 18-23, 2021
• March 1-5, 2021
• March 8-12, 2021

AC75 launch dates:
September 6, 2019 – Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Boat 1
September 10, 2019 – American Magic (USA), Boat 1; actual launch date earlier but not released
October 2, 2019 – Luna Rossa (ITA), Boat 1
October 4, 2019 – INEOS Team UK (GBR), Boat 1
October 16, 2020 – American Magic (USA), Boat 2
October 17, 2020 – INEOS Team UK (GBR), Boat 2
October 20, 2020 – Luna Rossa (ITA), Boat 2


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