America’s Cup: We’re talkin bout practice

Published on December 15th, 2020

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
For now, all that matters is minus three hours, plus one day. That’s the time difference between Scuttlebutt HQ (San Diego, CA) and the venue of the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland, New Zealand. Everything else, at least for right now, is pure conjecture.

However, this is the America’s Cup, an internationally recognized event in which the percentage of racing to words written and spoken is like the difference between my bank account and British team owner Jim Ratcliffe. Massive!

So yes, Allen Iverson, we are talking about practice.

In advance of the America’s Cup World Series Auckland and the Christmas Race (December 17-20, 2020 (don’t forget the time change), the topic has been the practice races which have given the race admin a test and offered the teams their first actual competition, practice or not.

What’s been gained? The Kiwi defender looks solid, the Italians and Americans are down a rung, and the Brits are off the pace and not wholly able to get around the course.

“We are struggling a bit in the lighter winds at the moment, with the take offs and the maneuvers, so right now we are preferring the stronger winds,” noted skipper Ben Ainslie. “Our lack of race time limits what we know about our boat but we know changes are needed.”

Having a good view of the action has been Regatta Director Iain Murray, himself a veteran of four Cup campaigns and in a similar position that he held for the 2013 and 2017 editions.

“Having been close to these boats, the match racing I have seen during the practice races is what the event’s history is looking,” said Murray. “Great racing alongside remarkable technology.”

The 36th edition is a return to upwind starts, though with the tight boundaries and high speeds, don’t expect any long grinds to a side of the course.

“At the start, it is about pinning your opponent to the left side boundary,” shared American skipper Terry Hutchinson, and with maybe a minute before the first tack, being to windward appears to be the pole position.

While the PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series is still a month away, the results from this racing will determine the pairings for the three challengers. The teams are eager to assess their strengths and weaknesses, which means showing the cards they now hold.

“All four teams are in a similar situation where there is no time,” said Hutchinson. “We treat every day as race day and use what we can to measure our progress, with the goal of each day taking steps forward toward improved performance. We don’t have time to waste, so we have to push hard to develop and learn as fast as we can.”

America’s Cup detailsDecember 17-20 detailsHow to watch

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) – WITHDRAWN
• DutchSail (NED) – WITHDRAWN

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 (CANCELLED)
• 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
November 19, 2020 – Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Boat 2


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