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America’s Cup: Cloak and dagger tactics

Published on September 23rd, 2021

Not everyone agrees with the direction of the modern America’s Cup, and this includes New York Yacht Club which has previously voiced concerns about the future of the event. This contention has fueled the latest controversy when America’s Cup legal specialist Hamish Ross sought the club’s support to legally remove the standing Challenger of Record.

The vision was that by ousting the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS), which is represented by Sir Ben Ainslie’s Team UK, the move would scrap critical regatta rules being worked on by the pair, and allow NYYC to take over the traditional role as lead challenger.

With it becoming increasingly likely that Team New Zealand will seek a financial windfall by taking the next America’s Cup offshore, Ross claimed to be representing a group of prominent New Zealanders seeking to keep the next America’s Cup in Auckland.

Ross’ legal argument was the challenge was made in the name of a limited liability company owned by RYS, rather than by the yacht club entity itself, which could be in breach of the Cup’s governing Deed of Gift and ousted in an action before the New York Supreme Court.

If successful, the Challenger of Record would become NYYC, which has expressed quite different views over the future of the America’s Cup to those agreed by Team New Zealand and Team UK.

But this cloak and dagger tactic hasn’t gone over well with defender Team New Zealand and was refuted by New York. “We applaud (New York) Commodore Culver and the NYYC for wanting no part and rejecting these overtures,” said Team New Zealand chief executive Grant Dalton.

Ross is an Auckland lawyer whose first involvement in the America’s Cup was with the Young America team, which represented NYYC in Auckland in 2000. He later worked full-time for the Swiss Alinghi team.

Following the successful America’s Cup challenge of Emirates Team New Zealand in 2017, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron had accepted a challenge from Circolo della Vela Sicilia and its representative team Luna Rossa Challenge.

However, that love affair faded in the build-up to the 2021 competition, with the British club now viewed as a more willing partner to execute the objectives held by the Kiwi team for the next event.

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