America’s Cup: Reading the tea leaves

Published on December 21st, 2021

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are the Batman and Robin of New Zealand. Their combined efforts have won a pile of World titles, two Olympic medals, and two America’s Cups. Together they’ve been recipients of the Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award.

It would almost seem unfathomable that two key cogs of New Zealand’s America’s Cup machine to not be critical members of their next defense, yet they have not signed with the Kiwi team. Despite nationality rules in place for the 2024 event which limit their options to help other teams, their hesitancy to commit may have nothing to do with sailing.

This dynamic duo founded marine conservation charity Live Ocean to help safeguard the oceans and raise awareness of their importance to the health of the planet. Such a righteous goal requires righteous partners, and the possibility of the America’s Cup team management accepting Saudi Arabian support to host the event in Jeddah might be more than they can stomach.

With a home defense seemingly unlikely due to funding needs, the offshore options have been revealed to be Ireland, Spain, and Saudi Arabia, with Burling and Tuke having expressed reservations about the prospect of the Cup being held in Jeddah.

Clearly, an America’s Cup fed on oil money in a country with questionable human rights issues, wouldn’t sit comfortably with the conservation work which is a real passion for them now.

Depending on how you read the tea leaves, the signing by Team New Zealand of Australian helmsman Nathan Outteridge says the duo has one foot out the door if Jeddah is the leading contender, while chief operations officer Kevin Shoebridge says they want to keep Burling and Tuke in their afterguard.

“You can never have too many good people … the best scenario is they are all sitting on the boat,” said Shoebridge, though he admits it’s not as simple as it used to be. “They have a lot on their plate, and we have a lot on our plate. We need full commitment … we have got to hope we can merge the two sides together.

“They are very passionate about the Cup, but we have to be firing on all cylinders to be able to beat these challengers, and we have to know what we have got.”

Following the publication of the AC37 Protocol and AC75 Class Rule on November 17, the entry period opened December 1, 2021 and runs until July 31, 2022, but late entries for the 37th America’s Cup may be accepted until May 31, 2023. The Defender is to announce Match Venue and approximate event dates on March 31, 2022. –

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