America’s Cup: will cobwebs soon clear?

Published on June 23rd, 2019. By Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

When BMW Oracle Racing won the 2010 America’s Cup as Challenger, they launched dramatic change to elevate the 2013 event from a yachting prize to a major sporting achievement. Their plan of fast boats, inshore racing, and heightened broadcast sought to create fan excitement and commercial success.

Twelve teams applied to challenge, validation of their strategy, while promising riches for the host city of San Francisco. But it was clear early on the field was full of pretenders, and it would soon enough be just Italy, New Zealand and Sweden that were legitimate.

Determined to avoid similar embarrassment for the 2017 edition, the now named defender Oracle Team USA beefed up the entry requirements, eliminating the wannabes and resulting in six seemingly strong challengers. While two would ultimately drop out, it was more due to the shenanigans of the defender than teams lacking the wherewithal to proceed.

And now we have a new defender in Emirates Team New Zealand with a new plan for 2021 that needed validation. Hosting the America’s Cup is a huge ask for any city, and the kiwi team had to convince Auckland that there was interest in their ideas. For the bean counters, lots of teams is good for business.

However, their plan included significant change again which is not a momentum builder, and only three teams stood up immediately with worthy challenges…hardly a compelling endorsement. The proposed foiling AC75 monohull was not easy to embrace, and any whiff of affordability was fleeting.

But when three more teams submitted acceptable entries by the late deadline, Annie’s chorus of ‘Tomorrow’ was soon drowned out by rumours that the “pretend” era was back. While the city of Auckland may have got excited about this bigger fleet, the early challengers were not pleased – the latecomers did not need to live up to the same fee schedule as stated in the protocol.

So while curious decisions by the Arbitration Panel allowed these three teams to disrupt harmony and logistics, reality soon eliminated the Malta effort, leaving only the Dennis Conner endorsed Stars & Stripes Team USA (USA) and DutchSail (NED) to hang around. As long as they pay all their fees by the first World Series race in Spring 2020, they can claim challenger status.

But a new twist came when Malta pulled out, as it was then the kiwi defender said how the two remaining late challengers would need to confirm their ongoing commitment to the 36th America’s Cup by July 1st. A quick scan of the Official Noticeboard doesn’t find this new deadline, so perhaps it was a ‘backroom’ condition of letting these latecomers float this long.

While boats need to now be under construction, so do the event bases, and building bases for teams that would fail to show is a good way for the kiwi team to obliterate relations with local government and community.

So perhaps there will soon be closure for any pretenders. Hope so.

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) – WITHDREW
• Stars & Stripes Team USA (USA)
• DutchSail (NED)

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 Preliminary Events (CANCELLED)
February 1, 2020: Boat 2 can be launched
During 2020: 3 x America’s Cup World Series Preliminary Events
December 10-20, 2020: America’s Cup Christmas Race
January and February 2021: The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series
March 2021: The America’s Cup Match


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