Prada Cup final: racing to resume on Saturday

America’s Cup Event (ACE) has said racing will start on Saturday – weather permitting. This comes amidst pointed statements sent to the press with emotive language accusing the challenger of record, Luna Rossa, of being ‘inflexible’ and ‘against the interests of the public and commercial benefits to the city and businesses’.

The Italian team’s position hasn’t changed. It’s sticking to the pre-agreed protocols which were drawn up and agreed to . . . and Covid-19 has been in the mix for over a year. It’s no different to other sporting events which are taking place without spectators, the Italians said yesterday.

“This is a disappointing situation, it is my responsibility to do my best to run the event with the best interests of the public and all stakeholders in mind,” says Tina Symmans, ACE’s chair.

“So with the current impasse, while not agreeing with the challenger of record, we want to see the regatta completed on the water.”

Best solution to race this weekend

ACE says it now considers the best solution that can be hoped for is to continue racing this weekend. This will at least allow as much opportunity as possible for the public to enjoy the viewing in small gatherings or via the TV broadcast.

Ineos Team UK says it hasn’t been consulted but fully respects the decision of ACE ‘and will be ready to race as requested’.

“We believe this potential outcome would be a shame for the racing fans in Auckland when the city has done such a wonderful job of staging the regatta,” says an Ineos statement.

“Given that it is a possibility that Auckland may move to Level 1 by Monday, we feel that delaying the restart until Monday would enable full spectator participation, even if this means racing continues past 24th February.”

ACE wanted racing to be delayed by a week to, it says, limit the loss that spectator restrictions under Covid-19 alert level 2 would have.

ETNZ has ‘too much power’

But, says the Secret Sailor writing in the New Zealand Herald: “This is what happens when the America’s Cup defender has too much power.”

He says that ACE is effectively being run by Emirates Team New Zealand during this cup and should not be allowed to “cherry pick which rules are worth keeping”. The relationship between ETNZ and Ineos Team UK is muddying the waters further, with Ineos being ETNZ’s ‘new best friend’.

“It is an open secret that they are discussing protocols – with the Brits the favoured COR for the next regatta should the Kiwis defend the Auld Mug next month. I can’t help but wonder if this is, at least in part, a move designed to help Ben Ainslie’s team find a way back into what has so far been a lopsided Prada Cup final.

“Any delay would help no one but the British.

“For the Brits to pull off a comeback they would have to pray for continued stronger breeze or some sort of silver bullet in setup or design that they have overlooked previously. It’s a big ask and, with the latter, would require the one thing they don’t have. Time.”

The Secret Sailor says there’s nowhere to hide for Ineos.

“The teams have all played their cards and the Brits have a weak hand.”

According to StuffNZ Luna Rossa has heard the rumours of an alliance between ETNZ and Ineos but puts it down to gossip, quoting Francesco Longanesi Cattani as saying: “If you think bad things you are a sinner … but often you are right.”

ACE accuses Luna Rossa of having ‘deaf ears’

“Since Sunday, we have worked really hard on behalf of everyone in Auckland and all Kiwis to give COR the opportunity to demonstrate some honour and respect for this country and delay the Prada Cup until we have a greater chance of everyone being able to enjoy and benefit from being back into Level 1,” says Symmans.

“This plea has fallen on deaf ears and it’s clear that their focus is solely on Luna Rossa taking the Prada Cup rather than the greater good of the country who have worked so hard in order to be in a position to stage this event.”

Support grows for Luna Rossa’s position

Online commentators have slammed ACE for its statement’s lack of diplomacy.

“Sport is going on around the world without spectators, the Prada Cup is no different to World Skiing etc! We can all watch coverage, there’s plenty of it!” says one.

“The rules were agreed,” says another. “So postponing a race to a date when they could not be 100% sure [about the cover alert level] (and nobody could) is a nonsense, a non-decision. What is really disturbing is that acting like this they forced the COR to do the ACE job and at the same time shaming Luna Rossa for that.”

“I can’t stand this statement aggressiveness. What the hell, rules have been written down by both ACE and COR. I’m sorry for NZ people who can’t attend the show (for two days) but there are hundreds of millions of people out there, locked-down in their houses that have the same dignity.”

Marcus Wheatley, Rule69blog agrees. “As car crashes go, the last 24 hours in the America’s Cup has been akin to a slow-motion pile-up on an oil-strewn back road in Auckland,” he says of the communications from ACE.

“Why grown men and women saw this as a points scoring exercise is beyond me. Quite frankly it’s beneath the status of the event and lays further evidence that after this cup is over, whoever wins really needs to start clearing out the backstage personnel and get younger, more switched-on, more worldly attuned communications people involved that understand the America’s Cup. This [antagonism] has to be the last roar of the dinosaurs. Drain the swamp.”

Race 5 and 6 will be held on Saturday and two races a day will follow until one competitor gets to 7 points wining the Prada Cup.

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