Written by Scott Alle
Photography by Hamish Hooper
02 December 2018
The rumour mill has cranked into overdrive regarding the identity of the new challengers that will join the existing established trio of Italian syndicate Luna Rossa, the New York Yacht Club and INEOS Team UK; all ‘serious’ early contenders to take-on Team New Zealand.
The newcomers could be:
The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron announced last Friday 1 December, they have eight new challenges in hand, however only one meets the requirements to be accepted immediately. The other seven have conditions, such as requiring an AC World Series regatta in their country. Acceptance of conditions would mean changes to the Protocol, over which the Challenger of Record has veto power.
RNZYS also indicated that some of the late challenges might be invalid. Presumably this means they do not meet the requirements of the Deed of Gift or the Protocol. For example, the Protocol requires a challenging yacht club to have existed for more than five years, to have at least 200 members and to be financially supported by a majority of the members on a pro rata basis. The Deed of Gift requires a challenging club to hold its annual regatta on the sea or an arm of the sea -which would rule out places like Chicago or those on a lake.
So, the genuine challengers will be determined through a vetting process which will begin immediately.
“We are really encouraged by the level of interest that has been shown from around the world by the number of notices of challenge that have been lodged by today’s deadline,” said Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton.
The entry period for Challengers was January 1 to June 30 with an entry fee of $US 2 million. A deadline for late entries of November 30 required an additional $US 1 million.
“It has been a long time coming, but worthwhile to give potential teams every opportunity to enter what will be a huge global event for New Zealand,” noted Dalton. “However, we must remain cautious and not jump to conclusions on the final number of teams. It is only when the acceptance process has been completed that we will know how many will compete in the Prada Cup alongside Luna Rossa, American Magic & INEOS Team UK.”
Conditions of some of the challenges will require changes to the Protocol, which is therefore dependent on agreement with the Challenger of Record before each new challenger’s participation can be confirmed.
“We understand there will be questions around what a conditional challenge is,” explained Dalton.
“To give some context, an example is where we might have a challenge that is conditional on there being an America’s Cup World Series event in that specific challenger’s country. This, obviously, is something that cannot be determined today and also needs agreement with the Challenger of Record.”
The five requirements for a bona fide yacht club in the Protocol would be satisfied by 85 precent of the yacht clubs in the world. There is nothing particularly onerous, aside from the financial responsibility the club takes – which is usually contracted back onto the team.
The process of assessing the entries and conditions of the eight new challengers will begin immediately with the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Emirates Team New Zealand. Emirates Team New Zealand is acutely conscious of the need to advise Auckland Council and the New Zealand government on the base infrastructure footprint requirement which has an impact on overall costs.
The statutory authorities have been advised that a maximum of five challengers can be accommodated on Wynyard Point with three double bases and two singles. Should less than three of the late challenges be accepted, the government and Auckland Council will then have the option of not proceeding with the Hobson Wharf extension for the 36th America’s Cup, which would result in considerable cost savings.
“The planning of the America’s Cup venue and infrastructure has been a detailed but fluid process and Emirates Team New Zealand and America’s Cup Event Ltd have been highly conscious of infrastructure build costs while wanting to retain the ability to accommodate as many challengers as necessary by today’s deadline,” said Dalton.
“We want to act quickly with the Challenger of Record so we can definitively inform Council and Government on the total number of teams we need to accommodate or whether it is sensible not to extend Hobson Wharf in this current edition of the America’s Cup, which could save a significant amount of infrastructure expense.”
“We are really proud to have this many teams submit entries for the 36th America’s Cup event which is a true reflection on the belief and excitement of the new AC75 boat concept and the ideal host venue for racing in 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand,” concluded Dalton.
Official announcements regarding the new accepted challengers will be made at a later date after the completion of the conditional entries process and in accordance with each team’s preference on the timings of their respective public announcements.
There is one definite development regarding the teams. Team France announced last week that they have not been able to find enough sponsorship and will not challenge.
“There is still much to be done in France to convince the decision makers that this trophy – the most coveted in the world sailing and whose regattas are followed by a large audience – is a great opportunity to highlight sports performances and French technological expertise,” said Frank Cammas, who skippered for the team in the 2017 Cup.
The TEAM FRANCE project is a long-term project and will therefore continue the mission defined at its launch with the creation of the “Filières d’Excellence”. The goal is to develop and promote French excellence in sports and technology, to win the international sailing competitions in crew, including the next America’s Cup and that, being present from the 37th AC.
“The experience and knowledge accumulated at the 35th AC is a solid foundation on which TEAM FRANCE will rely to prepare its participation in the 37th AC and to bring together the best sporting and technical skills in order to be operational early 2021,” added Cammas.