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Gladwell's Line: Another America's Cup first off Sardinia

by Richard Gladwell, 18 Jan 00:56 UTC 25 December 2019
Emirates Team New Zealand sailing on Course C - the principal course for the 36th America's Cup - Waitemata harbour - January 15, 2020 © Richard Gladwell /

Another milestone in the 2021 America's Cup cycle was passed in Cagliari, Sardinia this week with the first two AC75's from rival Challengers appearing on the same piece of water.

We understand from the photographer that the two were just passing outside the boat harbour. Luna Rossa was coming in, with INEOS Team UK departing.

With the startup of Luna Rossa and INEOS Team UK in Cagliari, we are now seeing images from their sailing and bases - using a mix of team supplied images and reports, along with locally sourced content. We are also seeing a little more from NYYC American Magic and hopefully we'll now be able to see more rounded America's Cup content than just the Te Aihe Show.

It is expected that Emirates Team NZ will pack up Te Aihe in a few weeks - sometime in February - to be shipped to Cagliari, Sardinia ahead of the first of the America's Cup World Series Regattas, in late April. The second regatta will take place in Portsmouth in early June.

As was made public late last year, Emirates airline is continuing its naming rights sponsorship of Emirates Team New Zealand - a relationship which goes back to 2004. By the end of the Cup, Emirates airline's support will have spanned 17 years - a remarkable relationship for any sport, and more so in the volatile world of the America's Cup.

Equally impressive is Toyota's involvement with the team, as a major sponsor, extending right back to Fremantle. Then CEO of Toyota NZ, Bob Field is now a member of the Emirates Team New Zealand Board.

Toyota is not only involved with the America's Cup team but for many years has been a strong backer of the Optimist class and their National titles in particular.

This week Emirates airline announced it would be naming rights sponsor for the second America's Cup World Series event in Portsmouth.

It comes at a time when many sponsors, after 17 years would look to move to other sports, would be looking to maybe exit gracefully, rather than extending and expanding their involvement.

Come 2021, the Team New Zealand entity (formerly New Zealand Challenge until 1992) will have been competing in the America's Cup for a remarkable 37 years. The 36th America's Cup will be Team New Zealand's tenth.

In that time, the team has won the America's Cup three times, and has been the America's Cup Challenger, on four occasions, and made the Challenger Final on two more occasions, and been a Deed of Gift Challenger once.

That's quite a record.

In early November, when I was about to head across Castor Bay reef with a load of camera gear, a woman with a South African accent stopped me and asked what I was going to shoot.

"The America's Cup boat," I replied.

"Oh", she said. "When's the America's Cup on? We've only just arrived in NZ."

"March 2021", I replied.

"Good grief," she exclaimed, "with the way everyone is carrying on, I thought it was on now!"

She's in for a shock.

Welcome to New Zealand, lady.

There have been several significant sailing achievements over the Christmas and New Year break.

Kohimaramara YC sailor, Tim Howse joined an elite group of sailors who have won the Tanner and Tauranga Cup double (Provincial and Individual competition).

Two other Kohimaramara YC sailors, Rowan Kensington and Sean Kensington, placed second and third in the Tauranga Cup. North Harbour's Harrison Loretz broke the Kohi onslaught winning third place in the Tauranga Cup.

With all the talk about wind limits in the next America's Cup, the young sailors raced in winds of up to 35kts. One day was lost when the "breeze" gusted to over 50kts.

Kohimarama committed to a full P class program and had six sailors in the top 12 in the Tauranga Cup. A great effort.

The Rolex Sydney Hobart was not a record-breaker, but certainly had plenty of intrigue, as well as being the 75th anniversary of the offshore classic.

The 2019 event also marked the last time that we will see the five supermaxis racing together, and as if to mark the occasion all had made a very determined effort to be the first to Hobart and hopefully take the record as well.

Two of the supermaxis, Wild Oats XI and Black Jack had undergone major hull surgery over the winter - missing Hamilton Island Race Week in August.

Comanche and InfoTrack both had new full inventories from Doyle Sails.

SHK Scallywag (Hong Kong) had also undergone a significant upgrade.

In the end, the event turned into a coup for Doyle Sails with Comanche and InfoTrack taking first and second on line, with Matt Allen's turbocharged TP52 Ichi Ban, (North Sails) winning overall honours.

From here, both Comanche and Black Jack are expected to relocate to the Mediterranean, marking the end of a great era in Australian offshore racing.

The first of the real splits in the America's Cup ranks has emerged - this over Match Conditions and specifically Wind Limits.

The spat probably runs deeper than has been let on, as a lack of consultation by the Challenger of Record is quite a serious matter. In the past, Luna Rossa has been exemplars of fair play in the America's Cup, and the current stand-off between the Challengers is surprising.

Equally surprising is that it has taken three years for a major dispute to hit the headlines. The silence has been deafening for experienced Cup watchers and is entirely out of character for the event.

Early next month, the world championships for the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 get under way in Geelong, Vic. Three days later on February 9, the Laser Men's Standard rig World Championships get under way.

The Laser Radial Women's Championship gets under way on February 21. Both regattas will be sailed out of the Royal Sandringham YC, 12 miles out of Melbourne.

The Finn Worlds were sailed from Geelong in late December, and the 2020 event will be sailed in Palma, Spain in early May.

The 470 Worlds are set down for the same venue but starting on March 13.

The upshot of that menu of events is that we can expect the nominations for the NZ Olympic Sailing team to be confirmed, probably after the 470 Worlds - or done in two tranches, with the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17, along with the Laser in mid-February 2020.

The Laser Radial and Men's and Women's 470 nominations could come later in March.

The point of interest will be in the Finn class, as to whether the Yachting NZ selectors will let their decision period run through May. The relationship between Josh Junior and Andy Maloney seems to be a good one, and it will be a hard call if Maloney can reverse the result from Melbourne last month.

The most hotly contested nomination will come in the Nacra 17 class where the class qualified and looked to be on track to improve on the leather medal from the 2016 Olympics. That was until a game of musical chairs broke out in the boat park mid-2019, and three crews switched.

There was no conclusive result from the 2019 Nacra 17 Worlds in Auckland, with the three crews finishing in the late teens overall. While there were some flashes of form in Auckland, their task in Geelong in three weeks will be to convince the NZ Olympic selectors that one of them is medal capable. Based on precedent that means a top 10 in the class worlds.

The heat is on.

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

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