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Sail-World NZ - June 30: Auckland's AC75 fleet doubles..Winter series get going...Jim Young

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 30 Jun 11:42 UTC 29 June 2020
American Magic arrives in Auckland - June 29, 2020 © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

Welcome to Sail-World.com's New Zealand e-magazine for June 30, 2020

After several weeks of animated suspension, the America's Cup finally felt like it had touched down in Auckland around 10.15 am, yesterday when the blue-hulled BBC Destiny rounded North Head with the first of the 2021 America's Cup Challengers AC75's tucked in her hold.

While American Magic's AC75, Defiant, was not to be seen, a stack of containers in front of the superstructure was the giveaway with "American Magic" stencilled on the side, and a white plastic-wrapped chase boat on top. The yacht was in the bowels of the ship and covered by hatches, blocking a view of the AC75.

It would seem that Executive Director Terry Hutchinson's big gamble has paid off - both getting an AC75 into Fortress New Zealand and getting the first (NZ Resident) team members through the Coalition Government's quarantine process. Their second AC75 is due into New Zealand in September.

Getting into New Zealand as soon as possible would seem to be a smart move, as the COVID19 quarantine system was declared to be "under extreme stress" after an audit called last week by the change of management in charge of the lockup. It would seem likely that in future there will be some restriction on numbers - as many Kiwis make the decision to return home - and some are entering New Zealand testing positive for the coronavirus.

Monday was supposed to be the first sail, for ETNZ's Te Aihe. The AC75 arrived back in Auckland a month ago, after a four-month absence. Strong winds cancelled the Monday session, but she had a three hour session in light to moderate breezes on Tuesday.

In today's session Te Aihe seemed to be wearing the same style of wide span bulbless wings that she had on her final sail in New Zealand, back in mid-January.

Te Aihe is expected to be fitted with the more promising of the design creations that have been developed in her absence by ETNZ's design team and tested on the half-size AC75 - Te Kahu.

The most apparent changes/experiments have been on wing shapes - with bulbed wings being tested against variations of bulb-less wings. Remember ETNZ was the outlier when the first AC75's were launched - with the kiwis being the only ones to feature a set of long, probably maximum span wings without a centre bulb or fuselage to get the shorter, lower drag wings up to weight. They stayed that way until January, and then Te Kahu began sporting bulbs of various styles.

When Te Kahu emerged after the lockdown she appeared to be a lot more stable in her flight height - whether that was because of their use of an onboard computer, improved wings, or the crew had worked out a new technique in the simulator. That is theirs to know and for others to find out.

Politicians willing, INEOS Team UK are expected into New Zealand sometime in August, with Luna Rossa projected to come into Auckland at the end of September and be sailing on October 20.

While there is now a challenger's AC75 in town, we have yet to see any of the international crews and their families leave the USA/Europe/UK and go into quarantine in New Zealand. Some having had their Applications in since March - how long does this take - particularly when they are paying for their own accommodation and supervision?

Sadly the Youth America's Cup appears to be in a similar situation, with 17 teams from 12 countries as paid-up entries - who have to get themselves on the Coalition Government's approved event list. But as we have pointed out previously, there are ten different groups that should be on the exempted list for an America's Cup - of which the Youth America's Cup group are but one.

Late yesterday evening, Emirates Team New Zealand issued a media release claiming they had "informants" in the midst of their event organisation, America's Cup Event Ltd. Not surprisingly this set off a media feeding frenzy, at the start of the quiet part of the week for sports news. We haven't attempted to peel this onion in this edition - maybe later in the week. Suffice to say that maybe it is time to back up the truck, and remember how the Americas Cup is structured according to the Deed of Gift.

Simply it says that the winner has the right to organise the next event, in its waters, and under its rules - and forms its own commercial arm (some would say tentacle) to extract money to cover the costs of the event, provide income for the defending team, or in the case of ACM in 2007 provide a multi-million dividend for the challengers.

Already in this Cup the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment has probably set an America's Cup record for political involvement - from the long discourse over the venue, which stalemated. Sorting out immigration issues (no non-NZ residents have yet got across the border). Or funding the Event to the tune of USD25million - which historically is very cheap given that it includes a venue fee, free spectator viewing, free TV coverage for NZ viewers, and the right to market NZ Inc off the back of the America's Cup.

Last week the chit-chat out of Wellington had it that the America's Cup might have to be postponed or compressed, as it was felt that some international media might not want to come into New Zealand for the Christmas Cup in mid-December, fly home for Christmas and then jet back into New Zealand sometime in January for the Prada Cup and then the America's Cup in March or later.

One slight problem with that - international media aren't on the NZ Government's border exemption list either - so quite how the "international media" were going to fly in and out of New Zealand would have been interesting - let alone quarantine twice.

The postponement story did get some traction in the media despite not having any basis in fact, and still lies unresolved.

It underlined the impression that like so much of the America's Cup organization, at a governmental level, there is no big picture and matters are handled on an issue by issue basis, like politics.

There are a number of sound reasons as to why there cannot be a postponement of the America's Cup.

Firstly on safety grounds. Under the original program, the teams should now have had two regattas in Cagliari and Portsmouth which would have given the crews and officials the opportunity to resolve many issues associated with racing the new class and boat type.

Safety was a major issue in the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco, after a crew member died following a catastrophic structural failure on the Swedish challenger, Artemis Racing, in a practice session.

The Principal Race Officer for the 36th America's Cup is Australian Iain Murray - a current world champion, a top designer, and PRO for the 2013 and 2017 America's Cups as well as the SailGP series.

Murray was uncompromising on safety - after the fatal incident in the leadup to the 2013 America's Cup. He quickly instituted his own safety changes, when the Committee set up to inquire into the incident, failed to make recommendations.

In Bermuda there were two racing incidents involving serious boat damage. The first when Team New Zealand was shunted at the start of the final practice race, and the British AC50's bow went through the kiwi's topside. Land Rover BAR skipper Ben Ainslie later dismissed the incident as a "love tap".

He was not quite so chipper in a second incident on the opening day of the America's Cup Qualifiers when the Brits boarded Softbank Team Japan during the prestart incident. The damage to the British boat was massive, requiring six metres of the hull to be cut away, and they came close to sinking when the boat arrived back at the dock.

These two incidents involved crews who were well experienced having raced against each other for several years in one design wingsailed foiling catamarans of a similar size to the AC50's.

The safety can't be sorted out a week or so ahead of the start of the Prada Cup. We do know that two AC75's have performed "Sky jumps" leaving both leaving the water completely in moderate winds - with one capsizing. Racing under pressure is a completely different situation from lone practice or working in the simulator, and having your first racing regatta just a week or two before the start of the Prada Cup is not a good move.

Testing out the Umpiring system should also have been done in Cagliari and Portsmouth. The Liveline system used by booth umpires in the 2013 and 2017 America's Cup will not be used in the 2021 America's Cup and a new system will be used.

The teams, officials and developers need to work together to resolve umpiring and rules issues with on the water trials ahead of the regattas. A three day Christmas Cup regatta held in mid-December, with several days of practice racing allowed, is minimal.

Specifically the AC75's have the minor matter of how carbon foil arms and wings are handled in the racing rules - and how that treatment is overlaid into the umpiring. Initial thinking was that there would be a virtual boundary created around each boat encompassing the foil arm and wing. But given the issues which occur with on the water boundaries, where AC45's/AC50's and AC72's frequently sail over the virtual sidelines despite all manner of warning lights. Quite how a virtual boat works in the reality of an AC75 match racing start is something that needs to be sorted out well in advance of the Prada Cup.

The astonishing aspect of the postponement storyline is quite how it gets so much traction in the face of so much evidence to the contrary. Each week we have a repeat of the same drama, different storyline. What will it be next week? This political vacillation has to stop and ETNZ left, through its Event arm to run the Cup.

On the New Zealand front it was great to see racing back up to near-full strength over the weekend, as the sport in New Zealand shakes off the Lockdown Blues - despite some inclement winter weather. We have a couple of image galleries in this edition, and look forward to running many more as we celebrate the end of the Lockdowns.

Finally we note the sad passing of Jim Young, one of New Zealand's great designers and boat builders, and an outstanding sailor on his day (of which there were many). We feature a tribute to Jim (click here). His life will be celebrated at Royal NZ Yacht Squadron on Friday, July 3 at 2.00pm.

For all the latest news from NZ and around the world see the Top 50 stories below.

Between newsletters, you can follow all the racing and developments in major and local events on www.sail-world.com/nz or by scrolling to the top of the site, select New Zealand, and get all the latest news and updates from the sailing world.

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

Please forward your news stories and images directly to Sail-World NZ as text in the email and attach images in the standard way for emails. Our email address is sailworldnzl@gmail.com

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