Emirates Team NZ and Luna Rossa have announced the first ever formal collaboration between two teams in the 160 year history of the America's Cup.
The world's most successful professional sailing team will partner with a three times America's Cup challenger, Luna Rossa to collaborate on design, build and performance within the time frames permitted by the 34th America's Cup Protocol.
While the Italian team headed once again by Patrizio Bertelli, did not name a skipper or designer, the team does have a couple of directions, given it is competing on the Extreme 40 circuit, along with Emirates Team NZ. It could us the Extreme 40 crew as its core for the AC45 and AC72, or Luna Rossa could pull together a team of sailors who have served them well in the past, and engage these in a coaching type role, while engaging new young sailing talent.
Bertelli has always had the ability to bring together a top crew, and his fourth America's Cup campaign is likely to be no different. In three campaigns, Bertelli's team has made two Louis Vuitton Cup finals, and was the America's Cup Challenger in 2000, in Auckland.
The agreement between the teams means that both will build boats to the same design, and both will be constructed in New Zealand, presumably by the Cookson Yard. It is expected that Emirates Team NZ's trio of key suppliers - Cookson's, Southern Spars and North sails will be involved in both projects.
The deal is layered with restrictions imposed by the 34th Protocol governing the next America's Cup in San Francisco.
First of these is the 1 July 2012 launch date for the first AC72. Our guess is that Emirates Team NZ will hit this date, or maybe earlier if they can show they had a contract in placed geared to an earlier launch date, prior to this clause in the Protocol being changed.
The advantage of getting an early launch is that Emirates Team NZ would be able to get full scale performance data on a key item, which can be incorporated in the design of the second AC72.
It is expected that both teams will launch sometime in July or August, and that the boats will be to identical designs using the Emirates Team NZ design team, and suppliers.
The advantage to Emirates Team NZ of this arrangement is that they get the benefit of a two boat program to check out the AC72 options without 'spending' their second boat to get this significant gain in the new class and type.
'From a co-operation point of view this is totally open book,' said Emirates Team NZ CEO, Grant Dalton. 'Luna Rossa will get the exact design of our Boat 1. We are building two boats for the next America's Cup. And we will build that boat for them.
'We will then share testing information on the water. We will make alterations to the boats - and we will find out what works and what doesn't. It also allows us to get testing a little earlier, than you would normally able able to do under the rules,' he added.
The advantage to Luna Rossa is that the highly regarded Italian team are able to catch up a lot of time and design thinking, effectively winding back their clock to an October 2010 start - when Emirates Team NZ had assembled their 30 strong design team, which includes some of the best brains in the multihull and wingsail world.
Split forced in 2013
The two teams can train together and share design and performance information until the start of the year of the America's Cup, specifically 1 January 2013. However that date is something of a nonsense, as the teams can launch a second boat by 1 February 2013, and all the major design designs will have to have been made by then and the boats will be all but built at the time the America's Cup Protocol requires that they separate.
Come 1 February 2013, on paper, both teams will have an AC72 each which has been worked up against the other, and will then have a unique design for each to test against this benchmark.
While the Protocol prevents the sharing of design and performance information between the two teams, it doesn't preclude the team having a very close training relationship, and for performance teams independently measuring the others performance, if they knew gear codes etc.
Effectively the training process continues, despite the Protocol, all the teams cannot do is have any form of formal design or performance meeting, quite how inter-team chats will be prevents in a bar, for instance, remains to be seen.
Other teams using conventional design, performance and training processes will be operating within their own knowledge base only.
'This deal is significant for Emirates Team NZ, it makes us a stronger team', explains Dalton. 'By joining with an established team like Luna Rossa and sharing design information and then us building their boats it gives us a better opportunity to beat Oracle Racing.
'We get Luna Ross'a ideas, and they get ours. But we find out where they are at. And in a new class like this it is green fields, you can't guarantee that you are covering all the bases, and this will hep to shut down options that we might otherwise have missed.'
Both teams will have their wings clipped with the limitation on sailing time imposed by the Protocol which limits them to just 30 days between 1 July 2012 and 31 Jan 2013 - that is just five days sailing each month for six months.
Once the second AC72's are launched notionally on 1 Feb 2013, the teams will have a further 45 days permitted until 1 May 2013 or 15 days a month.
Beyond 1 May 2013 there is no restriction on sailing days - meaning the two teams could trains individually or together at will.
Another advantage of the two teams approach is that both Luna Rossa and Emirates Team NZ get to be able to trial match racing tactics in the new 72ft catamaran class. In contrast to in-house racing, the individual team approach allows fresh thinking, particularly important in the period post 1 January 2013.
Significant savings and benefits
For both teams the arrangement is cost effective with the tooling up and building costs being shared on the construction of the first two boats. Similarly for the wing and soft sails, with gear being able to be swapped between the two boats and pooled in an extreme sharing scenario.
Put simply, Emirates Team NZ get an America's Cup experienced tune up partner. Luna Rossa gets to catch up the time they have lost by late entry. Both get cost sharing on common items. That also includes savings for both teams in crew numbers as only one AC72 is required by each, but they get to run a two-boat program.
The possibilities of this partnership are almost limitless, and aside from the design and building co-operation could also extend to crew training. While Luna Rossa run a very good Extreme 40 program, they have no experience with wingsails - and need to come up to speed in this area. For Emirates Team NZ's viewpoint the tradeoff will be whether it is worth training Luna Rossa crew on the wingsail technology, versus schooling up what should be a strong competitor in 2013.
The upside for Emirates Team NZ is that it is in their interest to make Luna Rossa as strong as they can in the first 12 months, as the strength of Luna Rossa is going to be directly reflected in the strength of the two boat testing program. In other words the quicker both teams can come up to speed in two testing with the AC72's the better they will both be in 2013.
A big benefit for New Zealand is the basing of the highly popular Italian team in Auckland for 12 months, at least and the construction of a second base in the Viaduct harbour.
That will put in place a significant tourist attraction as visitors to Auckland will now have the opportunity to see two America's Cup teams in action on a regular basis augmenting the already sailing tourism offerings.
'The New Zealand marine industry benefits hugely from this', Dalton explains. 'The boat alone is something like 60,000 hours (30 man years) just to build. Then there is a wider economic impact. They will be bringing up to 60 people together with their families to New Zealand to live for an extended period until we all ship out to San Francisco in April 2013.'
'They will build a base to house themselves. Basically Luna Rossa comes back to New Zealand. They were the darling team of the 2000 and 2003 America's Cup - and they are coming back,' Dalton adds.
In short it is very hard to find any downside in this deal for either party.
Sure, for Emirates Team New Zealand there is a potential negative of giving an historically strong rival and easy ride into the America's Cup. But the pluses of getting the best of both worlds - an identical boat training and development platform, plus the ability to spend the development boat option.
These options are just not available any other way, and by turning what was believed to be a constant in the traditional America's Cup game, into a variable - both teams have made a huge gain over the other teams.
A key point of interest will be in coming weeks, if other teams elect to tread a similar path.
America's Cup timelines say that it probably can't now happen. In which case two teams that share a total of 10 America's Cup campaigns between them, have made a significant gain.
AC45's in New Zealand, too?
Another point of interest lies on the AC45 front, with Luna Rossa now obliged to buy at least one of the boats manufactured by Core Builders Composites in Warkworth, New Zealand, together with the admission today that there is no Downunder venue confirmed for the America's Cup World Series - leaving a gap of over four months between regattas. It may be that Luna Rossa take delivery of their AC45 in Auckland, while Emirates Team NZ have theirs returned to NZ after the November series in San Diego, and the two are shipped/air freighted to the next round in Naples, Italy to arrive in April.
Quite why Luna Rossa would want to have an AC45 built in NZ, shipped to Naples, and indulge in some solo sailing, while the rest of the team is working in Auckland in the summer, is beyond this commentator. The more likely scanario will be that Emirates Team NZ's AC 45 crosses the Pacific, (San Diego being the closest point at which the America's Cup World Series gets to New Zealand) albeit by airfreight and the two teams get sailing in New Zealand from December to March.
Such an arrangement while logistically a little difficult, would give both teams the opportunity to spend at least three months working together, while the other teams were forced to twiddle their thumbs, or indulge in in-house racing. It would also allow the teams to keep the SL33's as a development platform, while the AC45's could be the match racing platform, without increasing costs for either team.
Only the Defender, Oracle Racing, own more than one AC45 (they now own four of the one design catamarans). Emirates Team NZ own two SL33's which are dual use match racers and development platforms, however the prospect of getting a solid workout in the Hauraki Gulf over the New Zealand summer, would have to be for the benefit of both the Italian and New Zealand teams.
One thing is for sure, while Luna Rossa may have been able to turn back the clock with this partnership and at a very modest cost compared to the other top tier teams, they cannot go to sleep for the rest of the time remaining to July 2013, and the start of the Challenger Selection Series in San Francisco.
From here the Italians will have to spend every available hour just as fruitfully as Emirates Team New Zealand, otherwise this partnership will not realize its potential, and could pull the New Zealand team down, as well.