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America's Cup - Dalton opens up on boat and options for next Cup

by Richard Gladwell, on 18 Sep 2017
Grant Dalton holds the America’s Cup aloft in Bermuda, as Luna Rossa’s Max Sirena looks on and applauds, knowing the deal cut two years earlier would now come to fruition. Richard Gladwell
Italian media are reporting that the announcement of the Protocol for the 36th America's Cup will take place in Auckland on the morning of the 29th September.

Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron have previously indicated that the announcement will take place at their clubrooms in Auckland's Westhaven Marina.

Although no details of the Protocol have been leaked yet, in the Italian media, two media outlets are reporting that the Challenger Selection Series previously known as the Louis Vuitton Cup/Playoff Trophy will now be known as the Prada Cup.

If correct that would indicate the end of one of the longest sponsorships in sport, with the French luxury goods manufacturer and retailer having been involved as the naming rights sponsor of the Challenger Selection Series since 1983.

The initiator of that Challenger Series and supremo/ring master of the Louis Vuitton Cup, Bruno Trouble is also reported to be heavily involved in the organisation of the Challenger Series. Trouble was in Auckland for the welcome home parade through the City and on the harbour, including riding on the official boat with the Emirates Team New Zealand team members and the America's Cup itself. Although he was ostensibly in town to visit Tara, Sir Peter Blake's former Seamaster, now owned by Trouble's sister his inclusion in the official party for the Victory Parade would indicate that he was here for more than just a social visit.

Overnight in the Italian newspaper La Stampa an extensive interview with Emirates Team New Zealand CEO, Grant Dalton was published. La Stampa had a similar interview with Luna Rossa Patron, Patrizio Bertelli where he revealed that the monohull/multihull option - due to be announced at the time of the Protocol release - was decided in favour of the monohull. While Emirates Team New Zealand initially refused to confirm deny, three hours later they confirmed that the boat would be a 'high-performance monohull'.

Overnight a further report/interview by Fabio Pozza (who broke the monohull story) has been published in La Stampa with Emirates Team New Zealand CEO, Grant Dalton. In the interview, he says that the details of the boat to be used and presumably the class rule for the 36th America's Cup will be revealed on November 30, 2017.

The nationality clause will only apply to sailing crew and will be a percentage, rather than an absolute number.

He says the decision to go to monohulls was made after discussions with Luna Rossa about two years ago.

On the basis of research in the upcoming book 'Lone Wolf' on Emirates Team New Zealand that would place the deal about the time that Emirates Team New Zealand cut a deal in August 2015 to obtain gear and personnel from the Italians who had self-ejected from the 35th America's Cup five months earlier in April 2015. That move came after the unilateral change in class from the AC62 to the AC50 by a majority vote 3-2 of the Challengers and approved by Defender Oracle Team USA/GGYC. It enabled the Italians to remain in contact with the America's Cup and had the call on the class to be used for the 36th America's Cup, if Emirates Team NZ prevailed in Bermuda.

Grant Dalton, as Team New Zealand’s CEO you can tell us: what boats will we see in the next America’s Cup?

'Large and powerful monohulls, a development class. Technologically advanced yachts (it’s a return to monohulls, not a return to the past, echoes TNZ Principal de Nora) that demand highly competent sailors.'

Goodbye to the sailing cyclists we saw in Bermuda?

'Grinders are coming back'.

Yachts with foils?

'More details will be released on November 30th'.

At the end of this month, you will make the Protocol public with the new rules for the 36th America’s Cup. They include nationality clauses: will they regard both men and equipment?

'No, only the sailors. There will be a percentage that must carry a passport from the challenging country'.

The finals for the Cup will be in Auckland in 2021. Various countries will host pre-America’s Cup racing: when and with which yachts?

'In 2019 and 2020, with the same yachts as the finals'.

The alliance with Luna Rossa: a mere budgetary consideration?

'We’ve always been friendly. The friendship was transformed into an alliance in 2015, when Oracle, the defender, changed the cards on the table with the help of other teams. They shortened the catamaran to be sailed in the Cup match, cancelling any progress made in research by Luna Rossa (Bertelli withdrew in protest).

'They cancelled an event and the Qualifiers already scheduled to take place in Auckland, leading our government to cut funding to the team, penalizing it (the Kiwi’s later won a court decision against Oracle who had to pay hefty damages).

'At this point, we realised that we would be on our own, they started calling us the ‘Lone Wolves’ (here Dalton laughs), and we realized that to win the Cup and change the way things were done we needed a partner that had our same vision. An ally who would be honest, transparent, dependable. We found this ally in Patrizio Bertelli. The economic aspects came afterwards'.

And when did you decide to return to monohulls?

'We first thought about it two years ago with Bertelli. In June, after the victory, we consulted with some potential challengers, and that confirmed that we were on the right track.'

But that way you lost the advantage acquired with the catamarans.

'Let me start by saying that we believe our design team is capable of giving us another great yacht, and that catamarans wouldn’t be ideal for the chop in Auckland. But I want it to be clear that winning the America’s Cup is a privilege, a privilege that includes the duty to safeguard its sporting value. That comes before individual advantage.'

Well, in any case, you decide it all.

'That’s not correct. The Defender doesn’t have absolute power. The Deed of Gift, the Magna-Carta for the trophy, requires that mutual consent be the basis for working with the challenger’s representatives. Only that, dazed by years of the defender’s regime, and with marionettes as Challengers of Record, we had lost sight of this'.

What kind of America’s Cup will it be?

'Fair, with clear rules. And for the general public. Not alienating like Bermuda, there even the sailors didn’t understand what was going on.'

Will there be a lot of Challengers?

'We hope so. We’ll create all the necessary conditions.'

All Challengers and Defenders have vacated Bermuda, but except Emirates Team New Zealand the bases remain, including that of Artemis Racing at Morgan's Point in Bermuda. Between them the five teams which are signatories to the Framework, an agreement which covered the conduct of the 36th America's Cup if one of the signatories prevailed as Defender/Challenger. Between those five team, they own 18 foiling America's Cup multihulls in the AC50-50 range. Plus there is a further fleet of eight AC45's used in the Red Bull Youth America's Cup.

That event was won by British team Land Rover BAR with Emirates Team New Zealand placing second in an event that was seen as instrumental in developing talent to step up into successive America's Cups.

Whether Oracle Team USA will compete has already been done to death in the New Zealand media, and their continuance will depend on several obvious factors.

Hardest hit by any nationality rule will be Sweden's Artemis Racing and Softbank Team Japan, who had just three crew each - all grinders - who complied with the very soft nationality requirements for the 35th America's Cup. Of the remaining teams, the Groupama Team France (FRA) struggled financially, and with time frames for the 35th America's Cup and are believed to be unlikely to return in an America's Cup for which bigger budgets will be required than in 2017 with the one-design, short crewed multihull.

Of the other teams, only Land Rover BAR would seem to be definitely on the starting blocks for 2017. The British team will be unaffected by a sailing crew nationality rule, have a substantial base in Portsmouth UK, and have well developed and functioning support and feeder programs - which both provide a talent pathway into the team and sailing generally, and which provide visible competition.

The day after the Bertelli interview in La Stampa Land Rover BAR commented: 'To date, we have not received any information from Emirates Team New Zealand on the new class of boat for the 36th America's Cup. We look forward to reviewing the Protocol for AC36 in the near future and will react to that once it is released.'

The British team has already opened applications for the next intake of young British sailors aged 19-24 years to be selected for a programme under former British Olympic coach, Rob Andrews. Land Rover BAR undertake to provide the 'selected squad with a support platform that will enable them to realise their sporting potential through access to mentoring, coaching and sports science facilities at the home of Land Rover BAR, including workshops with the senior sailing team'.

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