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The America's Cup is New Zealand's Cup, again

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World.com on 26 Jun 2017
Emirates Team NZ crosses the finish line to win the 35th America's Cup - America's Cup 2017, June 26, 2017 - Great Sound Bermuda Richard Gladwell www.photosport.co.nz
Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron created sailing history to become the first club to regain the America's Cup, after Emirates Team New Zealand won Race 9 of the 35th Match on the Great Sound, Bermuda.

Two races were scheduled, but only the first was required with the New Zealand team, trailing at Mark 1, but passing the Defender on the second leg and then sailing away to a series win by a margin of 54secs.

The outcome of the race was never in doubt, once Emirates Team New Zealand gybed first and was able to sail a faster angle to the second mark.

Despite the changes made to Oracle Team USA, they started with a bigger jib than the New Zealand team who looked to be rigged more for conditions in the 9-12kt range That was an ambitious call as it turned out, with the breeze never getting above 9kts.

Once again Emirates Team New Zealand looked to have the better of the start again taking up the leeward position allowing Jimmy Spithill to take the windward slot at the start. The US team seemed to be rigged for a fast first leg and despite having to sail the longer distance they shot over the top of the New Zealanders and had a 4 second lead at the first mark.

Normally that should have set the stage for a race win, which would have got the Americans back on the Comeback trail, but it was not to be. Emirates Team New Zealand put 22 seconds on OTUSA on the next beat and then kept a loose cover to seal the race and wrest the America's Cup from the Golden Gate Yacht Club.

Ashore the fans celebrated a mix of joy and relief.

The joy was for the outstanding performance and indeed survival of the team, which had withstood attack after attack off the water since losing to Oracle Team USA in 2013 in a series that spanned three weeks and ran across 19 races.

Add to that the one second loss in the seventh race of the 2007 America's Cup in Valencia, the ignominy of the 2003 defeat and loss of the America's Cup on the Hauraki Gulf in the second defence.

Further back is the break up of the then Team New Zealand following the luring of key sailors to Swiss Challenger Alinghi.

There were plenty of lurking demons in the Kiwi America's Cup kitbag, which have been exorcised by today's win.


At the winner's media conference Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton set the agenda for a new era in the America's Cup but also in the sailing world noted for its fractured events - which work well in their own right - but don't work as a co-ordinated sport.

Having been involved in the sharp end of Whitbread, Volvo Ocean Race, and America's Cup campaigns, Dalton is well-placed to sort a practical solution to create viable competition without overarching agendas.

It seemed that there had been some discussions about the shape of the new America's Cup world to come, but little in the way of specifics that could be announced.

No surprise was the announcement of the next Challenger of Record, Circolo della Vela Sicilia (CVS) and its team Luna Rossa, which has a long and close association with New Zealand extending back to 2000.


The Italian team are on the same page in most respects to the new Defender, and the relationship is expected to be harmonious. Several members of Luna Rossa joined Emirates Team New Zealand, on loan, after the Italian Challenger of Record for the 2017 America's Cup exited following the majority decision to change the class from the AC62 to the AC50 -
without the unanimous support of all the teams, nine months after the AC62 had been announced.

Their departure went hand in hand with the withdrawal of the Qualifiers for the 35th America's Cup from Auckland. The Emirates Team New Zealand claim was later upheld by the Arbitration Panel for the 35th America's Cup.

Today's win hits system reset on the America's Cup as it was yesterday.

Grant Dalton also made reference to the so-called 'Framework' of which five of the teams in the 2017 America's Cup were signatories.

While he did not dismiss the document and concept entirely, and in fact commented that ETNZ (and probably Luna Rossa) supported many aspects of it, there would now be discussions as to the way ahead.

It seems likely that some direction will come out in the next two weeks or so, sparing the sailing world, the hiatus of the of the past decade or more - where six months or more would lapse before the Protocol was announced, then more delay until the boat was made known - only to be changed and tweaked. Then there was the speculation and eventual announcement over the venue and date.

The basic questions have been answered today. Transparency looks like being one of the catch-cry's of the next America's Cup.


The 36th America's Cup will be sailed in 2021 (probably February/March). It will be sailed in Auckland, New Zealand. The Challenger of Record is an established team in the America's Cup with a wealth of experience and wisdom in the Cup - and importantly the Challenger of Record comes from Europe and the northern hemisphere.

The only question unanswered is the boat. It seems hard to believe that the AC50 will not be used in some way - the issue being to find a design that is sufficiently seaworthy to stand the rigors of the Hauraki Gulf.

Although the America's Cup is a Challenger driven event - and it is the challenger's prerogative to name the boat, not the Defenders. However one key advantage with Luna Rossa is that they sailed an AC72 on the Hauraki Gulf in early 2013, and are familiar with the issues. Obviously Emirates Team New Zealand will have a lot of input, but a workable outcome is all but certain.

Other questions to be answered are Base location Nationality, Constructed in Country, and the way the television and media package is put together - with the latter being vital to the sponsored teams.

But all in good time.













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