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America's Cup: Raft of Protocol changes as more Challengers emerge

by Richard Gladwell, 13 Sep 2018 02:08 PDT 13 September 2018
Hologram - America's Cup Overture © Carlo Borlenghi

Emirates Team New Zealand say they are "dealing with five further possible challengers and although we cannot say with any certainty how many of them will proceed".

The comment came in Evidence lodged with the Environment Court, by Emirates Team New Zealand in response to calls for the number of bases to be reduced. Only three Challenges had been received at the time of the Resource Consent Application Hearing seeking to get the go-ahead for the America's Cup base construction in Auckland.

The spokesman for the team added: "I am confident RNZYS will be receiving a formal challenge from the first of those teams in the coming weeks. This team has advised ETNZ it intends building two race yachts and may yet be seeking to be allocated a double base for their operation."

The comment was more definitive than earlier Evidence given by the team which indicated that they were dealing with five challengers and qualified their remarks by saying: "We are not expecting all of them to proceed and I cannot say with any certainty how many will."

The addition of one new Challenger will mean that the Semi-Final for the Prada Cup will become a four-boat affair meaning that two teams instead of just one will be eliminated.

The entry of a second new Challenger will put a real edge into the Round Robin phase of the Prada Cup - with one team being eliminated at the end of the first round, and there are no carry over points from the America's Cup World Series to distort the Prada Cup points totals.

If what is being said regarding entries by Emirates Team NZ actually comes to fruition the argument about compressing the plans for Amerivca's Cup 36 bases, looks more than a little flawed. And, if Team New Zealand does follow the statistical trend and defend successfully, then space on Wynyard Point will be need to be extended to accommodate more than five Challenging teams.

Design strategies affected by Protocol Change

In late August, the Defender and Challenger of Record for the 36th America's Cup published a raft of Protocol Changes.

Covering eight pages the most significant change is the allowance of alterations to the hull surface of both AC75's owned by a team, while previously teams were allowed to change the surface of one hull only.

The way that would have worked would have meant that teams building two boats would have been expected to use the first as a true development boat, made any alterations required to that and then built their second boat incorporating the design changes

Under the previous version of the Protocol, hull alteration of the one boat only was restricted to 25% of the hull surface area, now that has been downsized to 12.5% but on each boat.

With only three Challengers confirmed - all the so-called "Super Teams" - it is not surprising that the rules have been changed to suit the entered teams, who are expected to build two AC75's each plus the usual fleet of smaller boats which outwardly look to be useful, but in retrospect were only a distraction.

The problem with the former rule restricting alteration on the surface of just one hull would have affected the design development cycle.

The issue with the rule as it stood, is that the hull surface of the second boat (able to be launched 10.5 months after the first) could not be altered once she had been splashed, assuming the team had modified the hull surface of the first launched in some way.

While the design cut-off dates under the old rule, would have varied from team to team, the effect would have been similar in that the teams would have had to lock off their development and design for the external hull shape of the second boat, about 5-6 months after the launch of the first boat.

The difficulty with the old rule which allowed changes only to one boat, is that it became a game of pitching launch dates and design and build timelines which could have become very complicated.

The effect of the new rule is to relieve that pressure, and the teams can now do what ever development they like to either hull whenever they like, right up to the start of the regatta.

With the revamped timelines the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand probably gives up some advantage.

The Defender does not have to be ready to race until the beginning of March, three months later than the start of the Prada Cup for Challengers, normally the home team would have the advantage of an extra three months of development.

Now, the gain for the Defender, and to some extent the Challengers, is that if they spot a breakthrough development on another boat they can copy it onto one boat and test.

The sting in the new rule that the teams are limited to altering just 12.5% of the surface area of the hull, which prohibits wholesale rebuilds.

In the first version of the Protocol issued last September, the teams are also still limited to sailing one boat at a time - and the long days of working through a daily two-boat test schedule are also gone. The Defender was always allowed to start two-boat racing and testing but only once the Prada Cup gets underway.

The rest of the rule changes appear to be housekeeping which is to be expected once the Arbitration Panel has been appointed, and after input has been received from the entered teams.

Several of the rule changes relate to liability and indemnity of organisers and officials, including stating that the responsibility for the reliability of supplied parts, such as the rigging package and foil canting mechanism, remains with the Team and not the supplier.

A key date for teams comes in just over two weeks at the end of September, when the Performance Bond of USD$1million must be deposited.

A second key date has just passed being September 1 the counting of the 380 days for residency of non-nationals of a team began and must be complete by August 31, 2020.

Late entries close on November 30, 2018, however Emirates Team New Zealand have said that even this date will be extended if necessary by the Defender and Challenger making a suitable amendment to the Protocol.

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