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America's Cup: The Defender explains the complex Challenge process

by Emirates Team New Zealand 29 Nov 2018 01:51 PST 29 November 2018
How many Challengers will toss their hats in the ring for the 36th America's Cup? © Emirates Team New Zealand

The America’s Cup is renown as one of the most difficult competitions in international sport to win. Just entering the America’s Cup itself is no small feat either.

To enter the 36th America’s Cup is no longer a matter of just ‘throwing your hat in the ring’.

The deadline for late entries to be submitted to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron for the 36th America’s Cup is at 5.00 pm of the 30th November NZT.

Any Notice of Challenge needs to be carefully examined to meet requirements imposed by both the Deed of Gift and the 36th America’s Cup Protocol before acceptance of entry is granted.

As per the Deed of Gift a challenger, in order to be accepted, must be an "organized Yacht Club of a foreign country.... having for its annual regatta on ocean water course on the sea, or on an arm of the sea...."

In addition, under the Protocol which governs the rules of the 36th America’s Cup, a challenging Yacht Club has to meet further criteria: has been in existence for a minimum of three years, maintains a membership of 200 members, is financially supported by its members on a pro rata basis, has objectives consistent with the furtherance of yachting activities and is a member of its National Sailing Authority. These are all specific criteria that are subject to due diligence.

If any further information or clarification is required relating to the Notice of Challenge, the challenging yacht Club will be asked to provide the information within a time limit which will be specified by the Defender depending upon the type of information required.

Once that level of scrutiny is complete the entry can be formally accepted.

Seems easy enough? Not so fast.

Just like an offer to buy a house, it is not uncommon for entries received to have specific conditions tied to the Notice of Entry.

These could be such requirements as an entry being conditional on an ACWS regatta being confirmed in the country of the Challenger.

Other entries might require specific changes to the Protocol in order for the challenging team to comply with it. For example, a team may need a Protocol exemption from a requirement to compete in an ACWS regatta because of the late timing of the build of their race yacht will prohibit the ability to compete in the first regatta.

Any challenges which will require amendments to the Protocol must be agreed between the Defender and the Challenger of Record before their challenge can be officially accepted.

Once that hurdle is overcome the questions on everyone’s lips will be: Who are they? Where are they from? Who is the Skipper?

Unfortunately for eager America’s Cup followers, the ball is not entirely in the court of the Defender. The announcement of the acceptance of a challenge by Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron is made in conjunction with the Challenger and will depend upon when they wish to make a public announcement about it.

They will need time to confirm and contract their team and announce their challenge to win the oldest trophy in international sport.

What can we expect to be announced after today 5.00pm Friday November 30, 2018 NZT (or 4.00am November 30, 2018 UTC).

The number of Notices of Challenge formally received.

And then the acceptance assessment process begins.

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