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Gladwell's Line: Resolving the riddle of the Sixth Challenger

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 27 Dec 2018 03:35 PST 27 December 2018

Last Friday's mid-afternoon announcement, of the Sixth and maybe final Challenger for the 36th America's Cup was a departure from the practice to date.

With the other five, the standard has been to announce that a Challenge has been accepted and leave it to the Challenger to "out" themselves, at a time of their choosing.

The naming of the Clubs involved meant the latest Challenge could be linked back to a previously circulated memorandum from twice winner of the America's Cup, Simeon Tienpont (NED) addressed to the membership of the same two clubs, and seeking support for a tilt at the 36th America's Cup.

The Dutch entry is the first America's Cup foray for one of the world's top sailing nations - and indeed one with a long seafaring history. After all, was a Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, who was the first European to visit New Zealand back in 1642.

The Netherlands finished second on the nations leaderboard at the 2016 Olympics in Rio with two Golds in the Mens Windsurfer and Womens Singlehander. They topped that in the 2018 Hempel World Sailing Championships in August, by coming away with three Gold medals, two Silver and a Bronze from the ten Olympic events.

There were two Dutch skippered boats in the Volvo Ocean Race and around 14 Dutch nationals have competed in the Volvo Ocean Race since 2000. Carolijn Brouwer has three Volvo Ocean Races (including a race win in 2017/18), and three Olympic regattas in three classes (including multihulls) to her credit. Top boardsailor, and double Olympic champion Dorian van Rijsselberghe is another who has his hand up for America's Cup selection.

The Dutch challenge now brings the 36th America's Cup presented by Prada lineup to seven teams, the most since the 32nd Americas Cup in 2007 in Valencia.

If the six challengers do make it through to the 2021 America's Cup Regatta, that will indeed be an achievement for a number of reasons.

Firstly it is greater than the entries for Bermuda. Secondly, they are all independently funded, unlike the Challenger fleet in Bermuda where most seemed to owe some degree of favour to the Defender. Every action and result was considered in that light - including the infamous Framework Agreement, which bound five of the Challengers and Defender into a cabal.

In the media statement, Emirates Team NZ said they would be reaching out to both the series sponsor Prada and the Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa, to discuss further planning for the events in light of this exciting news.

It would seem that this is code for scheduling some new America's Cup World Series events in 2020. But that's not as simple as it seems.

Each ACWS event has an entry price tag of USD300,000 for each Challenger per event, as well as the costs of accommodation and freight. There's a time-cost too on the development side as the two-boat teams can train in Auckland after February 15, 2020. Yet the one boat teams are locked into ACWS competition, wherever it may be.

Only with the ACWS over can they high-tail it down to New Zealand and start getting their Auckland sailing time in when they arrive - probably about September/October 2020.

Meanwhile, the two boat teams - while they are allowed only to sail one boat at a time, can have one AC75 located in Auckland and the other at an ACWS venue - maximising their development and racing time. And to use a very hackneyed America's Cup phrase - "the rich get richer".

Then there was the line in the media statement that : "We are hoping and expect them [CVS/Luna Rossa] to embrace this latest entry in line with the underlying philosophy of the Americas Cup being a friendly competition between foreign countries."

The inference is that the Italians will need to sign-off on some Protocol changes before the Dutch Challenge can be accepted.

However, the opening paragraph in the media statement says the Challenge has been accepted - without mention of any qualification. Go figure.

For some time, it has been clear that some fundamental changes to the Protocol will be required.

It is too skewed towards the two boat teams.

There will have to be changes made in the rule requiring all teams to compete in the first America's Cup World Series event in Cagliari in October 2019. Unless the team has a boat underway now, they will not make this deadline. Two of the late entries would appear to be in this category.

Then there are the issues we have covered before - the 380-day residency requirement, for non-resident crews; and allowing the payment of Entry Fees and Late Fees onto the same time payment system that is there for the earlier entered Super teams .

The parting shot in the media statement Emirates Team New Zealand/RNZYS say they have "advised the Auckland Council and Government that if there ultimately are not six challengers, there is an option not to build the Hobson Wharf extension as five teams can be accommodated on Wynyard Point saving taxpayer money."

If this five challenger scenario were to play out, then Luna Rossa would have the first choice of the bases on Wynyard Point - of which there are three double bases and three single.

There is an inference through the statement that CVS/Luna Rossa are trying to restrict the number of Challengers - maybe that's the Italian reaction to the tsunami of eight late Notices of Challenge which erupted on the final day for such entries.

And maybe there is a degree of self-preservation kicking in.

With six Challengers in the Prada Cup, two go home after the Qualification phase and are eliminated before the Semi-Final.

That is a fairly serious situation for all teams, but particularly the three "Super Teams".

It is even more so for the Prada sponsored Luna Rossa, who are also the Event Sponsor.

For Prada, the event sponsor, more teams mean more TV coverage, and because this Cup is organised along strong national lines, there should be a more enthusiastic following and fervour.

Obviously, the best scenario for Prada is to have their team, Luna Rossa, go against the Defender in the Match (and win).

The addition of every new Challenger dilutes the chances of this happening.

As we saw in 2017 and 2007, the chance of upset wins at crucial points of the Challenger Selection Series is always possible.

The much-maligned Groupama Team France finished Round Robin 1 in the 2017 Louis Vuitton Trophy with two wins, the same as LVT Finalist Artemis Racing, who the French beat on the second day of the regatta. Softbank Team Japan also finished the round with just two wins.

Who can forget when Team China handed BMW Oracle Racing a 3min 15 sec thumping on the opening day of Round Robin 2 in the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup?

Of course, Emirates Team New Zealand are immune from early elimination - they have automatic entry into the Main Event.

No place for the "heavy (85kg) man"

The World Sailing Annual Conference ended almost two months ago. The moves to have the controversial vote on the 2024 Olympic Events, and Mixed One Person Dinghy re-opened were confirmed at a special Council Meeting, just before Christmas. So too was the decision to substitute the Mixed Two Person Offshore Keelboat event, in place of the Mixed One Person Dinghy. The latter was set to be the last stand for the venerable Finn class to retain its

That effectively means the Bigger Boys are out of the 2024 Olympics.

Of course, the panjandrums of World Sailing will claim that the males above 85kg can switch to the yet to be chosen Offshore Keelboat or the Kite. But that view does not seem to be shared by the sailors contemplating their options in the 2024 Olympics and elsewhere.

Finn sailor Nicolas Heiner (29) and the currently #1 ranked Finn sailor in the World reacted to the World Sailing decision as is reported in Italian sailing website FareVela and auto-translated below from Italian.

More and more classes are mixed gender, because the World Sailing Association strives for more equality between men and women in sailing. In theory, the Finn does not fit, because it is a sailing class for men. Heiner: "By making this choice the 'heavy man' of 85 kilos or more falls outside the boat. There is no alternative for us."

Heiner is now focusing on Tokyo 2020, where Finn will last appear at the start of an Olympic Games. "I train for Japan, that is far enough, then I look further."

The International Finn Association (IFA) says that they are very disappointed. Especially for the young Finn sailors who have ambitions for the Olympic Games in 2024, it is very unfortunate. In a statement on their website, the IFA indicates that they are doing everything to get the Finn class back on the program.

According to Heiner there is confusion among Olympic sailors. They wonder whether offshore sailing should be an Olympic discipline; "Because if you want to sail offshore at the highest level, then there is already the Volvo Ocean Race or the Golden Globe Race."

Olympic sailing has always been accessible and low-threshold, will that still be the case with this new class? The sailors fear that the Olympic campaigns will become more expensive. Heiner: "Transporting and storing a keel boat is already a big job."

With the acceptance of the Dutch America's Cup Challenge, coupled with the knowledge that several Finn sailors are once again running combined Olympic and America's Cup campaigns maybe Heiner will do the same, before heading for Olympic Sailing's exit door after Tokyo.

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