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Am Cup Rialto: Nationality decision, World Series, Malta change and Base construction

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 31 Jan 05:37 PST 1 February 2019
Luna Rossa Challenge is based in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy © Giordana Pipornetti, Luna Rossa Challenge

A look at the current news and developments on the 36th America's Cup including base construction, Britannia for Auckland, Nationality issues clarified, World Series event changes, Malta update and more.

Britannia replica aims for Auckland

Auckland may be treated to a replica of one the most beautiful classic racing boats ever made.

Britannia was built in 1893 for the Prince of Wales and son of Queen Victoria. She (the yacht) was used for racing before World War 1 by then King Edward VII, and then King George V.

She was converted to a J-class and fitted with a sloop rig and a mast 174ft (53 metres) tall - the longest wooden yacht spar in history.

After the death of the King, Britannia was scuttled according to his wishes.

In the second half of the 1990s, a first reconstruction (in wood) was started by a Norwegian entrepreneur. But after more than a decade of work, financial problems interrupted its completion. The hull was in the meantime taken over by the K1 Britannia Trust.

After a speckled history outlined in this media release the intention now is to build a new replica along the lines of the original design, but using contemporary technology.

Following the completion of a corporate partnership campaign, the Trust will begin construction on Britannia in early 2019 with the goal of unveiling the celebrated yacht in all her new-found glory at the America’s Cup in New Zealand in 2021.

The launch of the project was announced at the 27th Monaco Boat Show at the end of September. The intention is to have Britannia as the centrepiece of a J class regatta to be held in Auckland during the America's Cup regatta.

The fleet will be moored in the Viaduct Harbour, in Downtown Auckland.

For more on the K1 project see k1britannia.org

Base creation well underway

Wynyard Edge Alliance (the America's Cup Construction Consortium) has announced that it started dredging works in mid-January to deepen the channel making it deep enough for AC75's to access (5.5mtr [18ft]) draft on - this will make the area deep enough for race boats to access. They are starting at the northernmost point of the approach channel and will continue into outer Viaduct Harbour.

The barge is approximately 63 metres long, with a 400-tonne crane sitting on top of it, it's one of the largest pieces of equipment that will be used for the project. It will also be used to build the Hobson Wharf extension to make room for the Challenger of Record base.

Protocol issues.

As signalled earlier by Sail-World, several issues relating to the America's Cup have been simmering, but have been kept within the America's Cup family.

One of these is a definition of the Nationality clause in the Protocol. The phrase was written in the Protocol as a Defined term without actually being Defined.

It appears that the matter was referred to the Arbitration Panel for confirmation.

While the 36th America's Cup requires all sailing crew to be nationals of the country of the club of the racing team, it was not clear how that will be achieved.

One rule allowed the sailing crew to have been resident in their team/club's country for 380 days between September 1, 2018, and August 31, 2020, with a set of later dates for late Entry teams

The vexed issue is caused by the first definition of a "National" which just requires the Sailing crew member to be a "national of that country".

Generally, this would mean that the sailing crew member would have to be one of a passport holder, or be born in the team/club's country, or be a Citizen of that same country.

It is understood that the nationality issue has been wisely brushed over - and that mere possession of a passport will be accepted. In other words the standard for the 2017 America's Cup where there only had to be one passport holder of the country of the team's club on board the Challenger/Defender's race yacht. But now all have to meet that requirement under the Protocol's first criteria for nationality, or reside for 380days in the country of the club, under the second criteria.

There won't be a requirement attempt to equalise various Nation State's citizenship requirements - which would have been a nightmare for event organisers.

But some countries are easier to obtain a passport than others. All countries have different requirements and processes for nationality. The simple point being that for some foreign America's Cup sailing crews, obtaining a passport for the country of your new team could be a very rapid process, and would allow some Challengers to hire a full multi-national crew, and have them Cup-legal within a few weeks/months. While this might not have been a situation contemplated by the drafters of the Protocol, teams are entitled to take the Protocol at face-value and structure their teams and Challenge to maximise their inherent advantage.

The second system of 380 days residence is still expected to apply for those sailing crew who wish to qualify by this route. There is no nationality requirement for other team members who are not part of the sailing crew.

World Series angst

The buzz is that there are a few issues with the America's Cup World Series the first of which had been set down for Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa's home town of Cagliari, in Sardinia.

Cagliari is a venue with plenty of wind, plus it is good exposure for the Italian team, its sponsor Prada, and for a bunch of other reasons which would have meant the series and AC75 class got off to a flying start.

The only date mentioned is the delightfully vague "October 2019".

After waking to the news of eight new Notices of Challenge being received on the last day of November, and then having a quick read of the Protocol, the sharp-witted would realise that the document did not contemplate the flurry of Late Entries on the Final Day.

Instead, the Protocol seemed to envisage a trickle of late entries.

Eight entries arrived on the last day - three in the last five minutes - and for an event which had attracted only two entries in the preceding six months.

All teams are required to participate in all events in the America's Cup World Series.

The sailing equivalent of the Death Penalty applies to entries who do not participate in all ACWS events - Article 2.2 prescribes they "shall no longer be eligible to participate in either the Christmas Race or the Challenger Selection Series".

Two of the late entries, Malta and The Netherlands are single boat teams. On their website, The Netherlands say they will not be launching their first AC75 until March 2020. Malta are guessed to be in a similar position.

The Protocol makes it very clear that "possibly an initial one or two events during the second half of 2019" can be held. Therefore the 2019 ACWS events are optional for the organisers. There is a specific requirement for three events in 2020, and unless the Protocol is varied, these must be held.

There is an ACWS escape clause several pages later, which allows the Challenger of Record and Defender to "introduce alternative arrangements" for one or more ACWS event depending on the number of Competitors and the number of AC75 yachts available.

Quite how all this works out in the current circumstances remains to be seen.

Watch this space.

The other issue for the late Entry teams - two of whom are yet to start AC75 construction - is that rather than being dependent on the supply of Foiling Arms by CoR/D - they are more concerned with getting full sea trialing completed, for the crews to complete sailing and safety procedures before the boats are raced in competition. This will also mean that they must be able to get full racing insurance cover in their new AC75 - depending on the insurers requirements, who will no doubt be aware of the complete write-off of two AC72's in the first few months of the 2013 America's Cup regatta cycle.

Clearly the priority of the teams is that they are ready to race with an appropriate degree of safety, and not be rushed into early competition deadlines just to satisfy Protocol inflexibility.

On that topic there seems to be a reluctance by some parties to make alterations to the protocol, taking the view that it is of a similar status to the Ten Commandments. The reality is that America's Cup Protocols are living documents, which get changed to suit the requirements of the competitors. The Protocol for the 2017 America's Cup had 16 versions, and five of these versions contained comprehensive changes to multiple Articles in the document. The process by which changes can be made is now carefully managed within the Protocol to prevent the type of change that occurred in April 2015 and les to the exit of Luna Rossa from the competition.

Closing the Design gap

The so-called "Super Teams" are said to be "not amused" with the Defender supplying of two and maybe three of the Late Entry teams with base designs for their first AC75.

Clearly, it is to the Defender's competitive advantage to have as many Challengers as possible, but supplying them with designs is seen by some as being a step too far.

Star and Stripes Team USA claim that they will be getting the first and second AC75 designs from the Defender has caused a few quizzical looks.

With one exception, this is the first time in America's Cup history that this has been done. That reference is to the chummy relationship between the Defender Oracle Team USA and a Challenger Softbank Team Japan in the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda.

Emirates Team New Zealand was loud in their mostly off the record criticism at the time, and the USA/Japan relationship was always viewed askance by most Cup fans.

Is this current deal any different? Time will tell.

One the face of it the new teams get a set of plans and specifications and are then on their own. They can go ahead and build the ETNZ "flatpack model" or make changes and not know whether they are improving the performance, or applying a design handbrake.

For the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco, a late-entering Luna Rossa bought a base design from Team New Zealand. But that was between Challengers - who are supposed to work together to beat the Defender. The matter was referred to the International Jury who ruled that in terms of the then Protocol the practice was OK, however, performance information sharing was not.

Few would argue that the new foiling monohull is a daunting step for the new teams. And given that the Cup is in a rebuilding phase again, the more teams that are in the event, the better.

The point that also seems to be overlooked by most, is that with the AC72 and AC50 the wingsailed multihulls were seen to be "platforms" with wingsails and daggerboards added - and the latter being determined by the weather forecast each day.

The monohulled AC75 seems to be regarded as more of a traditional yacht, but in reality, it is as much a lego-boat, with interchangeable parts, as its multihulled predecessors.

The point being that any "basic design" is just a combination of parts that will work together when assembled in a particular way. Teams are at liberty to add and subtract parts at will with a resultant positive or negative impact on performance.

Name change for Malta?

The Malta Challenge told Sail-World last week that while there have been issues with the support by the Maltese government, the Challenge's management has elected to put those to one side for the time being and the team will proceed with backing from its founder and owner, Pasquale Cataldi.

Despite the Prime Minister of Malta's embargo-breaking tweets on the announcement of the Team's challenge, it seems some government officials and others were less than enamoured with the news.

Whether the team chooses to stick with the Government negotiators or goes for a commercial main sponsor remains to be seen. However in the case of the latter, expect to see "Malta" dropped from the team name, along many of the benefits for the island nation. Regardless of government backing or otherwise it will still be the team of the Royal Malta Yacht Club.

An announcement of the key team members is expected in a couple of weeks.

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