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America's Cup: Portsmouth and Auckland confirmed as World Series venues

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World NZ 17 Dec 2019 12:01 PST 18 December 2019
The combined Christmas Cup and ACWS event till be the first chance for Aucklanders to see the AC75's racing - Emirates Team New Zealand - AC75 - Te Aihe - December 11, 2019, Waitemata Harbour © Richard Gladwell /

The dates and venues for the final two events in the America's Cup World Series have been announced.

Today's announcement follows one over a fortnight ago which satisfied the requirement for the dates and venues for three America's Cup World Series events to be "announced on or before 30 November 2019." America's Cup organisers claimed that although there was no public announcement the teams had been confidentially advised of the venues and dates.

America's Cup organisers, in conjunction with the authorities involved in the two latest America's Cup World Series regattas have now publicly announced those dates and venues, along with Naming rights sponsor of the second ACWS regatta.

The Protocol for the 36th America's Cup specifies that there are to be three of the preliminary ACWS regattas in which all teams are currently required to compete.

In July 2019, the first ACWS regatta was announced and that it would be held in Cagliari, Sardinia from April 23-26, 2020.

The second has been long rumoured to be Portsmouth, UK - and that venue has now been confirmed for June 4-7, 2020 or just over a month after the Italian series.

The third is now set down for Auckland and will be combined with the Christmas Cup which has always been scheduled to be sailed in mid-December 2020.

All teams from the Challenger and Defender side of the America's Cup equation will compete in the America's Cup World Series, before they spilt into Challenger and Defender roles to prepare for the America's Cup Match beginning on March 6, 2021, in Auckland.

Emirates airline, the long-time naming rights sponsor of Emirates Team New Zealand, will be the presenting sponsor for the Portsmouth series.

The first and third America's Cup World Series, along with the Christmas Cup, and remainder of the America's Cup regatta sailing events will be presented by Prada, one of the naming rights sponsors of the Challenger of Record of Circolo della Vela Sicilia, represented by its team Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.

The ACWS/Christmas Cup in Auckland, is then followed by the Prada Cup Challenger Selection Series which will determine which foreign yacht club will take on the Defender of the America's Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand, in the 36th America's Cup Match. That event too, is presented by Prada from March 6-21, 2021 in Auckland.

"Emirates is proud to expand its commitment to the United Kingdom, which we service with over 130 weekly flights, by bringing world-class sailing boats to the shores of the UK and giving Portsmouth City the chance to host and show its visitors the most sensational event in the sailing calendar. The America's Cup has grown to become one of the world's greatest major sporting events, and we look forward to use this great platform to share and grow the passion for sailing as a sport and bring communities together," said Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates airline in a written media statement.

Emirates airline is also naming rights sponsor of the Spinnaker Tower a prominent landmark in Portsmouth.

No carry over points

In the last America's Cup cycle the America's Cup World Series was contested in identical AC45 wingsailed catamarans. The first and second boats overall in the 2016 regatta circuit carried 2pts and 1pt respectively into the Qualification Series in the 35th, or 2017 America's Cup Regatta in Bermuda. This practice has been discontinued for the 36th America's Cup and the America's Cup World series are for bragging rights only.

Unlike the previous ACWS events held in Portsmouth (and also in Sardinia and Auckland), the 2020 events will be sailed in the class used in the 36th America's Cup the 75ft foiling monohull. The racing will be in a fleet racing format. The spectacular and fast AC75's are expected to draw massive spectator interest. Broadcast plans have not been announced for the Portsmouth event.

Having raced at the two previous ACWS events in Portsmouth, Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton said, "Portsmouth was a fanatically supportive city for the ACWS in 2015 and 2016, so we are looking forward to getting back there. The difference this time is the racing will be in the new AC75's which will be a spectacle like nothing seen before on the Solent."

"We're delighted that Portsmouth will be part of the prestigious Emirates America's Cup World Series yacht racing again in June next year. America's Cup events attract a worldwide audience, and we're looking forward to the city's waterfront being centre stage for this esteemed international sailing event. The event is also significant for raising the profile of Portsmouth and its marine and maritime businesses across the globe," said Councillor Steve Pitt, Cabinet Member for Portsmouth Culture and City Development in a written media statement.

"When Portsmouth hosted the events in 2015 and 2016, 250,000 spectators enjoyed the spectacle, the events delivered £15.6m in media value and £38.7m in economic benefit", Councillor Pitt added.

The America's Cup World Series Regatta in Auckland, is now combined with the already planned Christmas Cup, makes for a solid start to the Auckland leg of the 2021 America's Cup program.

Both the Mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff and Susan Strawbridge, Manager Major Events at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have welcomed the new event in Auckland. It will be the first time visitors and Auckland America's Cup fans will have the chance to see the AC75 Class foiling monohulls racing together, on spectator-friendly courses to be used for the 36th America's Cup courses ahead of the Prada Cup Challenger Series.

“We are investing at record levels to prepare Auckland for the global spotlight in 2021, when we host the 36th America’s Cup and other international major events,” Goff said in a written statement.

“We’re rebalancing city streets towards people, creating beautiful shared spaces and plazas and transforming our waterfront into a vibrant, people-friendly destination that showcases the stunning natural beauty of Auckland’s world-renowned Waitemata Harbour.”

Excellent progress continues to be made on the infrastructure project for the 36th America’s Cup by the Wynyard Edge Alliance (WEA), the organisation formed by the New Zealand Government and Auckland Council to deliver the builds.

Emirates to sponsor Portsmouth leg of ACWS

WEA has handed over four bases to teams already, and the bases themselves are currently under construction in Auckland, by some of the Challenging teams. The project is believed to be running on time and under cost, despite an accelerated planning process and resolving some very challenging existing infrastructure issues that date back to the 1930's and had to be retained for heritage reasons.

“The infrastructure will bring benefits well beyond 2021, leaving the Wynyard Quarter with premium waterfront open space that can be reused for events such as The Ocean Race in 2022, and a revitalised part of Auckland that people will be able to enjoy," Strawbridge commented . “In addition, New Zealand and Auckland will be attracting visitors from around the world, facilitating business discussions and showcasing New Zealand as a world class destination as a whole,” she added.

No reason has been given for Prada not being involved as the presenting sponsor for the Portsmouth round of the America's Cup World Series.

Despite the financial assistance of Prada for Cagliari and Emirates for Portsmouth, the competing teams will have to contribute USD$300,000 each per event towards regatta costs. Whether that will apply for the Auckland round of the ACWS remains given that the event is now combined with the Christmas Cup.

British Challenger, INEOS Team UK will not be directly involved in the organisation or hosting of the Portsmouth event, despite the team being based in Portsmouth for the 2017 and 2021 America's Cup cycles.

However Sir Ben Ainslie, Team Principal and Skipper of INEOS Team UK, said the team was looking forward to the Portsmouth Regatta.

"We are really looking forward to competing in front of our home crowd again. The 2015 and 2016 America's Cup World Series events in Portsmouth saw an estimated 250,000 fans line the Southsea waterfront. It's so great that Portsmouth has been chosen as only one of two locations outside of New Zealand where people can watch the AC75 foiling monohulls in action. We are confident the racing will deliver a true spectacle."

Air freight to Auckland?

Ainslie and INEOS Team UK are now sailing from a winter base in Cagliari, Sardinia - the same location as Italian Challenger Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. However the Protocol, teams are not allowed to practice together unless it is sanctioned practice racing or an Event.

A significant benefit to the Challengers and Defender is that the Portsmouth regatta buildup will afford a further opportunity to sail against other AC75 teams in practice racing, the dates of which must be sanctioned by the Regatta Director.

The confirmation of the Portsmouth regatta creates an interesting logistical challenge for the Italians and British, in that they will have to compete in the Cagliari leg of the ACWS, then pack up their AC75 and a temporary base and relocate to Portsmouth for maybe a couple of weeks of sailing. It is not clear if the Italians will return to Cagliari, or remain in Portsmouth for a few weeks, before relocating to Auckland. INEOS Team UK will remain in their Portsmouth base before going onto Auckland.

After Portsmouth ACWS, the program and logistics become more vexed for the Challenging teams.

Teams can launch their second AC75 on or after February 15, 2020.

The options are to launch the second AC75 early, in Europe or the USA, go through the work-up process and then freight it to Auckland - either by sea or air. By sea that is a 50-day plus voyage to Auckland, airfreight is a few days. In response to the same issue, Emirates Team New Zealand opted to fly their America's Cup winning AC50 to Bermuda from Auckland - a process that took just a few days, and gave the team invaluable additional training time in Bermuda.

The combining of the Christmas Cup and third round of the ACWS probably points to the Challenging teams sailing out what is left of the European Summer and then shifting base to New Zealand in time for the Kiwi Spring.

Another more complicated option for the teams is to launch their second AC75 in Europe/USA and undertake some sea-trialling using gear from Boat 1, then airfreight only the hull of Boat 2 to Auckland and complete the fit-out using spars and appendages (rudder and foils) constructed in New Zealand.

Under the Constructed in Country rule that applies for the 36th America's Cup, only the hull of the AC75 needs to be laminated in the country of the challenging club. The remainder of the boat can be built and assembled in New Zealand.

On that basis, the teams should be able to get their bases and teams fully functional before resuming their sailing programs in Auckland in late August/September.

Emirates Team New Zealand is expected to return to New Zealand immediately after the conclusion of the Portsmouth ACWS regatta, and complete the construction and fit-out of their second AC75.

The team's first boat Te Aihe is expected to be shipped back to New Zealand.

The Kiwi team is expected to start their final America's Cup preparations, in Auckland, after key members of the sailing team return from Olympic duty in August 2020.

Long story short, and for different reasons, the America's Cup Challengers and Defender are expected to start sailing their second AC75's, which will also be their race-boats, out of Auckland, in August/September 2020.

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