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Sail-World NZ - April 22: Tables turn on Team NZ..The Ocean Race..Iconic P Class

by Richard Gladwell, 21 Apr 23:24 PDT 22 April 2020
Emirates Team New Zealand's Te Aihe training on the Waitemata - January 2020 © Emirates Team New Zealand

Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for April 22, 2020

Right now, we should have been awaiting the start of the first America's Cup World Series in Cagliari, Sardinia. It was scheduled to start on April 23.

Just over a month ago the regatta was cancelled, due to the advance of the coronavirus in Italy. A few days later the second ACWS regatta due to have been held in Portsmouth, UK was cancelled for the same reasons.

Unfortunately, the decision to cancel the two series has had some serious flow-on effects for Emirates Team New Zealand, and in a long story in this edition, we look at the options - now that the coronavirus has turned the 2021 America's Cup inside out.

The cancellation of the two ACWS events has robbed all teams of a chance to benchmark against each other, and for the safety measures surrounding the AC75's to be checked - adjusted in the following event - and then finally tested in Auckland.

The British had their four-month-long training camp in Cagliari curtailed after a couple of months, and Ben Ainslie and his crew, returned home to Portsmouth where they can get in a full summer of sailing. Despite a Level 3 lockdown being imposed, the British were able to keep the construction running on their AC75, and two weeks ago upped that to a double shift of around 20 builders per shift.

It would appear from their builder Jason Carrington's comments, published last Friday evening NZT that they are well along their critical path in their critical plan, and are still ahead of where they should be.

We are advised that Luna Rossa was unable to keep construction running on their AC75 at the Persico Marine facility, during the lockdown imposed on the region which is the CV-19 epicentre in Bergamo, Italy.

The Italians have repaired their twice damaged AC75 and were sailing last week. Hopefully, they have broken their unlucky streak which had led to a dismasting and then a badly damaged bow, after ripping out a big section when the bowsprit bobstay broke.

American Magic was also able to keep building, after intervention from the Rhode Island state governor. Their boat never left Florida and avoided trailing Te Aihe around an ocean or two.

Emirates Team New Zealand has had a series of incidents which have cost the team five weeks out of its build program. Next week, hopefully, they can just start up from where they left off, given two days notice of a complete lockdown, back on March 23.

By our guesswork and using the same size build team as INEOS Team UK, about 8,500-9,000 hours have been lost, which is probably irrecoverable in terms of meeting the original launch date. On top of that add a lost four months of sailing, as Te Aihe roamed the oceans of the world like the mythical Flying Dutchman, chasing two cancelled regattas and losing half of the summer sailing season in Auckland. Even now, their AC75 is still about five or six weeks from Auckland. The team is entering that danger zone where time runs out for the testing of new design options on their test boat Te Kahu, and before taking the best of those ideas onto the race boat.

Of course, Emirates Team NZ has always been a smart and very resilient team - a culture which comes from being over 30 years in white-hot America's Cup competition. But there are limits as to how much advantage they can give the other teams. The loss of time cannot be remedied by throwing money at the situation, or getting more people involved.

We are still ten months out from the America's Cup, and there will be other incidents and issues that will eat into any available "slack time" that was built into the project plan. So losing five weeks, plus the lost races, is very significant at this stage of the defence campaign.

One of the mistakes that Team New Zealand has made in the past is in shutting down the development process too early, and then being eclipsed in the Challenger Final, or Match by a team that was able to keep their development and new thinking running right to the end.

The risk with the race boat construction falling so far behind, is that the lost time inhibits the team's ability to build and refine new developments.

As we note in the story in this edition, with the loss of the two ACWS regattas in April and June (plus practice sessions), and assuming that there are no new substitute events, then Emirates Team New Zealand go into the America's Cup Match with just 8-9 races under their belt from the Christmas Cup (and those are multiple races per day, in the three day series). Plus of course there's the opportunity for the challengers to remove the last vestiges of performance benchmarking in that series by sandbagging in their races against the kiwis.

Looking back in America's Cup history, it is a very unusual position for a Defender to go through to the Cup without two-boat testing against another yacht of her size. Prior to 1983 the US Defender was the product of a very intense Defence Trials process conducted by the Committee of the New York Yacht Club, or Strawhatters, as they were known. And before 1937, even if only one new boat was built for the Defence, New York Yacht Club always had a handful of yachts of a similar size/class that could be called on to provide some opposed practice, if not a selection trial.

The 2010 Deed of Gift Match, is the only occasion when an America's Cup Defender (Alinghi) has taken on the Challenger without a workup against a similar sized yacht.

The way the cards have been dealt over the past couple of months, the Challengers now have a much stronger competitive path to the 36th Match with 8-9 races in the Christmas Cup and maybe 26 races in the Prada Cup, or Challenger Selection Series. The story continues by clicking here.

For all the latest news from NZ and around the world see the Top 50 stories below.

Between newsletters, you can follow all the racing and developments in major and local events on or by scrolling to the top of the site, select New Zealand, and get all the latest news and updates from the sailing world.

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

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