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Sail-World NZ - June 12: Indecision hurts Cup...Y88 Two handed ... Video: 'Challengers for Now'.

by Richard Gladwell, 11 Jun 06:43 PDT 12 June 2020
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli training off their base in Cagliari, Sardinia - June 2020 © Carlo Borlenghi / Luna Rossa

Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for June 12, 2020

It seems hard to believe that another ten days have elapsed without any signoff from the Coalition Government over the entry process into Auckland for the America's Cup Challengers.

Sail-World understands that some Challengers have had their immigration applications before the NZ Ministries since March.

That's given NZ Immigration three months to think about permits for crews to come into New Zealand, and how they undergo the mandatory 14-day supervised quarantine process.

The teams will stand all quarantine cost instead of the Kiwi taxpayer - who has been standing the cost of those who have been in supervised COVID9 quarantine to date.

It is easy to understand the frustration of New York Yacht Club's American Magic who have been off the water since late February when they started packing their AC75 to travel to Cagliari, on a ship that was due to leave on March 16.

On March 8, the team filed with the Arbitration Panel to have the COVID19 declared a force majeure, and for the team to be excused from the Protocol requirement to compete in the first two America's Cup World Series Regattas.

The ACWS matter became moot when on March 13, the organisers of the Cagliari regatta conceded that the regatta could not proceed. The Arbitration Panel confirmed that with a decision five days later. The second regatta scheduled for Portsmouth was called off by organisers, Emirates Team New Zealand, on March 24.

In a decision that he said could make or break their Challenge, Executive Director of American Magic, Terry Hutchinson ordered their first AC75 Defiant to be shipped to New Zealand. He was obviously hopeful that a "coming ready or not" call to the New Zealand authorities might get some urgency into their decision-making process.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen as the mesmerised kiwi officials counted down to the perfect COVID19 score - Zero new Positive cases, Zero COVID19 patients in Hospital, and Zero Transmission by contact for over 28 days or two infection cycles.

In fact, there were no new Positive Cases for 17 consecutive days - a strong indication to those running the NZ's immigration and economic strategy that they should be using the time to plan potential next steps, and allow the economic recovery to accelerate very quickly into at least third gear.

That didn't happen, and now the superyachts, who were expected to provide the bulk of the NZ's economic benefit from the America's Cup, are in the same queue outside the NZ Immigration Office as the Challengers - and with a few more options as to what happens next.

What will break the impasse?

A trip to the Arbitration Panel cannot be ruled out by one or more of the Challengers. It proved to be a handy backstop for American Magic in the ACWS regattas and put a mechanism in place which saved the New York Yacht Club team a fruitless voyage to Italy and back. Emirates Team New Zealand wasn't so lucky with their AC75 travelling the high seas for four months.

The Application could request various outcomes - freezing the regatta until the NZ authorities made up their minds as to the process and timelines for the Challengers to enter New Zealand. It would be a similar situation to the "no sail" period ordered by the International Jury in the lead up to the 2017 America's Cup. The regatta would be sailed on its original dates and venue.

Another option could be to shift the venue to another territory, and maintain the dates if the NZ Government was intent on staying with its current policy and did not want America's Cup teams, superyachts, media and fans entering New Zealand because of the health risk.

That's fine if New Zealand wants to take the lowest risk option, and place public health above all else. But you can't have an America's Cup without competitors, so the regatta will go elsewhere - probably the alternative venue Cagliari in June 2021. It is arguable whether that can be done under the Protocol once the venue has been announced. The economic opportunity cost to New Zealand Inc is massive and to a lesser extent the NZ Marine industry who have already been the beneficiaries of the heft America's Cup spend.

Of more concern is that a case could be taken to the New York Supreme Court, as happened in 1988 and 2010 - if some angle could be found in the Deed of Gift which governs the conduct of the America's Cup. Not surprisingly in both 1988 and 2010, the US club (SDYC and NYYC) carried the day under their US law and in their US Court. The two cases in question were each largely determined by the meaning of a single word - "match" in 1988 and "having" in 2010. Both exercises were about as useful as complaining to your mother-in-law about your wife - as Australian media mogul Sir Frank Packer once said of the New York Yacht Club's Race Committee.

Recourse to the New York Supreme Court would be absolutely disastrous for the Cup. However taking a case is not be restricted to just the four teams, other parties can also inject themselves, including the previous Cup Trustee, Larry Ellison's Golden Gate YC.

The Auckland regatta dates cannot be shifted significantly - by any more than a few days. That could trigger an exit clause for sponsors, which may be activated in the economic aftermath of COVID19. Plus the rate of cash burn (in the millions per month) by an America's Cup team is such there is no wriggle room with already stretched budgets.

Few can understand the bewildering NZ Immigration logic which gives the green light to the Avatar crew and family members can fly into Wellington from Los Angeles, where there have been 4700 coronavirus attributed deaths. Yet a team that has been based in Florida which has suffered 2,700 deaths from coronavirus is still being processed three months after lodging their application, and with no end in sight.

Otherwise, it is a case of hurry up and wait, and hope that the bureaucrats in Wellington can break their impasse and get the 36th America's Cup rolling again, within the next day or so - before other processes come into play.

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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