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America's Cup Rialto: November 26 - Two boat testing on Course E?

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World NZ 25 Nov 2020 23:47 PST 26 November 2020
Patriot - American Magic - Waitemata Harbour - November 26, 2020 - 36th America's Cup © Richard Gladwell /

Two of the America's Cup team ventured out onto the Hauraki Gulf today, in the aftermath of yesterday's gale and heavy rain.

American Magic's Patriot was the first away around 1030hrs - getting towed foil-borne down to Course Area E in the Tamaki Strait. The course is essentially land-locked - with Waiheke to the north, Ponui to the east, Eastern Beach and Maretai to the south and Musik Point/Browns Island (Motukorea) to the west. It is about a 7.5nm tow to the western end of Course E, a relatively short distance, and only a little further than Course A off Takapuna Beach on Auckland's North Shore.

Luna Rossa followed about 20 minutes later, hoisting sail off Bean Rock/Northern Leading.

With the wind well around into the N/NW Course E would probably not be used in a race day situation - with Course B running the length of Rangitoto Channel being the more likely location.

Certainly, the 15kt breeze, while from an unusual direction for Auckland, looked to be ideal for Course B - it was protected from any seaway left over from the previous day.

After hoisting sail and doing a couple of short runs to check everything was working as it should, Luna Rossa turned and headed for Course E.

When we arrived at Course E - an area about 10.5nm long and 2.5nm wide aligned NW/SE, the two AC75's were stopped and well separated as rain showers moved over the course.

For the next 90 minutes the area was swept with rain squalls, hampering visibility - but between showers the two boats were visible either sailing in the same direction, or stopped together.

The breeze looked to be around the 18-20kt strength and there seemed to be little speed difference visible between the two boats - both while in clear view and emerging from rain squalls.

Both appeared to be well over to the Waiheke shore in deeper water of the channel - although across the Tamaki Strait it is generally 4-6 metres deep.

Eventually a serious rain squall moved across the area - blotting out all visibility.

Back on the North Shore, American Magic returned around late afternoon sailing fast in a 20-23kt breeze, with continuing rain squalls.

Luna Rossa was not so fortunate being apparently unable to lower her mainsail for a couple of hours or more, drifting while attached to a chase boat, from a location off the Rangitoto shore down to Motuihe Island. They eventually made it back to base in failing light at around 7.30pm.

On Wednesday, the Arbitration Panel posted an interpretation/guidance on the vexed issue of "sailing or testing AC75 yachts in a coordinated manner" which is prohibited in the Protocol governing the regattas constituting the 36th American Cup.

The 11 page decision, in response to an Application comprising a series of hypothetical questions from Emirates Team New Zealand, refused to make a definitive ruling on the matter. The three man panel wrote "the longer the boats sail close to each other, the greater the likelihood that it could be found they act in a coordinated manner".

Under the Protocol, no external body has the authority to police the Article 15.1 of the Protocol - which covers coordinated testing/sailing - and it falls back to the competitors to abide by the rules and for the training to be self-policing.

The views on the Kiwi Application varied from some teams which put forward the view that for training to be coordinated, then some prior and ongoing communication had to take place. Obviously, this is impossible to monitor - under NZ Privacy laws - and besides, the Protocol prohibits various activities that gain information about another competitor.

Others took the view that some form of implied or tacit coordination, backed up sailing or testing in unison, was sufficient to trigger an infringement of Article 15.1 - without the need to formal communication.

Regatta Director Iain Murray does not have jurisdiction prior to the start of any organised racing - however if he hypothetically did have jurisdiction, he advised the practical guidelines he would use included:

1. Yachts must not sail within 100m of each other on the same approximate heading for more than 30 seconds; 2. Yachts will not sail a measurable course at approximately the same time; 3. Yachts may share practice marks subject to point 2 and where they do not round or pass the marks within 30 seconds or each other.

Murray seemed to have much less tolerance for the testing in a coordinated manner than others who responded to the Arbitration Panel. Murray is a former America's Cup skipper, an Olympian and yacht designer, along with a string of other qualifications, including being the Regatta Director for the 2013 and 2017 America's Cups.

The issue is that if two of the Challengers do train together, then they can be acting to the disadvantage of the third challenger.

One challenger exits after the Semi-Finals of the Prada Cup.

Further along the timescale the Defender is also unfairly affected.

In the end, sailing or testing in a coordinated manner becomes a matter for the competitors to police. There is usually a fleet of reconnaissance boats trailing the competitors - however none, that we could see, were there today.

Of course, the issue could be easily resolved by requiring the AC75's to carry AIS, and for it to be turned on at all times and visible to all.

The teams will claim that AIS gives away performance information. AIS shows speed, but not apparent wind speed or apparent wind direction, making the boatspeed rather meaningless for comparative purposes.

The Regatta Director acquires the power to act once practice racing starts around December 10 - with five days expected before the start of the Xmas Cup/ACWS on December 17, 2020.

In the meantime while the cat's away the mice do play...

Calling all Cup Fans - support your favorite team

This America's Cup will be different for international fans, who thanks to COVID-19 travel restrictions into New Zealand won't be able to attend the regatta, unless they hold, a New Zealand passport and are prepared to live in two weeks of quarantine.

But you can still show your support for the team and feel part of the event - at racing watch parties and similar.

Or order now for a unique Christmas gift for that special America's Cup fan you know.

Get your favorite team clothing from the official supplier for all teams and the America's Cup event.

For American Magic's range click on

For Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli's range click on

For INEOS Team UK's range click on

For Emirates Team New Zealand's range click on

For the America's Cup AC36 Event range of clothing and kit click on

For the North Sails AC36 range of clothing and kit click on

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