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Cup news, Vendee Globe finishers, GGR 2022 update

by David Schmidt 2 Mar 09:00 PST March 2, 2021
Luna Rossa - Prada Cup Finals - Day 4 - February 21, 2021- America's Cup 36 - Course A © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

While the America's Cup World Series (December 17-20) and the Prada Cup (January 15-February 22), which unfurled on the waters off of Auckland, New Zealand, delivered a chance to finally see AC75s lock horns on the racecourse and produced some engaging racing, some impressive developmental curves (read: Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli), and some surprises (read: American Magic's capsize and early elimination), it also gave the mask-wearing and socially distanced world a chance to see what life looks like at the end of the coronavirus tunnel. Namely, hordes of fans, maskless and closely gathered, cheering on their favorite team and generally celebrating life's finer things: sunshine, saltwater, wind and fast sailboats.

All signs were looking good for the 36th America's Cup, which was set to take place from March 6-15 between the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, and the Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.

Sadly, this light of optimism has temporarily dimmed as Auckland registered a new case of Covid-19 last week, forcing the city to enter Alert Level 3 for seven days, starting on February 28, while the rest of the country is at Alert Level 2.

Alert Level 3 requires that all citizens, residents, and visitors remain in their household bubble and avoid social contact, aside from essential grocery shopping and work obligations. While this is very much in line with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's smart policy of "going hard and going early" (editor's note: imagine what the USA would look like if we had adopted a similar mindset last spring?), it's causing myriad disruptions, including to the Auld Mug's racing schedule.

Here, of course, it's important to note that yacht racing needs to take a big back seat to proper public health concerns, but for Cup sailors and fans, this means that the first races of AC36 cannot take place until next week.

"[The America's Cup Event] has always said that it wishes to hold as much of the racing under Level 1 restrictions as possible," said Tina Symmans, ACE's chair. "But to be prudent, ACE will apply for an exemption to race under Level 3 restrictions so as to keep as many options open as possible. However, racing will not occur before at least Wednesday 10th March.

"We need to understand all likely scenarios so that an updated racing schedule can be put in place whilst also ensuring the regulatory requirements are met," continued Symmans.

While there are a lot of question marks at the time of this writing, Sail-World has a candle lit that New Zealand is able to checkmate this outbreak with its lockdowns. And, I'll admit, it's also possible that we have a second candle lit that racing starts unfurling again as soon as possible.

Switching gears to offshore racing, it may now have been a long minute since singlehanded skipper Yannick Bestaven (FRA) locked up his win in the ninth edition of the nonstop-around-the-world Vendee Globe on January 28, but recent weeks have seen several noteworthy finishes.

These include (but are not limited to) the unofficial finishing times posted by the Franco German skipper Isabelle Joschke, who had to deal with keel failures that forced her to make a disqualifying pitstop in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil; Sam Davies (GBR), who suffered a collision with an unidentified floating object that forced her to put into Cape Town, South Africa, for repairs, and Alexia Barrier (FRA), who spent part of her race collecting scientific data on ocean health and who also suffered a bad fall that resulted in a painful back injury.

While none of these skippers will collect a trophy, all three demonstrated the kind of grit and gumption required to compete in this stored race. Sail-World tips our hat to all three skippers, and to every other sailor who participated in the 2020/2021 Vendee Globe.

Speaking of offshore sailing, word recently broke that Graham Dalton, an accomplished Kiwi offshore sailor and the brother of Grant Dalton (the CEO of Emirates Team New Zealand), is planning on competing in the second edition of the Golden Globe Race, which is set to begin on September 4th, 2022. The GGR, it will be remembered, is a retro race that employs old boats, older technology, and heaps of time-honored seamanship to race single-handedly around the world.

Dalton has acquired MATMUT, the Rustler 36 that skipper Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (FRA) used to win the GGR's 2018/2019 edition, and he's already making plans to travel to France this spring to complete his 2,000 nautical-mile qualifier aboard his new-to-him steed. Moreover, he's making no bones about his goal for the next GGR. "I've got some ideas how to make Matmut even faster," said Graham Dalton in an official GGR press release. "I've no interest in simply sailing around the world again. It is the competitive aspect that really appeals. I've entered the GGR to win, and without distractions I think I can."

While the September 2022 start to the next GGR is still a long ways over the horizon, given the pandemic and the chaos that it's creating, it will certainly be interesting to see how this next race shapes up. The technology may be old and the VMG not particularly impressive compared to what the sailing world witnessed in the lead up to AC36 or the 2020/2021 edition of the Vendee Globe, but - as we saw during the last GGR - true tests of seamanship can, and certainly will, unfurl at any speed.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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