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America's Cup: Lockdown creates new challenge for Emirates Team NZ and Luna Rossa

by America's Cup Media 2 Mar 23:05 PST 3 March 2021
The AC75's are required to declare which hull, mast tube, rudder, wings, foil arms and flaps by Monday March 1, 2021 - America's Cup © COR 36 | Studio Borlenghi

The latest lockdown in Auckland has delivered a new challenge to both Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli as they prepare for the 36th America’s Cup Match.

The level 3 restrictions that were announced by the Government late on Saturday night have already seen the postponement of the start of the Match. There will be no racing this weekend, Wednesday 10 March is the earliest that racing can start.

The delay means that as teams prepared for the new start date their weather forecasters and strategists needed to look further ahead if they were to optimise their boats for the conditions come the day. But as we’ve seen already since the start of racing in December, thanks to the complexity of the local landmass and the surrounding water, weather forecasting is a tricky business around the Hauraki Gulf. Planning for 10 days ahead rather than five is a significant jump. At present, the long-range forecast suggests NW 15-20kts but it would be a brave person who bet on these conditions at this stage.

But aside from the weather, there is another major factor that will pile on the pressure for the teams and that is making their declarations to the measurement committee.

Monday 1 March at 16:03 local time was the deadline for both teams to define and finalise the configuration of their boats for the Match. With that deadline now passed, both teams will have laid out precisely the boat that they will use for the series with specific details on all the key areas such as the hull, rig, foils and many other areas of the boat including its precise weight.

Within these key areas there are various subsections that define each element in more detail. And while the AC75 and the rules that define it are complex, the bottom line is that there is barely any wriggle room once a team has staked its claim to the type of boat that they intend to race.

Overall the philosophy behind this subtly different approach was to encourage teams to prepare their boats to be an all-round boat.

This is a marked change from previous Cups where the rules on declaration allowed teams to turn up to each race day in the best configuration. The result was that teams would apply to the measurers for a new certificate ahead of each day’s racing.

The main exclusion to the rules this time around is the type and number of sails, but even then there are strict rules on the weight of the sails that are carried on board and corrector weights that may be required to ensure that the all up weight of the boat remains the same.

So, as teams looked ahead to weather data that is more than a week away they had to pin the tail on the donkey as to how their boat will be configured.

It’s no easy task, but there is a further complication and that is making a list of what their replacement items will be in the case of gear failure: Replacing a broken piece of kit is not as straightforward as you may think.

First, teams need to be able to demonstrate to the measurers that the gear failure was unintentional and then that it is not possible to effect a repair.

Assuming they are successful in doing this, teams can only use replacement items that have been included on the list that they made as part of their declaration and in their order of preference.

If a team is successful in their application, then their opponent automatically has the opportunity to make the same change.

So, as teams look ahead to the next available date for the start of the 36th America’s Cup presented by Prada anticipating any gear failure on an advanced boat that has little in the way of technical track record will doubtless have been a major task for both the Challenger and Defender. Indeed, a recent request for a technical interpretation on an aspect of these rules that was requested by the event organisers ACE, suggests that this area may be a topic for consideration later on.

But, whether teams have been accurate in their expectations or not, predicting the future around any America’s Cup cycle has always been risky. So, as the deadline passed, both teams had to walk away from their crystal balls and leave their views of the future with the measurers.

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