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America's Cup: New direction for America's Cup revealed in Protocol outline

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 18 Mar 21:20 PDT 19 March 2021
INEOS Team UK - Waitemata Harbour - January 23, 2021 - 36th America's Cup © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

The 37th America's Cup will take a new direction of which some details have been revealed in the joint statement released by the Defender Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and the Challenger of Record for AC37, Royal Yacht Squadron Racing.

Royal Yacht Squadron Racing is a limited liability company which operates under the auspices of the Royal Yacht Squadron. Members of RYSR have to be members of the RYS, and effectively RYSR is a legal device to limit the financial exposure of RYS, particularly when an America's Cup team is involved. All clubs have similar legal arrangements in place with their AC teams but RYSR is unique, however it functions as a Club and complies with the requirements of the Deed of Gift for the America's Cup.

The announcement states the AC75 will remain as the class for the next two America's Cup. While this may be the intention of the two parties it is non-binding on the Defender and Challenger of Record for the 38th America's Cup. The so-called Framework Agreement was signed by five of the six teams in the 35th America's Cup to use the AC50 for the 36th America's Cup. One team didn't sign the Framework - Emirates Team NZ, and the agreement was non-binding. Instead the AC75 was developed. There are a number of permutations which flow from this comment, however it is premature to comment at this stage.

However it is a good signal that the AC75 has been confirmed for the 37th AC, which means that new teams will be able to purchase second hand AC75's of which there are currently eight boats.

The ability of the existing teams to obtain an advantage in the "space-race" of AC75 design development has been limited by allowing only one new AC75 - which presumably refers to just the hull.

While a lot of weight was placed on hull design in AC36, as the class evolved it was said by many designers to be just an endplate on the rig. Obviously it has a significant role to play in the take-off of the AC75's, however this issue is now a lot better understood than was previously when the AC75 rule was first announced.

The appointment of a new single event authority returns to the America's Cup Events Authority, and America's Cup Management entities used for the 2013/2017 and 2007 America's Cups (ACM). This means that the Challenger and Defender rights will be merged and run by a single authority - which works for regatta management, the commercial operation and television productions and distribution.

The intention to investigate cost reduction measures has always been a goal of all new Challenger of Record and Defender relationships, however despite changes, the campaigns always still seem to cost the same at $100million.

A more draconian crew nationality rule has been implemented. This is another move to restrict the crew market and bidding up of salary packages and costs. A very good move is to open the door for exceptions to be made for "Emerging Nations", or first time teams - however it is not clear exactly how a team qualifies as an Emerging Nation. Obviously it would apply for a new team that is a genuine start up from a country that hasn't competed previously. But would teams like Alinghi, who have not competed in a multi-nation Challenger Cup since 2007 be considered an Emerging Nation?

The 2007 version of Alinghi was a multi-national team, with few Swiss crew members.

Crew members of existing national teams are prevented from moving to a new team (other than one of their passport country) as of today's date. Multiple passport holders will have some advantage.

There is a comment on the venue decision process, and it is assumed that the parallel negotiations currently, or about to get under way with the New Zealand authorities and the short-listed responses to the Request for Information issued by Emirates Team New Zealand will continue and an outcome will be announced in six months.

The Protocol is not due to be announced for eight months.

Of the key questions relating to any America's Cup Challenge - the venue, dates and class, only one has been answered by the announcement, however more should be clear in the next six months. The three year period which normally occurs between repeat Defences, would point to a Cup being in Olympic year - 2024, however while the America's Cup has been held previously in an Olympic year, it is not ideal for several reasons, being sponsors having Olympic commitments, sailors that are trying to compete in both events. It us very much to the Cup's advantage to have current Olympic medalists competing, and other similar reasons.

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