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American Magic's challenge and draft Protocol, One Design and record-breaking news

by David Schmidt 11 May 08:00 PDT May 11, 2021
Airtime and a huge capsize for American Magic on day 3 of the PRADA Cup © COR36 / Studio Borlenghi

January 17, 2021 wasn't a good day for the New York Yacht Club's American Magic syndicate. The team was in New Zealand, contesting the Prada Cup Round Robin series in the lead up to the 36th America's Cup, when they suffered a boat-breaking capsize after rounding a leeward gate during a match race with Luna Rossa. Patriot, American Magic's second-generation AC75, was sailing at a casual (and ballpark) 47 knots of boatspeed when the accident unfurled, and while the team was extremely lucky that no sailors were seriously hurt, the same could not be said for Patriot.

Many people, including myself, feared the worst for American Magic, which, despite the New York Yacht Club's impressive legacy with the America's Cup, was in their first Cup campaign.

Still, the team soldiered on and, after an impressive rebuild process over the span of just 11 days, Patriot sailed on January 28, when they again met the Italian-flagged Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli on the racecourse for the Prada Cup Semi-Finals. While the team's return to the water was triumphant, their results were not, and the team was eliminated from the competition on January 29.

Flash forward some two months, and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and their sailing team, Emirates Team New Zealand, successfully defended the 36th America's Cup against the Circolo della Vela Sicilia and their sailing team, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, with a finishing score of seven wins and three losses.

As is common, a new Challenger of Record for the 37th America's Cup, the Royal Yacht Squadron Racing and their sailing team, INEOS Team UK, was determined in a hip-pocket challenge that was formalized as ETNZ's AC75 Te Rehutai was crossing the finishing line to win AC36.

So where did that put the American team?

On Thursday, May 6, almost four months since their dramatic capsize, the New York Yacht Club and American Magic made the unusual move of submitting their challenge for AC37 to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, along with a draft Protocol. (N.B. the official entry period for AC37 is expected to take place from August 2021 through the end of the year.)

While there's been banter about a Deed of Gift AC37 taking place between the Brits and the Kiwis as early as 2022, the NYYC's draft protocol specifies AC37 to take place on New Zealand waters in 2024 using AC75 foiling monohulls.

Additionally, the NYYC's draft Protocol also specifies the time and location for the next four Cup Matches, the creation of the America's Cup Board of Governors, stronger nationality rules for the crew, cost-control measure such as three-year development cycles between Cup Matches, more One Design componentry, and a limit of just one new AC75 yacht per team for each Cup.

"The America's Cup is at a pivotal point in its 170-year history," said Christopher J. Culver, commodore of the New York Yacht Club. "The competition for the 36th edition was thrilling, and Emirates Team New Zealand, representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, was a worthy winner. However, the New York Yacht Club, as the original trustee of the event and a participant in the most recent edition, has serious concerns about the future of this great competition.

"The cost of a competitive campaign, the lack of continuity in the class and the inability to plan beyond the current cycle have combined to create a prohibitive barrier to entry, which has manifested in the dwindling number of challengers and public interest," continued Culver. "While we await further details on the location, timing and conditions for the 37th America's Cup, we want to emphatically signal our enthusiasm for a multi-challenger event in 2024."

So where does this leave us for AC37? This forecast remains unclear. While it's up to the Defender and the Challenger of Record to write and agree upon the Protocol that will govern AC37, not a "regular" challenger, the Brits released comment over the weekend:

"As the Challenger of Record for the 37th America's Cup, we are working collaboratively with the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Team New Zealand to write the Protocol that will define the rules moving forward," said the official press release. "We are delighted to hear that the New York Yacht Club are interested in continuing participation in the America's Cup and we will keep them informed as we move forward."

Then there's the Kiwi response: "RNZYS and Emirates Team New Zealand (as the current Defender of the America's Cup) welcome the New York Yacht Club's interest in the next America's Cup, but questions their motives for such a presumptuous statement when entries do not open for some time."

In other words, 'thanks, mate, but we've got this under control'.

It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out, especially if the rumors of involvement in all of this by at least one other team (read: Luna Rossa) prove true. But, as an American fan of the America's Cup, it's nothing but good news that the New York Yacht Club has signaled their intention to continue their campaign to bring the Auld Mug back to American waters after a capsize that would have sunk many a lesser team.

Meanwhile, in Olympic class news, the recent 2021 Cascais 49er & 49er FX Championship saw two American 49er teams reach the podium after 15 races. Americans Nevin Snow and Dane Wilson topped the leaderboard, followed by the Irish team of Robert Dickson and Sean Waooilove, and fellow Yankees Ian Barrows and Hans Henken.

While this bodes well for American skiff sailing interests, the less-than-great news is that the USA didn't qualify for the 49er event at this summer's Games (the USA is first in line if a qualified nation forfeits their spot), so the USA will likely not benefit from Mr Snow and Mr Wilson's talents this summer in Tokyo.

Much closer to home, the J/111 North Americans took place this past weekend on the Chesapeake Bay (the regatta was held concurrently with the Annapolis NOODs) and saw Rob Ruhlman's Spaceman Spiff team take top honors. They were joined on the podium by Andrew and Sedgwick Ward's Braco and Rodrick Jabin's Ramrod.

And finally, in offshore record-setting news, skipper Giovanni Soldini and his Maserati Multi 70 crew have set a new record of just 23 hours, 51 minutes, and 16 seconds for the original, 595-mile Fastnet course aboard their 70-foot trimaran. While this record took place outside of the Fastnet Race, and while the time has yet to be ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council, it represents an improvement of more than an hour over the previous course record (25 hours, 4 minutes and 18 seconds), which was recently set by Peter Cunningham's MOD70 PowerPlay.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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