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AC37 Protocol published, TJV update, Skiff/Nacra Worlds

by David Schmidt 23 Nov 08:00 PST November 23, 2021
Jibs are now self tacking. All teams will be working to optimise the endplate between hull and rig - Emirates Team NZ - Waitemata Harbour - America's Cup 36 © Richard Gladwell / / nz

Given the "time soup" that the world seems to have collectively entered since the start of the pandemic, you are more than forgiven if the 36th America's Cup (March 10-21, 2021) seems like an eternity ago. That said, the wheels of motion never cease in the hyper-competitive AC world. On November 17, 2021, the Defender (the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Emirates Team New Zealand) and the Challenger of Record (the Royal Yacht Squadron Ltd and INEOS Britannia) published the Protocol and class rule that will govern the 37th America's Cup (2024). While the world will not learn the location or the approximate dates for AC37 until March 31, 2022, the Protocol and class rule reveal a lot of the thinking that's going on behind the scenes.

AC75 yachts will again be used to contest AC37, however their crew sizes have shrunk from 11 sailors to eight, the Code 0s are gone, and the boats will be roughly one ton lighter, allowing them to foil in lesser airs than we saw in 2021 on the waters off of Auckland, New Zealand; there will also be more One Design elements involved. Each team will be able to choose between grinders or cyclors (think AC35 in Bermuda in 2017—which do you think they will choose?), and—with an eye towards reigning in costs—each team will only be permitted to build one new-generation AC75, and they can expect limitations to the number of foil packages that they can build.

Additionally, there will be limitations to how much on-the-water time each team can log aboard an AC75 in 2022, and each team must field a crew that fulfills the Crew Nationality Rule (however the Protocol provides sufficient loopholes for the latter [read: time in country or a valid passport, rather than citizenship]).

Additional changes include the creation of a shared recon team, the America's Cup Youth events, and the America's Cup Women's Regatta. Lastly, each team will be required to build two hydrogen-powered foiling chase boats in an effort to reduce carbon emissions.

"A significant proportion of teams carbon footprints is in their on-water operations, through their long days of testing, development and training," said Grant Dalton, ETNZ's boss, in an official press release, about the creation of the fleet of hydrogen-powered craft. "So, for the past year we have been researching, designing and are now building a prototype hydrogen-powered foiling chase boat which will have a dramatic effect on the reduction of the team's carbon footprints, as well as pushing the development of hydrogen in the marine sector."

Both the relaunched America's Cup Youth events and the brand-new America's Cup Women's Regatta will be contested aboard the newly announced AC40 class of foiling monohulls, which will begin their lives as development platforms for AC75s before being converted into a One Design platform for use in these other events.

Cloak-and-dagger work has long been part of AC culture, and it's common for each syndicate to employ spies who are responsible for reporting on the status, speeds, and performance attributes of other teams. For AC37, this will go mainstream: spy-team observations will be made public via media channels, giving fans an inside scoop. (N.B., while this sounds like a good idea, it will be very interesting to see how this slice of the Protocol actually plays out.)

Other interesting aspects include three pre-Cup regattas, two of which will be raced aboard AC40s (the final of which will e contested aboard AC75s at the site of the next Cup), a three-person arbitration panel, independent race management, and shared starting-line software.

"As Challenger of Record, INEOS Britannia has sought with the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, to make the next America's Cup less expensive and more inclusive," said Ben Ainslie, INEOS Britannia's CEO and team principal, in an official communication. "The Protocol this time around will see reduced team operating costs without compromising any of the technical development which the Cup is so famous for. There is an opportunity for change, so for AC37 we will see the first Women's America's Cup Regatta and we also welcome back the Youth America's Cup."

Time will tell as to if these cost-savings measures actually save money, if the America's Cup Youth events and the America's Cup Women's Regatta help move the needle on inclusivity, and if the public-facing marital bliss between the Defender and the Challenger can last to the start of AC37.

Meanwhile, offshore action continues to brim in the 15th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre, which began off of Sainte-Adresse, France, on November 7, and which involves Ultim and Ocean Fifty trimarans and IMOCA 60 and Class 40 monohulls.

As of this writing, Antoine Carpentier (FRA) and Pablo Santurde Del Arco (ESP), ailing aboard Redman, are leading the chase in the Class 40s, followed by Jonas Gerckens (GER) and Benoit Hantzperg (FRA), sailing aboard Volvo, and Ian Lipinski (FRA) and Julien Pulvé (FRA), sailing aboard Credit Mutuel.

Thomas Ruyant (FRA) and Morgan Lagraviere (FRA) lead the hunt in the IMOCA 60 class aboard Linkedout, followed by Charlie Dalin (FRA) and Paul Meilhat (FRA) sailing aboard Apivia and Jeremie Beyou (FRA) and Christopher Prat (FRA) sailing aboard Charel.

Competition has been stiff in the Ocean Fifty class, where Sebastian Rogues (FRA) and Matthieu Souben (FRA), sailing aboard Primonial, are in the pole position, followed by Erwan Le Roux (FRA) and Xavier Macaire (FRA), sailing aboard Koesio, and Sam Goodchild (GBR) and Aymeric Chappellier (FRA), sailing aboard Leyton.

And in the mighty Ultim class, Franck Cammas (FRA) and Charles Caudrelier (FRA), sailing aboard Maxi Edmond de Rothschild are driving the charge. They are being pursued by Armel Le Cleac'h (FRA) and Kevin Escoffier (FRA) aboard Banque Populaire XI and Francois Gabart (FRA) and Tom Laperche (FRA) aboard the brand-new SVR-Lazartigue.

Stay tuned to the website for updates as the multi-hull classes are expected to start finishing in the next day or so.

Finally, for fans of North American Olympic class sailing, some long-awaited good news: Americans Ian Barrows and Hans Henken tied for third place (the tiebreaker put them in fourth place) at the Skiff/Nacra Worlds, which recently took place in Oman. Fellow Americans Andrew Mollerus and Ian MacDiarmid earned a sixth-place result.

"This was our first Worlds as a team, so our goal was to finish tenth in the fleet races and get a shot at the medal race," said Henken in an official team release. "Heading into the medal race with at least a top-10 finish locked in gave us a sense of freedom to sail and lay it all out on the water. We executed, we had fun, and we walked away with a 4th place finish. We're proud of what we accomplished as a team and are just really stoked."

Meanwhile, Canadians Georgia Lewin-LaFrance and Antonia Lewin-LaFrance claimed a sixth-place finish at the 49erFX Worlds. This represents Canada's best-ever performance at the 49erFX Worlds.

"2021 has been busy. It feels great to finish our last regatta of the year on this note," said Antonia and Georgia Lewin-LaFrance in an official release. "Oman hosted a phenomenal event. It's a beautiful place to sail, and the wind kept everyone on their toes. It's a pleasure to race against the best of the fleet. Thank you everyone for getting us here, and thank you Oman Sail for your hospitality!"

While there's still much work to be done in these classes (and all other classes) before the Star-Spangled Banner or O Canada will be played at an Olympic medal ceremony, these results are certainly a step in the right direction.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt North American Editor

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