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America's Cup: Encouraging level of entries for AC37 exceeds expectations - Updated

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz 2 Dec 2021 04:22 PST 1 December 2021
Emirates Team NZ - winner 36th America's Cup © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

Updated: The number of early entries for the 37th America's Cup has given the lie to predictions that the cost of competing, coupled with no venue being named, would work against entries for the 37th America's Cup.

Entries opened at 0000hrs on December 1, 2021, and had to be made to Emirates Team New Zealand in the first instance, copied to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, with the two page Notice of Challenge being addressed to the Commodore at RNZYS.

There is a list of five or six teams who are serious potential entrants.

On Wednesday December 1 (NZT), the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Emirates Team New Zealand announced in a media statement that "Several challenges [had been received] soon after the entry period opened".

Excluded from that count is INEOS Britannia, who is already entered as Challenger of Record through Royal Yacht Squadron. It has a strong technology alliance with Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 through INEOS Sport.

Former Cup winner Alinghi is widely reported to have challenged, and via Italian sources are reported to have a 40 strong design team, currently working, and have picked up key personnel from other teams. The Swiss-owned team has backed itself into the Red Bull F1 racing team, and with new budget cap rules in F1, may have been forced to re-deploy people into the America's Cup team. Former Emirates Team NZ and INEOS Team UK chief designer, Nick Holroyd has joined Alinghi in a class rule interpretation role. A former Alinghi staffer from the 2007 America's Cup is understood to have been engaged as Executive Director. Alinghi have been developing a strong, young sailing team of Swiss Nationals, and will be expected to have challenged under a Swiss Club. One of their sailing team Arnaud Psarofaghis was loaned to NZSailGP as a helmsman in the absence of regular, Peter Burling. Psarofaghis, notable for making several very good starts, was able to chalk up the team's first race win.

Alinghi are believed to be one of two teams seeking to purchase Emirates Team New Zealand's first AC75, Te Aihe, which is reckoned to be the pick of the first generation AC75s, and not far off the performance of the other team's second generation AC75's used for racing the the 36th America's Cup regattas. The structural integrity of Te Aihe is beyond doubt - having survived a full nose dive (without capsizing) at 49.9kts in one of her last sailing sessions.

Luna Rossa's Max Sirena confirmed that the Italians for their sixth tilt at the Auld Mug, one short of the Kiwis (albeit in three renditions) who have been a challenger for seven Cups. At the launch of a book, in Milan, commemorating their AC36 campaign, the Italian sailing media quote Sirena: “We have filed the Notice of Challenge and we await confirmation from the New Zealanders. We still don't know where we will go, but it will take you a moment to pack your bags."

The Italian team who contested the preliminaries for the 2000, 2003, 2007, 2013, and 2021 America's Cup emerged from the last regatta with an encouraging three America's Cup race wins. The Italian team have since lost their chief designer Martin Fischer to INEOS Britannia. They are also separately reported in the Italian media to be unlikely to challenge if Saudi Arabia is named as the venue.

Luna Rossa, the sailing team, was sold on December 1 to Prada Group, according to information filed with the Honk Kong Stock Exchange where Prada Group is listed. Previously Luna Rossa Challenge was owned by a company controlled by Patrizio Bertelli. The move is believed to be part of the transition of management of Prada Group to Patrizio Bertelli and Miuccia Prada's son Lorenzo Bertelli who is currently Chief Marketing Officer for Prada Group. Lorenzo is also a keen rally driver, and will take over the CEO role of Prada Group from his mother, in due course.

American Magic was expected to challenge through New York Yacht Club. However, in mid-July, Commodore Christopher Culver announced the decision to run with another US team Stars+Stripes. Last month Culver issued another statement saying the club would "pause" its America's Cup activities.

The delay in not being formed up and ready to progress is expected to pick the head-hunting of key talent, given that there is not a lot to go around. Joining Luna Rossa's Martin Fischer at INEOS Team UK is American Magic's Nat Shaver. Marcello Botin, lead designer at American Magic has gone with Alinghi and has been replaced by Scott Fergusson, formerly with Oracle Racing.

Both Stars+Stripes and American Magic have told Sail-World that they had offers from other yacht clubs soon after being orphaned by New York Yacht Club. But subsequently, nothing has been confirmed - with the option that one may reunite with the club on West 44th Street. One of the US teams has told Sail-World that they will not compete if Saudi Arabia was chosen as the venue.

American Magic still have their boats and equipment in their base in Auckland, but like all teams are prohibited under the Protocol for the 37th America's Cup from sailing until September next year. However the US team have a skeleton crew in Auckland and can do a packout if that is required.

Another possibility is Team DutchSail, a late challenger for AC36, led by former America's Cup winner Simeon Tienpont. After withdrawing from AC36, the team has regrouped and has been competing successfully on the 69Fsailing Pro Cup, winning the final earlier this month. The team has also thrown its lot in with Sailing Holland for an entry in The Ocean Race, which starts in January 2023. Team Dutchsail's concepts around which the America's Cup Challenge would have been based have been carried over into The Ocean Race campaign.

While it remains unlikely that the 37th America's Cup will be staged in Auckland, some initial work is underway. Lloyd Stevenson Boatbuilders has announced that an America's Cup challenger team has commissioned a custom Catalyst 45ft lightweight high-speed catamaran, similar to those used by the 125ft super maxi Skorpios, and Emirates Team New Zealand in its past Cup campaigns. The new Catalyst will feature an offset cabin to facilitate sail storage. Emirates Team NZ is expected to launch a prototype hydrogen-powered chase boat in February, followed by a bigger and more powerful version capable of towing an AC75.

Construction of the AC40 one design foiling monohull will be undertaken by McConaghy Boats in their China-based facility. With the first two taken by the Emirates Team New Zealand and INEOS Britannia. The next AC40's will then be allocated in order of entry acceptance. That process includes vetting the Challenging Club to ensure that it complies with the minimum requirements set in the Protocol to avoid teams entering under "paper" yacht clubs.

Seven days after acceptance, a challenger must pay the first entry of instalment of USD$1million, followed nine months later by the second instalment of USD$1.25million, and a Performance Bond of USD1million - which may be cash or documentary security. The only fee to increase over AC36 is the second instalment by USD$250,000 - and with that exception, the entry Fees and Performance Bond amounts are the same as the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda.

As with the 36th America's Cup, the RNZYS and ETNZ policy is not to name the Clubs of the teams who have been accepted but to leave it to the respective Challengers to make their own announcement in their own time.

Entries close on July 31, 2022, with around six challengers expected, and maybe more if a European venue is announced - with a deadline on the venue announcement of March 31, 2022.

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