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America's Cup Rialto: Delays for Swiss, Teams moving bases, Italian sailing icon dies

by Richard Gladwell/ 30 Aug 2022 22:11 PDT 31 August 2022
Alinghi Red Bull Racing lowered into the water in Barcelona ahead of another towing test - August 2022 © Alinghi Red Bull Racing

*America's Cup Rialto ("an exchange, or mart") is an occasional roundup of America's Cup news, directly and indirectly, related to the current, past and future America's Cups.

On the Move

New York Yacht Club American Magic have confirmed they will set up a team base within the Marina Barcelona (MB) 92 superyacht facility as the team ramps up its sailing operations ahead of the 37th America's Cup campaign in Barcelona, 2024.

Planning is already underway to build out the Barcelona team base. It will be complete in May 2023, ahead of NYYC American Magic relocating from its current winter training base in Pensacola, FL, to the new base in Barcelona. It has not been disclosed whether the team will "winter over" in Barcelona or if they will return to Pensacola and then return in mid-2024 with the AC75 raceboat.

"The operational plan will have us moving to Barcelona to meet the July 1st through October 31st, 2023, sailing in the venue on the two AC 40s owned by NYYC American Magic," said Terry Hutchinson, Skipper and President of Sailing Operations at NYYC American Magic.

"The facilities at Marina Barcelona 92 will allow us to focus on our high-performance sailing program and in-house training as we target the 37th America's Cup. Again, we're grateful for Port de Barcelona's support and look forward to training in such a beautiful and friendly city," he added.

NYYC American Magic is the first team to confirm that they will be based in Barcelona during the July-October 2023 period when teams are currently prohibited from sailing from any location other than Barcelona between July 1, 2023 and October 31, 2023. The Barcelona-only period approximates the same window before the 37th America's Cup regattas, which are due to be contested 12 months later between August and October 2024.

It is not known whether the teams will sail their first generation AC75s in Barcelona or restrict their sailing to the AC40s configured as test boats. As the rules stand, the teams are not allowed to sail against each other in Barcelona outside of America's Cup Regattas and Events, it would however given the shift in America's Cup Match dates to late 2024, it would be surprising if some interim racing in AC40's was not announced - be it in Barcelona or another European venue.

There is a further incentive for teams to be sailing in Barcelona in the July-October 2023 window, in that it is the only place where teams can indulge in their own reconnaissance - albeit from afar without using cameras or tracking devices.

Alinghi Red Bull Racing still under tow

The first team to set up in Barcelona, Alinghi Red Bull Racing, launched their AC75 on August 9.

That event was followed by towing tests over the next ten days - with some days lost due to rough weather and the accompanying unsuitable sea conditions. How the AC75 copes with the Mediterranean swell and seawall backwash will be watched with interest.

Last week the sailing squad, at least, stood down, and it is expected that an attempt will be made to complete tow-testing and move on to sailing trials later this week.

For teams new to foiling, the process between launch, tow testing and test sailing is not rapid and defies the best of PR schedules. However, given that the former Te Aihe has survived a nose-dive at 49kts, the AC75 should be reasonably bullet-proof.

Emirates Team New Zealand went through the same workup process with Te Aihe - now Alinghi Red Bull Racing's Boat Zero. But the Kiwis did have the advantage of launching and breaking in two AC72 wingsailed foiling catamarans, and similarly with their 2017 Cup winning AC50and its prototype.

The Kiwis launched on Sept 6, 2019. They were back on the Waitemata Harbour fitting and hoisting sails five days later on September 11 and then started test sailing on September 12, 2019.

However, their new AC75 was plagued with ongoing mainsail hoisting issues. For the first few weeks, a crew member was often hoised to the top of Te Aihe's mast, apparently working on a halyard lock or similar issue.

Due to the complexity of the AC75 and the nature of progressive testing programs, it is unusual to see a team train for three consecutive days without at least one day in the shed. Breaks of a week are not exceptional, either.

From what has been seen of Alinghi Red Bull Racing's Boat Zero, much of the equipment and setup is new, reflecting the experience of the designers and engineers who have joined the team from the 2021 America's Cup teams.

Emirates Team NZ also on the move

Part of the fallout from the decision to host the 2024 America's Cup in Barcelona instead of Auckland is that the America's Cup Defenders vacate their glitzy Auckland Viaduct base or be charged what local authorities believe is a fair market rent of $NZ3-4million.

A near rent-free arrangement for the team's base was part of the Host Venue Agreement for the 2021 America's Cup. In last-ditch Council discussions before signing the HVA Agreement, the meeting was told that the venue was pulling $4.5million in revenue in the 2017 financial year. However, that was before the new Sky City Conference centre opened, which is expected to compete with the soon-to-be vacated Viaduct Events Centre.

It is understood that the Cup champions are well advanced in moving to their new home in the former INEOS Team UK (now INEOS Britannia) base on the rectified Wynyard Point. Before the 2021 America's Cup, the area consisted of an ugly fuel and hazardous substances storage facility, which had been operating since 1935. It was severely contaminated due to practices stemming from that era.

The first obvious sign of the Emirates Team NZ move is the removal of its 2017 America's Cup champion AC50 from the southern wall of the team base. It is not known where the foiling catamaran will be permanently located.

INEOS Team UK/Britannia is understood to have a ten-year lease on the Wynyard Point site, and the NZ team will launch into the Wynyard Point marina. The rest of the Wynyard Point area is now devoid of buildings apart from the new ETNZ base. The flat area is expected to be used for recreation and event purposes.

Like NYYC American Magic, Emirates Team New Zealand is expected to follow the sun for the next two years. Although nothing has been announced, they are expected to work out of Auckland in the 2022/23 Summer sailing season before moving to a base in Barcelona for the northern hemisphere summer and venue-only sailing period running from July 1, 2023, to October 31, 2023. The Kiwi team is expected to return for the 2023/24 Summer sailing season, during which they are expected to launch and work up their new AC75 in the first two quarters of 2024.

Emirates Team New Zealand, like NYYC American Magic and Luna Rossa (ITA), will run a two-base strategy - with home and away bases.

INEOS Britannia has a winter base in Mallorca, while their Barcelona base is built. Alinghi Red Bull Racing is currently operating out of a temporary base in Barcelona while their permanent base is built in Barcelona. Luna Rossa has a long-established base in Sardinia.

The final list of base allocations was announced last week. Some of the sites are already cleared. Others will require some demolition before a new base can be constructed. Like others before it, the 2024 America's Cup is being used as a lever to rejuvenate an old port facility.

Cup icon dies

Luca Bontempelli, one of the best-known sailing America's Cup journalists, died last week in Milan, just two days after he turned 61yrs, following a tough fight against a brain tumour that sadly proved to be terminal.

Luca was greatly respected for his competitive sailing experience in offshore racing, Olympic classes, Whitbread Round the World Race and America's Cup, which he carried over into his inciteful writing on the America's Cup and other sailing events and issues.

"We were lucky enough to have him in Fare Vela for a couple of years as the managing director," wrote. "The editorial meetings were always a training ground. A continuous exploration of the most remote alleys of sailing." Michele Tognozzi wrote in Fare Vela

"First a sailor and then a top-level journalist, Luca Bontempelli was followed by all Elban sailing enthusiasts and considered one of the most authoritative journalists of this sport at an international level," said the ElbaPress

His death follows the sudden passing of another longtime key America's Cup figure, Francesco Longanesi Cattani (ITA), who died suddenly on in mid-June in Milan, after suffering a stroke.

Sail-World extends its condolences to Luca's friends, family and the Italian sailing community. His funeral was held on Monday in Milan.

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