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Sail-World NZ: July 31 - Olympics and America's Cup at a turning point

by Richard 31 Jul 2023 05:37 PDT 1 August 2023
American Magic - LEQ12 - Day 46 - July 27, 2023 - Barcelona © Paul Todd/America's Cup

Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for July 31, 2023

The 2024 America's Cup has entered a new phase, with five of the six teams entered now sailing from the venue, Barcelona.

For the 2024 Olympic hopefuls, a key phase begins in 10 days when the first phase of the Paris2024 Olympic Qualification gets underway in The Hague.

Four of the America's Cup teams have relocated to Barcelona. The fifth, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli is doing a bit of both - opting to stay at their main base in Cagliari, Sardinia, and also sail their AC40-One Design from their AC base in Barcelona.

The way the Protocol is being interpreted, only teams sailing AC40s and AC75s are required to sail from Barcelona from July 1 until October 31, 2023. Those sailing LEQ12s can sail where they wish.

The original concept was for all teams to sail in Barcelona for four months, which also overlapped with the build-up and regatta period of the Challenger Selection Series and America's Cup in 12 months, from August to October 2024.

That timing will allow the teams to practice their regatta drill ahead of the main event and see how the venue operates. There won't be any actual racing in Barcelona. However, one AC40 regatta will be staged 20nm down the coast at Vilanova - staying in the Catalonia region.

The vexed issue of expected 2024 weather will also be checked out over the July - October 2023 period, co-related with previous years, and some conclusions about how things could work out in 12 months.

In Cup Spy, we have been using wind data from Predictwind's real-time weather station at the entrance to Port Olimpic - the facility created at the urging of Paul Henderson, charged by ISAF/World Sailing with negotiating a sailing venue for the 1992 Olympic Regatta. It remains one of the few Olympic legacy sailing venues in the world.

During the 2024 America's Cup, the AC40s will be based at Port Olimpic.

Five America's Cup teams (well, four plus Luna Rossa) have moved into their permanent bases in Port Vell, the which is due to undergo a major revamp ahead of the America's Cup.

The elephant in the room is how the America's Cup boats and sailors will handle the much-discussed seaway off Barcelona. So far, we have seen some spectacular nosedives and other aquabatics from the AC40s and the Swiss AC75.

Those who have followed our Cup Spy series will know that there is often a seaway running from three different directions, which the recon teams have dutifully recorded and reported. They confirm that the foiling monohulls occasionally have to take off into a sea that is directly head-on, and similar challenges are presented when heading downwind and gybing at speeds over 40kts.

It's not for the faint-hearted, and it will make spectacular television.

Emirates Team New Zealand have tested themselves a couple of times in winds at the top end of the scale and came through relatively unscathed. Alinghi Red Bull Racing has not been so fortunate, but they have a less experienced crew, a very wet, first-generation boat with a semi-submersible hull. To add to the complication, they are sailing with different wing foils on either foil arm. We have yet to see American Magic sail their revamped AC75, the former Patriot from the 2021 America's Cup, at Barcelona.

We have yet to see any indication from Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli as to what they will do, if anything, with their two AC75s from the 2021 campaign. The Italians, Challengers in 2021 who took the Defenders out to 3-3 after three days of racing in the 2021 America's Cup, are probably the Challenger most watched by the Kiwis. Staying back at their base in Cagliari can only add to the New Zealanders curiosity - but they are more than used to the mind games played in the America's Cup. And equally, the Italians are adept at playing them.

The Brits' options are more clear - they donated their race boat from the 2021 Prada Cup to the Classic Boat Museum in Cowes. Consequently, they are locked into a very F1 approach with their custom-designed test boat, which is as much a data collection device as a prototype yacht. The Italians look to have taken a similar approach - but with a test boat that is rather more conventional - if that term can ever be used in the contemporary America's Cup.

Fortunately for both, based on the limited Kiwi experience of Barcelona, the AC75 looks to handle the Barcelona Backwash better than the AC40, with its smaller foiling geometry.

The Barcelona conditions are more of a design and sailing challenge for foilers than the flat, often landlocked courses of the last America's Cup.

Their four-month sojourn in Barcelona gives the teams a chance to look over each other without being restricted to the views and reports contained in the shared repository of the AC37 Joint Recon program.

A lot is new in this America's Cup, with many elements that have never been attempted before. No one knows which is the correct approach. However, at this stage, it is a fair bet that the Cup has already been won - just a question of by whom and by how much.

Racing will begin in the Allianz Sailing World Championships in The Hague in just over a week.

The event officially opens on August 7, and racing gets underway four days later on August 11.

The regatta is much bigger than the just concluded Pre-Olympics (officially known as the Olympic Test Event) or the Olympic Regatta itself - Paris 2024.

In Marseille, the International Olympic Committee has allowed just 330 athletes for the 2024 Sailing event - that is down from 350 athletes at Tokyo2020 and well short of the 1200 athletes who will compete in the Allianz Sailing Championships in mid-August 2023.

The Allianz Sailing Championships will allocate 40% of the places for the National Olympic Committees (i.e., countries) to compete in Paris 2024. With an Olympic spot secured, it is over to the individual nations as to who they select for the slot, if indeed they decide to send anyone at all.

In the past, it has been embarrassing for the sport to see World Sailing trying to allocate declined Olympic places - sending a clear signal to the International Olympic Committee that Sailing had too many places - and like turkeys voting for an early Christmas, the sailing athlete quota gets cut for the subsequent Olympics, as the IOC tries to bring the total athlete numbers down to their guideline of 10,000.

A disturbing statistic from the just concluded Pre-Olympics is that of the 30 medals on offer between the ten classes, three nations won 14 medals between them - or almost 50%.

That is not good news for a sport trying to expand beyond the so-called Developed/First World nations. Further, at the Pre-Olympics for Tokyo 2020, only Great Britain won four medals. At this year's Pre-Olympics, the Brits won five medals, as did the host country, France. The Dutch, a rising power in sailing, won four medals. But to square the ledger, sixteen countries won medals in Tokyo and the same in Marseille.

In 2024, there is a clear objective to get Emerging Nations and Developing Nations into the Sailing Olympics - with all World Sailing member nations being categorised.

The unconfirmed Olympic allocation places will be reallocated by March 20, 2024.

New Zealand came away medal-less Marseille.

The encouraging aspect of the New Zealand team's performance in Marseille earlier in July was with one exception, where all Olympic Regatta rookies, Kiwis, were in the top five overall in three classes and the top ten in another three classes. Depending on who you talk to, the "conversion" from top regatta places to Olympic medals is 50% of either the top five or the top ten.

Of course, the message from the regatta is that New Zealand sailors have a bit of work ahead of them. They will get a better idea after the Allianz Sailing Championships in The Hague, and from a funding perspective, any class that can qualify from the first round - will usually proceed to the Olympic regatta.

While there may be no medals from the Marseille Pre-Olympics, the results are encouraging - from the NZ rebuilding perspective. Most of the international rockstars of Olympic sailing have moved on, and that dynamic creates opportunity for those who can reach out and grab it.

The 2024 Olympics will also be notable for the degree of change in the classes - where only 50% of the classes/events that were sailed in at Tokyo2020 will be sailed at Paris2024. And 50% of the classes sailed in the 2024 Olympics will be foilers.

Because the America's Cup will be staged almost back to back with the 2024 Olympic Regatta, several top sailors have had to choose between doing an Olympic program or a more financially lucrative America's Cup.

Many of those sailors who have been at the top of the fleets for the last three Olympics have retired - either for personal reasons or because of the Event clean out, which has resulted in "their" boat being dropped for the 2024 Olympic Regatta.

Looking down at the results for the Paris2024 test event, there are not too many names from the top echelon of Tokyo2020, or for that matter, Rio2016 or London2012 - the Women's ILCA6 being a notable exception. That indicates the Olympic pecking order is about to change - presenting an opportunity for those seeking a passport for a professional sailing career.

Between newsletters, you can follow all the racing and developments in major and local events on or by scrolling to the top of the site, select New Zealand, and get all the latest news and updates from the sailing world.

For all the latest news from NZ and around the world, see the top stories below and check daily on our website

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

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