Yachting World|November 2021
Terry Hutchinson

The America’s Cup is no stranger to public fallings-out and backroom dealings, but the twists and turns of the venue selection for the 37th America’s Cup must rank alongside the very worst of America’s Cup disputes.

The Protocol for the 37th America’s Cup is due to be published on 17 November, 2021. Ahead of that announcement, which will include the design and rules for the next regatta, the venue for AC37 was due to be announced on 17 September. However, Cup holders Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS), announced instead that they were extending the selection period for shortlisted venues.

In a statement RNZYS Commodore Aaron Young said: “For the benefit of both the 37th America’s Cup and the eventual host venue, we’d rather allow some more time now so we make the right decision as opposed to a rushed decision.”

With increasing uncertainty regarding where the event may be heading, key figures in the Cup world began to voice their frustrations. “New Zealanders are great at saying a lot and saying nothing,” Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena said at a press conference at Genoa Boat Show. “We do not know where the Cup will be held, when, with what rules, with how many and which boats.”

Meanwhile, an unedifying battle of words broke out between Emirates Team New Zealand and Mark Dunphy, a New Zealand petroleum magnate who called for ETNZ CEO Grant Dalton’s sacking then pledged NZ$20 million to try and force ETNZ to defend the Cup in Auckland.

In an extraordinary press release, ETNZ claimed that they had seen details of an email between Hamish Ross, a New Zealand-based lawyer who has previously acted for Alinghi, to the Commodore of the New York Yacht Club and Dunphy. The email discussed plans to disrupt the venue selection process by challenging whether the Royal Yacht Squadron, represented by INEOS Team UK, was a legitimate Challenger of Record – taking the case to the New York Supreme Court if necessary. The intention was to have the British replaced as Challenger of Record by the New York YC, who would agree the next venue and Protocol. Dunphy denied that Alinghi was involved.

In typical forthright style, Dalton said on a New Zealand breakfast radio show on 22 September: “The opposition will be looking and just laughing at the time we’ve had to spend dealing with this.

“We’ve got three credible bids. Can I say that this is the end of Mark Dunphy but it’s not the end of Auckland. It never will be the end of Auckland until it is, effectively. All we are wanting to do is put up a team and a defence that can win the Cup. My sole purpose in life is to retain the Cup in New Zealand, even if that means it must be sailed outside New Zealand to do it.”

Away from Auckland, other host city bids rumoured to be under consideration are a diverse mix, including Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, Cork, in south-west Ireland, and either Valencia or Barcelona via a Spanish bid. The sums required to secure a host venue selection haven’t been disclosed, although the Defenders are understood to have turned down an offer of NZ$99million from the New Zealand government.

Other teams are also going through some big shake-ups. New York Yacht Club has affiliated with the Stars & Stripes team, who failed to launch a boat for the 36th Cup due to lack of funds, rather than Terry Hutchinson’s American Magic. INEOS Team UK is recruiting for a range of technical roles, but based at Mercedes F1 team in Brackley rather than Portsmouth, and former CEO Grant Simmer has left the British team.

Swiss step into SailGP

Switzerland has joined the Sail GP circuit, taking the number of teams in the foiling series up to nine. Sébastien Schneiter, who raced in the 49er at the Tokyo Olympics, will skipper the team, which is sponsored by Lundin Energy. SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts said it was an exciting moment taking SailGP another step closer to grow the league to 10 teams and 12 events.”

New 40ft Cup class confirmed

One key piece of information that has been confirmed ahead of the full Protocol is a new AC40 design, to be used for a specific Women’s America’s Cup and Youth America’s Cup event.

Although the AC75 has been confirmed as the class for the next two America’s Cup cycles (some rule variations are expected in the Protocol), the new one-design AC40 is intended as a ‘pathway’ design to improve accessibility to foiling America’s Cup racing. It will be used to boost participation among female and younger sailors at AC37 Women’s and Youth America’s Cup races, as well as for testing and development, match race training, and preliminary regattas by the teams.

Beneteau invest in charter

Beneteau is set to enter the yacht charter sector, joining forces with the PPF investment group to acquire an 87% stake in Dream Yacht Group, and a 50% stake in Swedish charter company Navigare Yachting.

Boat shows bounce back

September saw international boat shows come back with a bang thanks to the successful running of Cannes and Southampton followed by the Genoa and Monaco shows. For many in the industry these in-water shows were a welcome return to life as they knew it (albeit with a few more restrictions in place, including face masks and awkward non-physical greetings), while for the general boating public it was the first chance to see the full ranges of new yachts in person for nearly two years.

The Cannes Yachting Festival has retained its status as being the show to see the glamorous new premieres, with many mid-sized to larger yachts making their world debuts. The 500m long stretch of monohulls berthed side-by-side and stern-to in Port Canto made for a particularly spectacular sight, with dozens of new yachts over 50ft. These encompassed three new Solaris models (including its flagship 111 CeFeA), Swan’s new 58 and 90, two very different Jeanneau 60s, and the Ice 52 and 70.

The multihulls, meanwhile, took over significant pontoon real estate and ranged from the exciting new sporty IC36 to the two new Outremers, the 4Zero and 55, and the space kings that are the Lagoon 55 and Sunreef 70.

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