Even before the final gun sounded in New Zealand’s favour, however, Emirates Team New Zealand put the host city for the 37th America’s Cup out to tender, in a process run by Origin Sports, a London-based promotions company.
And when ETNZ did win, Royal Yacht Squadron Racing on England’s Isle of Wight was immediately announced as Challenger of Record, suddenly replacing long-involved Prada. More surprising still, a Cowes venue is lately being touted as “hot favourite” to host the next America’s Cup.
Having been at the 2000 and 2003 America’s Cup defences in Auckland, I’ve personally witnessed the absolute elation in retaining the auld mug, and the depths of despair at losing it when two key Kiwis switched sides to the Swiss Alinghi syndicate of pharmaceuticals billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli.
New Zealand’s marine industries in particular got a huge boost back then, with orders for new builds, refits and repairs, and for all sorts of marine accessories. Buyers came out of the woodwork. Online video reports were set up for owners in distant Europe and the States to watch their boats building.
In 2003 I wrote a 60-page government-financed insert on New Zealand marine offerings for Yachts International, rival to Boat International, whose first attempt at a Boat International USA folded not long afterwards. The glossy supplement appeared in YI’s Fort Lauderdale Boat Show edition that year.
Marinas were choc-a-bloc, and berths in the Viaduct Harbour, where all the expensive accoutrements for the latest AC are already set up, were full. Since then superyacht-ready Silo Marina has been added, and nearby Westhaven Marina is largest in the southern hemisphere.
An expected 70-80 superyachts didn’t turn up in 2021, but could well do so for the next event. Big boat charters also surge at this time, and local Kiwi spectator fleets for the 36th America’s Cup were absolutely enormous.
So what is going on?
The official Emirates Team New Zealand statement says they are “pleased to confirm that the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron has accepted a Notice of Challenge for the 37th America’s Cup from Royal Yacht Squadron Racing, represented by INEOS Team UK, which will act as the Challenger of Record for AC37”.
Aaron Young, RNZYS Commodore, issued a brief comment in tandem: “It is great to once again have the RYSR involved, given they were the first yacht club that presented this trophy over 170 years ago, which really started the legacy of the America’s Cup. Along with Emirates Team New Zealand, we look forward to working through the details of the next event with them”.
A Protocol governing AC37 is to be published “within eight months, including provisions outlined in ETNZ’s release”. But the release itself seems to have addressed many major issues already.
It has been agreed that the AC75 Class shall remain the class of yacht for the next two America’s Cup cycles, and agreement to this is a condition of entry.
Teams will be restricted to building only one new AC75 for the next event.
A single Event Authority will be appointed to be responsible for the conduct of all racing, and the management of commercial issues relating to AC37.
The Defender and Challenger of Record will be investigating and agreeing “a meaningful package of campaign cost reduction measures, including measures to attract a higher number of Challengers, and to assist with the establishment of new teams”.
A new Crew Nationality Rule will require 100 per cent of the race crew for each competitor to either be a passport holder of the country of the team’s yacht club, as at 19 March 2021, or to have been physically present in that country, or acting on behalf of such yacht club in Auckland, venue of the AC36 events, for two of the previous three years prior to 18 March 2021.
An exception to this requirement is that there will be a discretionary provision allowing a quota of non-nationals on the race crew for competitors from “Emerging Nations”. In sailing terms, this would presumably allow countries like China to hire non-national pros, albeit China is hardly an “emerging nation” in other senses.
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