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As well as the connection forged through the presentation of the Sir Thomas Lipton Memorial Cup by Royal Ulster Yacht Club on Belfast Lough to the 36th America's Cup challenging team's yacht club, the Circolo Della Vela Sicilia Yacht Club, the club has a personal link through one of its members.

Heather Forrest's great-nephew, Shannon Falcone is Trimmer/Grinder on Luna Rossa. His mother is Heather's niece and Heather says he was named Shannon "as he has Irish blood, and his Great Grandmother, the late Molly Gray from Bangor, would have been so proud".

Forty-year-old Shannon comes from a sailing family, his first taste of the sea having been as a toddler, when his father Carlo and Mother Pandora, left Europe and sailed to Antigua. It was with his Olympian father that he originally sailed in Stars, competing at the 1998, 1999 and 2000 Star World Championships. He has competed in multiple America's Cups and Volvo Ocean Races. At one stage his sailing career saw him on Oracle Team USA. He then re-joined Luna Rossa.

And it's to the Luna Rossa's home club, the Circolo Della Vela Sicilia Yacht Club in Palermo, Sicily, that the Sir Thomas Lipton Memorial Cup will be destined. As reported in Afloat.ie, the Cup was handed over at a dinner on 24th February in the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Committee Room, where Royal Ulster member John Taylor who lives in Auckland, made the presentation.

(Left to Right) John Taylor - RUYC, Aaron Young - Commodore RNZYS, Agostino Randazzo - Commodore Circolo Della Vella Sicilia YC in Sicily receiving the Sir Thomas Lipton Memorial Cup(Left to Right) John Taylor - RUYC, Aaron Young - Commodore RNZYS, Agostino Randazzo - Commodore Circolo Della Vella Sicilia YC in Sicily receiving the Sir Thomas Lipton Memorial Cup

Present also were Francesco Longanesi Cattani, Representative of the Challenger of Record, who hosted and sponsored the event; Aaron Young – Commodore RNZYS and Agostino Randazzo, Commodore - Circolo Della Vela Sicilia Yacht Club. Agostino Randazzo was pleased to receive the cup and impressed also to have the personal addressed letter of congratulations from RUYC Commodore, HRH The Duke of Gloucester. John was delighted to be involved " A relaxed and convivial atmosphere was engendered by our Prada host Francesco Longanesi Cattani supported by an excellent dinner laid on by RNZYS. The conversation was free-flowing and constructive suggestions for the future of this event were exchanged between the clubs."

The Presentation of the Pell Cup by Simon Davidson (L) - Commodore Ida Lewis YC, Agostino Randazzo - Commodore Circolo Della Vella Sicilia YC,(centre) Aaron Young - Commodore RNZYS.The Presentation of the Pell Cup by Simon Davidson (L) - Commodore Ida Lewis YC, Agostino Randazzo - Commodore Circolo Della Vella Sicilia YC,(centre) Aaron Young - Commodore RNZYS.

Ida Lewis YC Commodore, Simon Davidson also presented their Pell Cup to the Challenger at the same event. The two clubs have a long history as four of the Cup presentations were held in the Ida Lewis YC.

John Taylor - RUYC handing over letter of congratulations from HRH Duke of Gloucester, Commodore RUYC to Agostino Randazzo - Commodore Circolo Della Vella Sicilia YC in SicilyJohn Taylor - RUYC handing over the letter of congratulations from HRH Duke of Gloucester, Commodore RUYC to Agostino Randazzo - Commodore Circolo Della Vella Sicilia YC in Sicily

In an interesting development Rear Commodore Johnny Ritchie has recently been told by ex-Vice Commodore, George Ralston that RUYC received an invitation via an Outport member Teddy Thomas (who was also a member of The New York Yacht Club) to present a trophy to the Challenger for the America's Cup in memory of Sir Thomas Lipton. In 1970 the Committee purchased the Cup, which was originally for the Challenging team but is now presented to the Challenging Yacht Club.

Meanwhile, we await the resumption of the America's Cup racing on the weekend of Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th March, the event having been postponed in the light of the seven-day Auckland Covid 19 Level 3 lockdown. 

Published in America's Cup
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The latest lockdown in Auckland has delivered a new challenge to both Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli as they prepare for the 36th America's Cup Match. The level 3 restrictions that were announced by the Government late on Saturday night have already seen the postponement of the start of the Match. There will be no racing this weekend, Wednesday 10 March is the earliest that racing can start.

The delay means that as teams prepared for the new start date their weather forecasters and strategists needed to look further ahead if they were to optimise their boats for the conditions come the day. But as we’ve seen already since the start of racing in December, thanks to the complexity of the local landmass and the surrounding water, weather forecasting is a tricky business around the Hauraki Gulf. Planning for 10 days ahead rather than five is a significant jump. At present, the long-range forecast suggests NW 15-20kts but it would be a brave person who bet on these conditions at this stage.

But aside from the weather, there is another major factor that will pile on the pressure for the teams and that is making their declarations to the measurement committee.

Monday 1 March at 16:03 local time was the deadline for both America's Cup teams to define and finalise the configuration of their boats for the Match. With that deadline now passed, both teams will have laid out precisely the boat that they will use for the series with specific details on all the key areas such as the hull, rig, foils and many other areas of the boat including its precise weight.

Within these key areas, there are various subsections that define each element in more detail. And while the AC75 and the rules that define it are complex, the bottom line is that there is barely any wriggle room once a team has staked its claim to the type of boat that they intend to race.

Overall the philosophy behind this subtly different approach was to encourage teams to prepare their boats to be an all-round boat.

This is a marked change from previous Cups where the rules on declaration allowed teams to turn up to each race day in the best configuration. The result was that teams would apply to the measurers for a new certificate ahead of each day’s racing.

The main exclusion to the rules this time around is the type and number of sails, but even then there are strict rules on the weight of the sails that are carried on board and corrector weights that may be required to ensure that the all-up weight of the boat remains the same.

So, as teams looked ahead to weather data that is more than a week away they had to pin the tail on the donkey as to how their boat will be configured.

It’s no easy task, but there is a further complication and that is making a list of what their replacement items will be in the case of gear failure: Replacing a broken piece of kit is not as straightforward as you may think.

First, teams need to be able to demonstrate to the measurers that the gear failure was unintentional and then that it is not possible to effect a repair.

Assuming they are successful in doing this, teams can only use replacement items that have been included on the list that they made as part of their declaration and in their order of preference.

If a team is successful in their application, then their opponent automatically has the opportunity to make the same change.

Published in America's Cup
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In light of the latest Auckland COVID-19 Level 3 lockdown put in place by the Government from 6 am this morning for the next seven days, America’s Cup Event Ltd has postponed the first weekend of racing on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th of March.

The purpose of this early decision is to provide at least some certainty in planning for all event stakeholders with regard to next weekend initially.

America’s Cup Event Ltd Chair, Tina Symmans said, “ACE has always said that it wishes to hold as much of the racing under Level 1 restrictions as possible. But to be prudent, ACE will apply for an exemption to race under Level 3 restrictions so as to keep as many options open as possible. However, racing will not occur before at least Wednesday 10th March.”

In the meantime, ACE will continue to work closely with the relevant authorities over the next few days as this latest COVID situation unfolds.

“We need to understand all likely scenarios so that an updated racing schedule can be put in place whilst also ensuring the regulatory requirements are met,” concluded Symmans.

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When the "low black schooner" America won what was to become an historic race around the Isle of Wight on Friday 22nd August 1851 from a small fleet of varied English yachts, thereby winning a silver ewer which was eventually to become The America's Cup, the British Empire was approaching its world-girdling all-powerful peak. As for the United States of America, they were expanding with such vigour that they overcame a destructive Civil War ten years later to enter an era of such growth and strength that inevitably, the USA became the world's superpower.

Yet in 1851, Italy was not even a nation state. It took until 1871 to achieve Garibaldi's Risorgimento, although the Kingdom of Italy was to be somewhat prematurely declared on St Patrick's Day 1861. You just can't beat St Patrick's Day for premature announcements – we can all guess what this year's one might be.

As for New Zealand, as the name indicates, the first Europeans to discover it were the Dutch. But they first saw it some hundreds of years after the voyaging Polynesians - who were to become the Maoris - had settled in the place. Yet even by 1851, New Zealand had only recently been declared a minor Colony of the British Empire, and the Maoris continued to significantly outnumber the new European settlers.

The beginning of a continuing chapter of sailing history. The schooner America crosses the line to win the race round the Isle of Wight on Friday August 22nd 1851The beginning of a continuing chapter of sailing history. The schooner America crosses the line to win the race round the Isle of Wight on Friday, August 22nd 1851.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin remarked that it can take ten years to achieve a week's movement in human history, yet equally ten years' movement can sometimes happen in a week or even less. Whatever, the fact is that quite a bit of world-changing history has happened at varying speeds in the 170 years since 1851, but above all its turmoil there still emerges the America's Cup, the Auld Mug, the world's oldest international sporting challenge.

Yet it would have been beyond the wildest imagination in 1851 to visualise that by March 2021, the two national teams starting to race for it in less than a week's time will be New Zealand and Italy, with the former defending. Just try to imagine how outlandish this would have looked to a Victorian Englishman 170 years ago….

Light years from Cowes 1851. The 2021 defenders, Emirates Team New ZealandLight years from Cowes 1851. The 2021 defenders, Emirates Team New Zealand

The Kiwis are doing it with backing from an airline (an airline?) called Emirates from the mysterious Arab world, an airline based in a futuristic high-rise city around what a very few intrepid British explorers, soldiers and traders might have known in 1851 as dhow-filled Dubai Creek.

As for the Italians, the notoriously undisciplined comic-opera Italians of the 19th century? Well, 170 years later they suddenly seem to have re-discovered the ferociously efficient non-nonsense Roman Empire's way of doing things. And like the Roman Empire, they're racially blind, as one of their two star helmsmen is Australian. Yet their campaign appears to be supported by the fashion house of Prada (formerly humble dressmakers and seamstresses, forsooth), and some family called Pirelli, who are manufacturer of inflatable rubber tyres, whatever they might be.

The discipline of the Roman Empire sails again – the Luna Rossa challenger Prada PirelliThe discipline of the Roman Empire sails again – the Luna Rossa challenger Prada Pirelli 

Continuing to see this from the viewpoint of an English sailing enthusiast in Cowes in 1851, we're surprised to learn that the racing is taking place on the other side of the world at a place called Auckland, which calls itself the City of Sails. In 1851, it's a little harbour village that has been called Auckland for only ten years, and our English yachtie of 170 years ago would probably be much more familiar with the place of its ultimate name origins, the coal-mining town of Bishop Auckland up north in County Durham.

But the thing that would really floor our 1851 yachting enthusiast is the news that in order to reach next month's final, the Italians have – with brutal efficiency - seen off rival challenges by the USA, and what is now called the United Kingdom but in 1851 was forever England, the British team having been dispatched with a ruthlessness which hasn't been seen since the Americans saw off the British Sceptre challenge of 1958.

The image has moved on from a coal-mining town in Durham – the waterfront in Auckland, with America's Cup action being played outThe image has moved on from a coal-mining town in Durham – the waterfront in Auckland, with America's Cup action being played out 

By this time our Cowes observer of 1851 will be so discombobulated that – with growing hysteria – he'll be demanding to know if the Chinese and Indians are involved? To which the answer is not yet, but it's surely only a matter of time…..

So as world sailing's self-styled greatest contest so vividly illustrates the pivoting of global centres of sporting power and economic muscle, it's timely to remember that in the 36 challenges for the America's Cup since the first officially-recognised one was made off New York in 1870, no less than eight have had Irish origins.

That's 22%, for heaven's sake. These challenges were made between 1886 and 1931. And each one gives us some telling insights into the Ireland of the time in which they were made, none more so than the first in 1886.

There'd already been three unsuccessful challenges, in 1870, 1871 and 1876, but it was only the latter which bore any resemblance to the modern match-racing format, as the 1870 British challenger James Ashbury had found he was racing against a fleet of 23 boats, and was only tenth overall, with the winner a shoal-draft schooner which took her victory by taking a short cut across "thin water" with her centreboard raised.

So for 1871 the Americans agreed Ashbury would race against only one boat. But they reserved the right to select their boat-for-the-day from a flotilla of four specialized boats, the choice being weather-dependent, and not surprisingly Ashbury's Livonia – which had already had to make a Transatlantic passage to comply with the challenge rules – found herself outclassed.

Things became more serious in 1876, as the challenger was Canadian, and though she'd to get to New York sailing on her own bottom, it didn't require the same ocean-going demands as crossing from Europe. The boat was the Countess of Dufferin, named for the very supportive wife of the notably able Canadian Governor General Lord Dufferin, of sailing into High Latitudes fame. So I suppose we might claim yet another Irish link there. But as Canadian yachting was in its infancy, the strict new match-racing format underlined the American superiority.

This was further emphasised by another Canadian challenge in 1881 when the Americans won the clinching race by 38 minutes and 54 seconds, a margin which has never been matched since. But things were a bit closer in 1885 when the British returned to the fray with Richard Sutton's Genesta, yet the Americans clearly kept the cup. But despite that, Cup fever was building, and the first Irish-flavoured challenge of 1886 was to do much to build popular interest.

Lt Paddy Henn from County Clare, America's Cup Challenger of 1886, was never happier than when sailingLt Paddy Henn from County Clare, America's Cup Challenger of 1886, was never happier than when sailing

Lt William "Paddy" Henn RN (1847- to 1894) was a scion of the Henn family of County Clare, who'd originally bought lands on the west shore of the Fergus Estuary on the north side of the Shannon Estuary in 1685 from Henry O'Brien, 7th Earl of Thomond.

As the O'Briens of Thomond weren't exactly renowned for their probity, it's a moot point whether or not the land sold to the Henns was really the O'Briens' to sell in the first place. But the newcomers proved to be popular landlords, while for their part they liked the place so much that when they built their modest country home, they called it Paradise House.

The driveway to the Henn family's Paradise House, with the Fergus and Shannon Estuaries beyond The driveway to the Henn family's Paradise House, with the Fergus and Shannon Estuaries beyond.

Paradise House in 1936 Paradise House in 1936

Many of the Henns were early recreational sailors, and young William was so keen he joined the navy primarily to sail the oceans of the world. But didn't get nearly as much sailing as he hoped, so he bought himself out of the service – an expensive enough ploy – but proudly retained the modest Lieutenant title, and thereafter was known as "Lt Henn, the jolly Irish tar".

That he was now able to sail whenever he wanted was made possible by a judicious but very happy marriage to a Scots heiress,
Susan Matilda Cunninghame-Graham-Bartholomew (1853-1911), where every hyphen represented yet another fortune. She shared his enthusiasm for sailing, and they commissioned the 102ft iron cutter Galatea from designer John Beavor-Webb, who was to make his name in America designing such craft as the succession of ever-larger and very elegant Corsair steam yachts for financier J Pierpoint Morgan. Originally, however, he hailed from Enniskillen in County Fermanagh, which made this even more of an Irish challenge.

But as it was funded by Mrs Henn's large if depleting fortune, the challenge was made through the club with which her family was linked, the Royal Northern YC in the Clyde. Nevertheless, Galatea spent some time in Ireland anchored in a useful pool below Paradise House before making the required Atlantic crossing with the crew including Mrs Henn and her pet monkey Peggy.

Galatea racing. In reality, she was a comfortable cruising yacht which happened to set an enormous spread of rather good sails.Galatea racing. In reality, she was a comfortable cruising yacht which happened to set an enormous spread of rather good sails.

Galatea was in a reality a very comfortable cruising yacht which happened to set an enormous spread of rather good sails. Paddy and Susan Henn were very content with living aboard her for long periods, and few enough of their domestic items were brought ashore to lighten the ship for racing, so not surprisingly they were roundly beaten in the series off New York sailed in the Autumn of 1886.

However, as it was sailed in light airs, the Henns said they were game to stay on aboard Galatea in New York through the winter to race again in the stronger winds of Spring. Such was their popularity that the New York Yacht Club agreed, and the scenes of domestic bliss aboard Galatea in wintry New York - with Peggy in the ascendant - provided ready fodder for New York's tabloid press.

Galatea's solidly comfortable saloon. Paddy and Susan Henn and their pet monkey Peggy lived aboard in New York through the winter of 1986-87Galatea's solidly comfortable saloon. Paddy and Susan Henn and their pet monkey Peggy lived aboard in New York through the winter of 1986-87

But the brisk winds of Spring, with Paddy and Susan Henn enjoying themselves hugely, still failed to do the business, so they took fond farewell of their many New York friends and spent eight years cruising the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, saddened only by the death of Peggy after seven of those years – she was given a proper burial at sea with full naval honours.

Further sadness came with the relatively early death, aged only 47, of William Henn in 1894, but the gallant Susan kept the Galatea in commission, and continued to sail her and live aboard for long periods unto her own death in 1911. After this, the much-loved ship was broken up, which rather puts paid to the story that she lurks in the mud below the ruins of Paradise House, which the Henn family continued to occupy until 1936.

However, in nearby Ballynacally there's a memorial to the Galatea Challenge whose unveiling in 2009 was attended by Brigadier Frank Henn, great-grand-nephew of William Henn, who fondly remembered happy family sailing holidays at Paradise House in the 1930s, a direct link which ended as recently as last November 2020, when Frank Henn died aged 99.

Monica and Frank Henn at the unveiling of the Galatea Memorial in Ballynacally in 2009. Frank Henn (died November 2020) was the great-grand-nephew of Lt Paddy HennMonica and Frank Henn at the unveiling of the Galatea Memorial in Ballynacally in 2009. Frank Henn (died November 2020) was the great-grand-nephew of Lt Paddy Henn

While the Galatea Irish challenge engendered nothing but international goodwill, the next two Irish Challenges, in 1893 and 1895 by Lord Dunraven of Adare in County Limerick just across the Shannon Estuary from the Henn lands, became noted for their acrimony. Dunraven was extremely competitive, and the stakes were higher, for by this time the America's Cup had so entered public consciousness that the first US defenders to lose it would find themselves cast into total outer darkness.

Although only seven seasons had passed since the Galatea challenge, big class yacht racing designed had moved forward in light year terms, and Dunraven's 1893 challenger, the 117ft Valkyrie III (he'd Wagner on the mind), represented such advanced thinking from the G L Watson yacht design office in Glasgow that, as a gesture of support and in order to provide Valkyrie III with a training partner, the Prince of Wales ordered the almost identical Britannia, and the two were built side-by-side in D & W Henderson's shipyard on the Clyde.

Subsequently, Henderson's was taken over lock, stock and barrel by Harland & Wolff of Belfast, which explains why you can now see Valkyrie's superb builder's half model in the Royal Ulster YC in Bangor if you're looking for another Irish connection. But meanwhile, the supportive involvement of the inevitably headline-getting Prince of Wales was yet another example of Dunraven's misfortune. For although Valkyrie II was undoubtedly the first big class of the type, subsequently the magnificent new hull form became known as "The Britannia Ideal", while in terms of sailing history the name Valkyrie is most readily associated with one of the most acrimonious episodes in the history of the America's Cup.

Britannia at full power in her first season of 1893. Although she is virtually a sister-ship of the slightly earlier Valkyrie II, nowadays the design is venerated as "The Britannia Ideal", while the name of Valkyrie is associated with an acrimonious America's CupBritannia at full power in her first season of 1893. Although she is virtually a sister-ship of the slightly earlier Valkyrie II, nowadays the design is venerated as "The Britannia Ideal", while the name of Valkyrie is associated with an acrimonious America's Cup

This came as a result of Dunraven's second challenge in 1895 with Valkyrie III, also Watson-designed. Watson's designs were pacing well with the creations of the great Nathanael G Herreshoff for the defenders, but in 1893 the Americans had superior sails and sailed better.

Things seemed to have moved forward for the Dunraven camp in 1895, as it was hugely resourced from his own funds from a family fortune built on steady land-buying by the Quinn family of County Limerick since the 17th Century, subsequently augmented by an ancestor's marriage to a Miss Wyndham, who happened to own a field in Wales. But as it was a coalfield, and the biggest one in Wales at that, the added income was beyond counting.

Plus that, Dunraven was also backed by other partners such as the morbidly wealthy McCalmont family of Mount Juliet in County Kilkenny. But that's forgotten nowadays, for he got into such a row with the New York Yacht Club about the control of the spectator fleet that he withrew from the series after the tense situation was exacerbated by a collision. So many bad-tempered claims and counter-claims were flying about that the New York Yacht Club cancelled Dunraven's Honorary Membership, while his wealthy supporters' syndicate disappeared into the undergrowth.

It became a full-blown international confrontation right up to government level, the complete opposite to the affable Galatea Chalenge. But in fairness to Dunraven there were two sides to the story - his just didn't get heard at the time. And the more thoughtful sailing histories have been kinder to him, while his many achievements in other fields have shown him to be one of the outstanding people in the Ireland of his time.

The Earl of Dunraven of Adare, Co Limerick. There was much more to him than a dispute at the America's Cup of 1895The Earl of Dunraven of Adare, Co Limerick. There was much more to him than a dispute at the America's Cup of 1895.

However, back in the 1890s, the America's Cup had now reached a new peak of international fame or notoriety, depending on your point of view, and it took a marketing genius to see its full potential. Betty Armstrong has already recounted in Afloat.ie how the five challenges by Thomas Lipton between 1899 and 1930 through the Royal Ulster Yacht Club are now commemorated by the presentation by RUYC of the Lipton Cup to the winner of the Challenger Series, and Italy's Luna Rossa has already been given the 2021 honours in Auckland. But any overview of Lipton and his news-making campaigns can barely scratch the surface of a chameleon-like figure, whose achievements in developing shopping, marketing and publicity projects were prodigious.

It's not for nothing that one of the books about him has been called "The Man Who Invented Himself", for he could be anything that his people or his audience wanted him to be. You want him to be Irish despite his Glasgow associations? Well, probably he did come from Monaghan, but in case there's any doubt, he called all his racing yachts Shamrock, and his elegant supporting steam yacht was called Erin.

Made it! Thomas Lipton gets the ultimate contemporary recognitionMade it! Thomas Lipton gets the ultimate contemporary recognition

And through his encouragement, big yacht design moved on through the ultimate development of the stylish classic craft created by Watson and Fife in Scotland until, for his fourth challenge in 1914, he changed tacks completely to use the design and build services of Charles Nicholson of Gosport, who produced a truly revolutionary giant scow in Shamrock IV.

Her launching was a classic display of Lipton razzmatazz. It's going to be in Gosport? So what's the most famous ship afloat in Gosport? Nelson's Victory of course, for this was before she was permanently consigned to dry-dock. So we'll get HMS Victory to provide the background. Can't be done, she's a national monument. No such phrase as "can't be done" when Lipton's on the campaign trail. The photo says it all, though you can't help but wondered how, with those enormous topsides, the Victory even managed to sail to Trafalgar, let alone fight and win a mighty battle once she got there.

Only Tommy Lipton could have arranged it that Nelson's Victory should be the "Ship in Attendance" at the May 1914 launching of his very innovative Charles E Nicholson-designed Shamrock IV.Only Tommy Lipton could have arranged it that Nelson's Victory should be the "Ship in Attendance" at the May 1914 launching of his very innovative Charles E Nicholson-designed Shamrock IV.

But the fates were against the extraordinary Shamrock IV and her undoubted potential. Although she got across the Atlantic, the Kaiser Unpleantness of 1914-1918 and the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919 postponed the next America's Cup until 1920, by which time the lightly-built Shamrock IV had reputedly sagged in her storage cradle of six years, and the American had ample opportunity to assess her revolutionary lines.

Yet even so, she almost did it. But almost is not enough, and Lipton's final challenge in 1930 with Shamrock V to the new J-Class Rule painfully demonstrated the superiority of the latest American technology.

And after Shamrock V, that was it for the eight Irish involvements with the America's Cup. Yet back in the 1880s, it didn't seem at all odd that Paddy Henn should make his Quixotic gesture, for at the same time, Foster Connor, one of the leading members of the RUYC in Bangor, had in 1886 commissioned an America's Cup design study from rising star G L Watson.

The end of the line. Even aged 80, Lipton was still on the ball with publicity, and he arranged that his 1930 challenger Shamrock V featured in a double-page spread in The Illustrated London NewsThe end of the line. Even aged 80, Lipton was still on the ball with publicity, and he arranged that his 1930 challenger Shamrock V featured in a double-page spread in The Illustrated London News

Ultimately nothing came of it, but such was the growing energy and wealth of Belfast at the time that it didn't seem at all beyond the realms of possibility. Equally, the hectic involvement of Lord Dunraven was simply the sort of thing that a hyper-energetic persona in his position would do in the 1890s. As for Thomas Lipton making a bit of a thing out of his Irishness, sometimes there was a hint that it was slightly more serious than it seemed, and at the most basic, it was a good career over.

But now, we watch from the margins, and grasp at any links. In 1970, it emerged that Eric Strain of RNIYC at Cultra, 1947 Dragon Gold Cup winner, fourth-placed in the 1948 Olympics, and subsequently a successful Dragon helm in Sydney after emigrating to Australia, was sub-helm to Gordon Ingate on Frank Packer's almost-successful Gretel II campaign in 1970.

Then our own Harold Cudmore in his prime may have been highly valued as a sparring partner to sharpen the starting skills of both defenders and challengers in several high profile America's Cup series. And when Michael Fay of New Zealand was much involved with his nation's campaigns, we were charmed that he made so much of his Irish background and connections.

But in 2021, with two countries that didn't even exist when it all began now facing up to go into battle in the America's Cup final in less than a week's time, we can only sit back and watch in wonder.

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Since 1970 it has been the tradition that Royal Ulster Yacht Club in Bangor on Belfast Lough, presents the Sir Thomas Lipton Memorial Cup to the America's Cup Challenger's Yacht Club. When the first Challenger series was run in that year, RUYC decided it would be a fitting tribute to Sir Thomas's memory to present a trophy to the winner of the challenger series. He had challenged five times with his yachts, all called Shamrock, through Royal Ulster as he was not admitted to the elite Royal Yacht Squadron until 1931, shortly before his death. It is said that both King Edward VII and King George V shared their interest in yachting with Lipton and enjoyed his company.
The club, therefore, commissioned the Sir Thomas Lipton Memorial Cup.

But how was this presentation going to be possible during the pandemic? Through a stroke of luck, it did go ahead on 24th February. That's where the man in Auckland came in. Member John Taylor and his wife Charlotte live in the city, and John agreed to present the Trophy to the Challenger; the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team entered through Circolo Della Vela Sicilia Yacht Club Sicily. John is well known in sailing circles in Belfast Lough, and pre-Covid regularly spent the summer in Bangor.

Lipton was of Irish parentage and lived in Glasgow. After humble beginnings and years of working in America, in 1870, he established Lipton's Market in that city. This enterprise was successful, and a chain of groceries followed. When his empire had grown to 300 stores, he entered the tea trade and established the Lipton brand.

Royal Ulster presented the Trophy to the Challenger; the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team entered through Circolo Della Vela Sicilia Yacht Club SicilyRoyal Ulster presented the Trophy to the Challenger; the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team entered through Circolo Della Vela Sicilia Yacht Club Sicily Photo: COR/Borlenghi

The first occasion the Trophy was presented was to Gretel II entered through Royal Perth Yacht Club. This was presented by Karl Smyth, Honorary Secretary RUYC at the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, Newport, Rhode Island. Since 1970 RUYC has presented the Trophy on 13 occasions. Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron are the current holders, and they were first presented with this Cup in 1995, then again in 2007, 2013 and 2017, so they have been the custodians for 18 years, making them the longest holder.

In recent months, RUYC Hon Secretary Garth Maxwell built a working relationship with Hayden Porter, CEO of RNZYS, who also sits on the America's Cup organising Committee in New Zealand. John and Charlotte Taylor are well known in both yacht clubs in Bangor, where pre-COVID-19, he regularly spent his summer months.

RNZYS hosted a small dinner on the night of the 24th February, sponsored by Prada, to facilitate the presentation of the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup by RUYC. The Ida Lewis Yacht Club also presented their Pell Cup, a trophy they have presented to the Challenger since 1958.

The small but exclusive guest list includes Francesco Longanesi Cattani - Prada, Agostino Randazzo-Commodore - Circolo Della Vela Sicilia Yacht Club, Max Sirena – Director and Skipper Luna Rosso Prada Pirelli, Aaron Young – Commodore, RNZYS, Hayden Porter – CEO, RNZYS, Simon Davidson – Commodore, Ida Lewis Yacht Club, and of course, John Taylor - all with their respective partners.

A letter of congratulations from HRH The Duke of Gloucester, Commodore of Royal Ulster, was also sent.

Published in America's Cup

The Champagne was flowing for Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli who sailed to victory today in the PRADA Cup Final. The Italians winning the Series 7-1 over INEOS TEAM UK, now move onto the America’s Cup Match, the ultimate goal four years in the making, starting in 12 days time.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli outraced the British team in today’s medium to light conditions that proved to favour the Italians so markedly.

For the second time in their six attempts, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli have their name included in the exclusive list of just 36 challengers in 170 years that have made it to the America’s Cup itself.

As happened 21 years ago, the Defender Emirates Team New Zealand will face Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli on the Hauraki Gulf to decide who will win the oldest trophy in international sport.

Sir Ben Ainslie's Team INEOS UK were beaten so markedly in the lighter airsSir Ben Ainslie's Team INEOS UK was beaten so markedly in the lighter airs Photo: Studio Borlenghi

PRADA Cup Final - Race 7

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli beat INEOS TEAM UK

Start: 1615
Port: GBR
Stbd: ITA
Course: A
Axis: 037
Length: 1.95nm
Current: 0.2 knots @ 007
Winner: Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli 1:45

All eyes were on the start. Based on the previous races in this PRADA Cup Final it was the opening stages of the race that frequently defined the result.

After facing five losses in a row, INEOS TEAM UK had shown that winning the start in race 6 could lead to winning the race overall.

Today, as the British led into the start line after having escaped the clutches of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli just moments before, the early advantage was to INEOS TEAM UK. But it didn’t take long for that to change.

With both boats heading off the line on starboard, Luna Rossa was to windward in a tricky position as they tried to keep the pace on while sailing in the disturbed air off the back of the British boat.

As both boats headed out towards the left-hand side of the course it was clear that the Italians had the extra mode that has been talked about during previous races allowing them to sail higher than their opponent while maintaining the same speed.

As both boats tacked at the boundary, Luna Rossa was still to leeward but now they were ahead. Their second punch was about to be delivered.

As they squeezed their way up to INEOS TEAM UK they did so without losing any pace once again and eventually forced the British to tack. Advantage Luna Rossa.

Complete confirmation came when the pair came back together the next time, Luna Rossa was clearly ahead.

From there the pedal went down to the floor on the Italian boat. They passed through the first gate 16 seconds ahead. By the bottom, they had increased this to 0:21 and by the top, for the second time they were now 1min 7sec ahead. Luna Rossa was running away with this race.

Meanwhile, since shortly after the start the wind speed had dropped from 15 knots at Rangitoto lighthouse to just below 12 knots. INEOS TEAM UK Skipper and Helmsman Sir Ben Ainslie had made it clear after Saturday’s race that this was tricky territory for the British. ‘We know it, they know it, that’s the challenge,” he had said. This race was providing further evidence of this. By the last windward gate, Luna Rossa was 1 min 45 sec ahead of the British and only a disaster would deny them a sixth victory.

But the last leg of the race was executed as perfectly as the previous five and they crossed the line the same distance ahead. Just one more race and the PRADA Cup would be theirs. For the British, they had to win every race from here to do the same. The next race would be absolutely crucial.

“We’re super happy, for sure we are very close but we have to stay focussed,” said Luna Rossa’s co-helmsman Francesco Bruni after the finish. “We definitely have the high mode.”

For the British Skipper, things had clearly got even tougher.

“We’ve got to win every race from here so it gets pretty simple,” he said. “We’ve been trying everything we can to get on top of it, but clearly at the moment we can’t.”

Golden moment for Italy's Luna Rossa on her way to PRADA Cup final victory Photo: Studio BorlenghiGolden moment for Italy's Luna Rossa on her way to PRADA Cup final victory Photo: Studio Borlenghi 

Prada Cup Final - Race 8

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli beat INEOS TEAM UK

Start: 1715
Port: ITA
Stbd: GBR
Course: A
Axis: 030
Length: 1.85 nm
Current: 0.3 knots @ 007
Wind 12 knots - 025 degrees
Winner: Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli – 0:56

Seconds before the pre-start action began, the on board communications aboard INEOS TEAM UK between Skipper Ben Ainslie and his tactician Giles Scott suggested that they had a new move to try.

As Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli came charging into the start box on port, the British were quick to gybe as they entered the zone and chased the Italians out towards the right-hand side of the pre-start zone.

As the boats arrived at the right hand boundary Luna Rossa tacked around while INEOS TEAM UK gybed. The result was to create separation between the two, but it didn’t last for long.

As the pair headed towards the start line INEOS TEAM UK were ahead and to windward, Luna Rossa were chasing from to leeward, but both were early for the start. Slowing down was going to prove tricky, there was very little runway left, especially for the British.

Seconds before the start, INEOS TEAM UK tacked onto port and just managed to stay behind the line but most importantly just managed to cross Luna Rossa who were on starboard and had right of way.

But the close quarters action had seen Luna Rossa start with a penalty as they headed out on starboard leaving the British to head off on port tack.

But, despite having won the start and the first part of the upwind leg, when the pair came back together for the second time the advantage had switched, Luna Rossa were ahead as they crossed on starboard.

From here there was little engagement with each boat taking opposite sides of the course. As they came into the top gate Luna Rossa were on port and took the right-hand mark, INEOS TEAM UK took the left-hand mark. For the initial part of the leg, the British had more breeze on the left-hand side of the course allowing them to stay close. The physical distance on the water was 160 m.

“We’re going to have to do something special here,” said Skipper Ainslie to his tactician over the onboard comms.

Meanwhile, the breeze was staying steady at 12 knots.

By gate 2 Luna Rossa had maintained their leading margin of 12 secs as they rounded the left-hand mark. In an effort to keep splitting from their opponents, INEOS TEAM UK took the right-hand side of the gate.

On the second upwind leg the racing took place mainly on the right hand side of the course, great for the spectators.

After the fourth leg, as the pair approached gate 3 Luna Rossa had increased their lead. As they rounded the left-hand mark they were now 34 secs ahead a distance in the water of around 400 m.

Another lap of the course and the Italian lead had grown and never looked likely to reduce. By the finish, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were 56 sec ahead. They had scored their seventh victory. They had now won the Prada Cup trophy.

Having resisted high fives and open displays of celebration in the races leading up to this point, now there was no holding back, the Italians were over the moon.

d“We kept the mistakes down, stayed calm, made good decisions and the boat did the job,” said co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill.
“Pretty good day at the office,” he then said when asked on TV how he felt, clearly struggling to shake off the understated approach that had served them through the final.

Francesco Bruni was now less reserved.
“Fantastico!” he yelled into the camera, “It’s a great day for us and for Luna Rossa and it’s a great day for Italy. It was a tough final and we are in for a very good fight in the America’s Cup.”

Sir Ben Ainslie, INEOS TEAM UK Skipper & Team Principal congratulated his opponents. “Well done to Luna Rossa and well done to Italy. It’s a big deal in Italy to get into the America’s Cup again. So congratulations to the team, to Jimmy and Checco and all the boys, they sailed brilliantly and deserve to take the Final. Hats off to them we are obviously disappointed we didn’t get through but we are to go away, back on the drawing board and see what we can do.”

The 36th America’s Cup Match starts in 12 days on the 6th of March with the first race scheduled to start at 4:00 PM NZT - 0:300 UTC.

Published in America's Cup
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The PRADA Cup Final is not done and dusted yet, with INEOS TEAM UK marking their first point on the scoreboard, there may still be a long way to go.

In the first race of the day, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli resumed racing where it was left last weekend, getting their nose in front at the start and kept the British in their wake to claim a vital fifth point. However, in the second race, Ben Ainslie got his hands on the textbook finally and executed the same game plan to take a convincing first point.

Two more wins is all it will take for the Italians to take the PRADA Cup, but the British team will not give up without a fight. With the teams having pretty even boat speeds the pre-start became the key moment of the whole race, start ahead and most likely will finish ahead.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Photo: COR36/ Studio BorlenghiLuna Rossa Prada Pirelli Photo: COR36/ Studio Borlenghi

PRADA Cup Final - Race 5

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli beat INEOS TEAM UK

Start: 1615
Port: ITA
Stbd: GBR
Course: E
Axis: 245
Length: 1.82nm
Current: 0.2 knots @ 353
Winner Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli – 1:20

Any nervousness that the sea breeze would struggle to develop was dispensed with well before the start with 8-10 knots sweeping across the course area from the south-west. In the pre-race preparations, both teams were foiling comfortably around the racecourse area, the day was on.
Coming into the pre-start duel Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli came in from the right, crossing INEOS TEAM UK who entered on starboard, but would either team risk close engagement and risk coming off their foils?

The opening seconds of the pre-start suggested not as the pair kept their distance but then, as the clock counted down to the start both clearly wanted the right-hand end of the start line.

The British were to windward, a commanding position as they swooped down towards Luna Rossa in the closing seconds. But the Italians had managed their final run into the line perfectly and were able to force the British to alter course and keep clear at a crucial stage in the countdown.

The jury delivered a penalty to the British but both boats were early across the line, the penalties scrubbed each other out. But in the coming together of the two boats, INEOS TEAM UK was deemed to have infringed the boundary around Luna Rossa and was given a penalty. But the story wasn’t over yet.
The pair had split tacks and when INEOS TEAM UK and Luna Rossa came back together for the first time Luna Rossa claimed that the British had gained an advantage from their position. The jury agreed and gave INEOS TEAM UK a second penalty. Now the British had to give away distance to clear it but that proved difficult.

INEOS TEAM UK had got to the better side of the course and kept benefitting from their position making it difficult to scrub off the distance and clear their penalty. By the time they had, Luna Rossa was in the lead.

By Gate 1 it was Luna Rossa that was through first, rounding the right-hand mark 15 seconds ahead. On the downwind leg there were few passing lanes, but INEOS TEAM UK was able to sail slightly deeper to reel in some distance on Luna Rossa taking the advantage from 220 m to 160 m. But their gain was short-lived.

As the race played out the Italians sailed a perfectly executed race aboard a boat that appears to have an extra gear when it comes to the angles that it can sail upwind. As each lap went by the Italian advantage grew and by the finish, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli crossed 1 min 20 sec ahead.

QUOTES FROM THE RACECOURSE

Francesco Bruni - Helmsman, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

"It has been a fantastic race. Jimmy did most of the job in the pre-start working very well the time on distance. The whole team is playing well, the boat is in good shape, we have to keep doing our job and think race by race. At the start, there is a very fine line between staying high and slow and staying too high and too slow, and the latter is when you fall off the foils. We did a good job and Jimmy really kept the boat on the edge."

Sir Ben Ainslie - Skipper & Team Principal, INEOS TAEM UK

"We are just going to keep plugging away; it’s tough and obviously we are struggling in terms of straight lines performance, we have to push harder to make something happened. It was a pretty close start, we got the first cross but they were just sailing away with their actual speed up wind. On the start we wanted the right-hand side for the pressure so knowing they were putting off the pace on straight-line performance, it was worth it taking the risk. I would do the same thing again."

INEOS TEAM UKINEOS TEAM UK Photo: COR36 / Studio Borlenghi

PRADA Cup Final - Race 6

INEOS TEAM UK beat Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

Start: 1715
Port: GBR
Stbd: ITA
Course: E
Axis: 248
Length: 1.8nm
Current: 0.2 knots @ 353
Wind 8-12knots 225 degrees
Winner INEOS TEAM UK - 0:14

For the second race of the day the breeze had increased slightly. INEOS TEAM UK was first into the pre-start zone and was able to control the start more readily. Two small advantages, but would the British team be able to convert these into an advantage at the start?

As both boats headed towards the start line, positions were reversed from the first start of the day, Luna Rossa was to windward this time with INEOS TEAM UK to leeward and ahead. Despite some aggressive manoeuvring aboard Luna Rossa, INEOS TEAM UK took a narrow advantage at the start, bagging the left-hand end of the line and now able to push out to the extreme left-hand side of the course.

The crucial moment was coming up as both headed out towards the left-hand boundary. Luna Rossa tacked off early allowing the British to continue out to the extreme side of the left-hand side of the course. The pair were neck and neck as they headed back towards the right.

As Luna Rossa came back on starboard INEOS TEAM UK were ahead on port but chose to tack onto starboard underneath them to bounce off the Italians, a classic lee bow tack.
As they approached the top gate for the first time the pair were now separated across the width of the course and it was INEOS TEAM UK that had gained, the distance between them around 50 m.

And when they crossed, INEOS TEAM UK was laying the right-hand mark of gate 1 and rounded 8 seconds ahead of the Luna Rossa – the first time they had been ahead since the PRADA Cup Final had begun.

On the downwind slide the British were now 150 m ahead. Halfway down the leg the margin had grown to 200 m. By the bottom gate, they rounded 21 secs ahead.

INEOS TEAM UK was now starting to change their tactical play by defending their position. Luna Rossa knew it and were tacking frequently in an attempt to force INEOS to do so in the hope that the British would lose some of their distance.

Meanwhile, the sea breeze was climbing slowly but steadily with an average just breaking through 10 knots.

At gate 3 both boats took the left-hand mark, INEOS TEAM UK led by 18 seconds, Luna Rossa had clawed back three seconds, but their gain was short-lived as INEOS TEAM UK opened up their lead to 430 m on the water and it continued to grow. Through gate 4 the British were now 32 secs ahead with one lap to go.

But this race was far from over. A shift in the breeze and a drop in its strength allowed Luna Rossa to make gains on the final upwind leg. INEOS TEAM UK was back under pressure.

Through the final gate INEOS TEAM UK took the right-hand mark, Luna Rossa the left and the distance between them was now just 9secs. Now it was a drag race to the finish, the British needed to defend their position as Luna Rossa attacked.

QUOTES FROM THE RACECOURSE

Jimmy Spithill - Helmsman, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

"The day has shown the boats are very similar. INEOS TEAM UK sailed a great race, but there was not a whole of opportunities, it was one of those races where the lead boat is always able to stretch a little. At the starting line, it’s full coordination, the entire team has to be on the same page. It is very difficult to sail these boats perfectly; there is never a day when you go out and be 100%. We surely have few things from both race that we will be reviewing and we will come back tomorrow stronger."

Sir Ben Ainslie - Skipper & Team Principal, INEOS TEAM UK

"We are very happy with the win, we have been on the wrong side on the last few days. The team did a great job, they just don’t give up they are going to keep fighting all the way, so we got one back, we needed it. I think it seems to be that on 13 knots and above the boats are pretty even, but beneath that we struggle, they know and we know, that is the challenge. I can’t say enough about the team, they have been great. When the wind dies down it’s a tricky situation, Giles did a great job there, we were concerned we might be losing in there."

Prada Cup Final Scoreboard

Published in America's Cup
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After a tense few days, crossed swords and hasty press conferences, racing will resume in the Prada Cup Final on, Saturday 20 February. Race 5 will see Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli facing Ineos Team UK, the race will start from 4 pm local time weather permitting.

A statement from organisers said:

The PRADA Cup Final racing of America's Cup resumes on Saturday 20th of February NZT. Race 5 will see Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli facing INEOS TEAM UK, the race will start from 4:00 PM local time weather permitting.

Race 5 and 6 will be held on Saturday and two races a day will follow until one competitor gets to 7 points winning the PRADA Cup.

COR 36 confirm they want to respect Public Health and the Protocols of the New Zealand Government. COR 36 offered its full support to the local authorities and ACE to implement the Level 2 Alert management plan provided for by the AC36 Event COVID-19 Management On-Land and On-Water Plans suspending the following activities:

  • Main stage - Te Wero Island
  • Simulator
  • Guests hospitality facilities on shore
  • Guests hospitality at sea
  • Pre-race public show
  • Giveaways and gifts distribution

As Auckland is at COVID19 Alert Level 2 the following restrictions apply:

  • Racecourses B & C will not be used for racing, to mitigate the chance of large public gatherings on shore, which are in line with Government Level 2 restrictions.
  • No public viewing opportunities such as dock out shows or public screening of racing in the race village.
  • Including gatherings of no more than 100 people in the America’s Cup Race Village or public spectator vantage points around Auckland.
  • Limited village activations to ensure no more than 100 people.
  • Two metre physical distancing and face masks recommended.
  • All bars, restaurants and cafes surrounding the Race Village can remain open in line with Ministry of Health COVID19 Level 2 Guidelines.
  • The public is reminded to always scan the NZCOVID19 Tracer App.
Published in America's Cup
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The Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team is the top point scorer in the Prada Cup and at 4 nil up against Team INEOS UK, the Italian team is the lead Challenger for the America's Cup Match. The postponement of the Cup due to COVID-19 this morning, along with organiser pronouncements, has led the Italian team to issue this statement:

The Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team is surprised by the statements published by America’s Cup Event (ACE) and by INEOS Team UK.

From day one of the teams' activities in New Zealand, protocols have been put in place, together with ACE and all government bodies, to allow teams and organizers alike to operate in the different COVID-19 alert levels, enabling them to prepare and race behind closed doors, if need be, as happens in the Formula1, Australian Open and other events; the priority in these contexts is clearly the health of the people involved.

The Challenger of Record has confirmed that it is possible to race in total safety and has also offered full support to ACE and local Authorities for the application of the protocol indicated by the AC36 Event COVID-19 Management On Land and On Water Plans for the Covid-19 alert. There is no reason why teams that are allowed to train during this alert level should not be allowed to race, albeit behind closed doors, according to the same protocol.

The weather conditions for the next few days are ideal to carry out top-level racing.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli is ready to race against INEOS Team UK on Friday, February 19th, in compliance to the program of the Prada Cup Finals that which must end no later than February 24th. Even more so, now that the government has taken the decision to go down from Level 3 to Alert Level 2, allowing the regattas to take place in full respect of everyone’s safety.

Published in America's Cup
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In these uncertain times, as the permitted Event Organiser responsible for the delivery of the 36th America’s Cup presented by PRADA in Auckland under the Host Venue Agreement with NZ Government and Auckland Council, America’s Cup Event Limited remains committed to maintaining as many aspects as possible of the Event as originally planned.

America's Cup Event Chair Tina Symmans said, "As event organisers, we have spent a considerable amount of time since Sunday evening looking at all possible scenarios. Like the majority of events around the country this weekend, the ramifications of running the remainder of the event need to be considered in an environment which is highly uncertain due to the latest COVID-19 concerns."

ACE has consulted with the America's Cup Minister Stuart Nash and senior Council officials and one consideration has been to postpone the current schedule of racing and events in the best interests of the public and all stakeholders given the current COVID-19 environment.

The position of ACE is based on one of two options based on the Government's review of alert levels at 4:30 this afternoon:

  • If the alert levels drop to level 1 in time, then racing will resume this weekend.
  • If the alert level remains at 3 or 2, which obviously entails restrictions in gatherings and difficulties with events, racing and event activations would need to be rescheduled to recommence the PRADA Cup Final on Friday 26 February. To respect the original timeframe scheduled between the Prada Cup Final and the America's Cup Match, Race 1 of the Match would subsequently begin a week later on Saturday 13 March with the intention of racing still being completed by 21 March.

This morning the Challenger of Record (COR36) has made their position very clear in stating their desire to race from tomorrow despite COVID Alert level 3, to complete the PRADA Cup final by the 24th February in accordance with the existing Prada Cup conditions.

They have also stated that if the racing programme cannot be completed by Wednesday (24th) they intend to declare the leading point scorer the winner of the Prada Cup and Challenger for the America's Cup Match. Under the current points situation, that would be Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team.

Published in America's Cup
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