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In less than three weeks four international teams from New Zealand, Italy, United States, and Great Britain will line up for the first time on their second generation of flying AC75’s for the Prada America’s Cup World Series Auckland and the Christmas Race (December 17-20).

The event will see current America’s Cup Defender Emirates Team New Zealand, the Challenger of Record Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, INEOS TEAM UK and New York Yacht Club American Magic facing each other during four days of match racing on the Waitemata Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf widely regarded as ‘The jewel in Auckland’s crown’.

Emirates Team New ZealandEmirates Team New Zealand 

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli TeamLuna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team Photo: Giulia Caponnetto

The first race will start few minutes after 3 pm on December 17 and will see Emirates Team New Zealand against Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team. The second pairing will be American Magic versus INEOS TEAM UK.

With each of the teams interpreting the AC75 design rule differently there are marked differences between all four boats launched so far and therefore great anticipation to see them race for the first time.

New York Yacht Club American MagicNew York Yacht Club American Magic Photo: Will Ricketson

The racing format for the four days of racing has now been finalised. For the first three days of the PRADA ACWS Auckland (17th-19th of December) there will be four races per day of Round Robin competition when all of the four teams will race each other twice.

The fourth day (20th of December) the PRADA Christmas Race will kick off and will be comprised of two knock out stages, the first stage consists of two head to head match ups, the winners of each will progress to the final, the losers to a 3rd & 4th match which will help decide the final rankings. The pairing of the Christmas Race Semifinals will be decided by the results of the PRADA ACWS Auckland double Round Robin.

America's Cup World Series Auckland and Christmas Race race formatsAmerica's Cup World Series Auckland and Christmas Race race formats

The races will be held on a windward-leeward racecourse with an upwind start and last around 25-30 minutes each.

Racing is scheduled for 1500 – 1800 each day weather permitting. The race course will be communicated on racing days by the Race Management depending on wind direction, intensity and tides. The permitted wind range is between 6.5 and 21 knots.

The America’s Cup Race village is FREE to enter and a great place to enjoy the action from, or soak up the village atmosphere. Depending on the course of the day, there are many vantage points around Auckland, from which the racing can be enjoyed while on land.

For the Challenger teams, the results from the ACWS and the Christmas Race regatta will determine the pairings for the PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series to be held in January/February 2021 that will decide which of them will take on Emirates Team New Zealand in the Match for the 36th America’s Cup presented by PRADA starting on March 6th 2021.

Published in America's Cup
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A first sail is not usually a year in the planning, but when New Zeland America's Cupper 'Te Rehutai' hit the water for her first outing today, that was exactly the case with many areas of her new design having been locked in over nine months or more ago, meaning today was a chance to finally validate what the simulations had been predicting. The result? An adequate first outing.

On a beautiful Auckland day with a calm Waitamata sea state and building breeze, Te Rehutai left the dock and immediately started tow testing on the way out to the Hauraki Gulf.

Last night’s launch was a fantastic opportunity to presented Te Rehutai to the world, and thank everyone involved in getting her to this point, but for many in the team, seeing her out sailing on her first day was the real moment of celebration.

Reflecting on the first day Blair Tuke said "After the official launch last night, it was pretty awesome to be able to get out there and throw the boat around in a beautiful southerly breeze on the Hauraki Gulf. It's great for the whole team to see it out there flying, doing its thing, after a heck of a lot of work from so many people to get to this point"

A successful first day marks a major turning point for the team, where building and development make way for testing and race preparation, but developments in all areas will continue right until the very last race.

Peter Burling felt the day was a success. "It was great to get commissioning underway. The boat felt really nice. We're happy with day one, but have got a lot of hard work ahead."

As part of the early testing programme for Te Rehutai, the team ticked off everything as planned and completed a few manoeuvres on Course C on the way home.

With just 26 days to go until the warning signal of the first race of the PRADA ACWS Auckland, the plan is to get as many days on the water as possible, so locals should expect to see Te Rehutai become a familiar presence on the harbour.

Published in America's Cup
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Defiant, the first AC75 racing yacht built for New York Yacht Club American Magic, Challenger for the 36th America’s Cup, has arrived in New Zealand. The AC75 was shipped through the Gulf of Mexico, transited the Panama Canal and then crossed the Pacific after departing from the team’s winter base in Pensacola, Florida on May 28.

“Seeing our boat unloaded in Auckland was an awesome moment for our team, and a significant milestone for the America’s Cup as well,” said Terry Hutchinson, Skipper and Executive Director of American Magic. “Soon we will all see American Magic out on the same patch of water as the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand. That’ll definitely be an exciting sight for sailing fans worldwide, and for us it will be a daily reminder of the huge task we have in front of us. Every possible training day from now until the Prada Cup is priceless, and we are focused on going sailing again as quickly as possible.”

The Bristol, Rhode Island-built foiling monohull is the first Challenger yacht to arrive at the venue of three upcoming regattas: ACWS Auckland (December 17-20, 2020), The Prada Cup (The Challenger finals, January 15 - February 22, 2021) and the 36th America’s Cup (March 6-21, 2021). The U.S. team also expects to take delivery of their second AC75 in Auckland sometime during the fall of 2020.

American Magic’s focus over the coming weeks will be in three primary areas. First, the team will work to complete the New Zealand entry and quarantine process for team personnel and their families, which was made possible after the team received border exemptions from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) on June 12th. Second, the AC75, chase boat fleet and the team base will be assembled and activated in Auckland. Third, American Magic’s production team in Bristol will put the finishing touches on the second AC75, and prepare it for air transport from Rhode Island to New Zealand.

“I could not be prouder of how our 145-person team has handled this shipping process, and everything else the pandemic has thrown at us,” said Hutchinson. “Our shore and operations team pivoted incredibly well as events happened, and as the focus changed basically overnight from getting us to Europe to getting us to Auckland. Our production guys have been able to safely keep the ‘Boat 2’ build process going, and it looks incredible. And our design group has maintained a singular focus of developing an AC75 capable of winning the 36th America’s Cup. Now we just need to pass our remaining team members through quarantine, keep everyone healthy and safe, and get back to business on the water.”

Published in America's Cup
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Back in the real (although unreal) world amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic it is an altogether different and fluid path ahead for all of the teams in their home countries in how they now approach the 36th America's Cup both philosophically and logistically with all of the changing variables day to day.

They have no more information on their relative performance other than what they already know via differing levels of early reconnaissance. Do they trust their initial instincts? Their current design knowledge and interpretations of the class rule? Or do they change their approach based on certain nuggets of information that contribute to an overall incomplete puzzle?

"If there is one thing that is guaranteed in the America's Cup- that is to expect the unexpected"

American Magic's Skipper Terry Hutchinson acknowledged recently, "We missed the opportunity to see where we are vulnerable," by not being able to race in Cagliari or Portsmouth "It's going to require us to lean that much harder on the design side of the program."

Terry HutchinsonAmerican Magic's Skipper Terry Hutchinson

The biggest question mark though is the progress on each of the teams highly anticipated second AC75's currently in production in their home countries. Build timelines that were well established long before COVID19 had made itself known to the world are near impossible to change without flow-on effects to the wider campaign. Some production continues, some has been halted. Do the teams complete the build at home, or get their new boats to Auckland to finish? Do they ship them or fly them direct to Auckland. And most importantly- how will they compare relative to each other when they eventually see the light of day.

If there is one thing that is guaranteed in the America's Cup- that is to expect the unexpected, and COVID-19 has certainly thrown the biggest cat amongst the pigeons the event has seen in a long long time.

Published in America's Cup
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West Cork Commodore's Cup sailor and 1720 crew and former Mirror world dinghy champion, Revelin Minihane who has also served as a helmsman with Baltimore RNLI lifeboat, is on duty with the New York Yacht Club America's Cup Challenger, American Magic.

New York Yacht Club has challenged current America's Cup Defender, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, for a single purpose; to win back the Cup, and bring it home to the United States of America.

Among many roles, Minihane is the team's chase boat driver and it looks like he is currently in high demand if the vid below is anything to go by. 

Formed in October 2017 by Bella Mente Racing, Quantum Racing and the New York Yacht Club, American Magic represents a joint vision to win the America’s Cup, the highest prize in sailing and the oldest trophy in international sports.

The name, American Magic, is a nod to the New York Yacht Club’s storied America’s Cup history; a combination of the boat the trophy is named for, and the first boat to defend it.

Published in America's Cup
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Following a successful mediation, the America's Cup Defender and Challenger of Record have come to an agreement on the Match Conditions for the 36th America's Cup presented by Prada.

The two sides came to a consensus after engaging in an official mediation process run by the America's Cup Arbitration panel chairman David Tillett (AUS).

As part of the agreement, the wind range for racing in the America's Cup Match will be 6.5 to 23 knots.

The agreed racing schedule for the America's Cup Match has two races per day planned for March 6,7,10, 12, 13, 14 and 15. Additional reserve days have been scheduled but the intention is to complete the event on the weekend of March 13/14, weather permitting. Racing is planned from 4pm onwards each race day. The winner of the America's Cup Match will be the first team to score seven points.

The parties also agreed on certain conditions in respect of the Prada Cup due to be issued by June 30 2020.

The racing will consist of four Round Robin sessions over January 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, and 24, followed by a repechage round over January 29, 30, 31, and February 2, with the first-to-seven-points Prada Cup Final taking place over February 13, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22.

The following wind range for racing has been agreed:

  • Round Robins and Repechage: 6.5 to 21 knots
  • Prada Cup Final: 6.5 to 23 knots

In addition, the parties also confirmed Course Location Guidelines for the Race Director when selecting the Auckland racecourse locations for all the Auckland events including the Match for the 36th America's Cup presented by Prada. To view the Settlement Memorandum click here.

The first competitive action of the 36th America's Cup presented by Prada will be in Cagliari, Sardinia from April 23 - 26 at the first of three ACWS regattas taking place during 2020. Further ACWS events will be held in Portsmouth, England on June 4 - 7, and in Auckland, New Zealand on December 17 - 20.

Published in America's Cup
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Royal Ulster Yacht Club members Deborah and Simon Lace recently returned from an adventure holiday in Chile where they had met an American man called Glen, from New Orleans writes Betty Armstrong. It transpired during the course of conversation that he and his wife were also racing sailors – in their case a J130 raced across the Gulf of Mexico.

During a discussion on the America's Cup, the link between RUYC and Sir Thomas Lipton surfaced, and Glen told an interesting story.

He is a member of the Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans which is the second oldest yacht club in the USA and older than Royal Ulster, having been established in 1849 “by New Orleans and Gulf Coast residents seeking the camaraderie and challenge of yacht racing in the Mid-Gulf region”. And the club was a proud owner of a special trophy gifted to them by Sir Thomas Lipton to promote sailing competition.

It had been used as a perpetual trophy for the Lipton Cups held each Labor Day and all 26 yacht clubs on the Gulf Coast are invited to bring their best sailors to compete in one-design boats. Many of the world’s best sailors including many Olympic, US, European and world champion sailors of all classes of sailing compete each year.

Tragically, in the aftermath of the Category 5 Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the clubhouse was destroyed by fire, with the loss of all medals (some Olympic) and trophies.

Southern YC unsuccessfully approached the British makers of the Lipton trophy to see if they still had the original mould. They didn’t, but however, one was made using the half-cup replica, which was given to the winning member each year to keep at home. It required $15,000 worth of silver to cast and this sum was gifted to the Club by a private benefactor. Southern YC now has their cherished Lipton Trophy once again.

Published in America's Cup
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The New York Yacht Club have been having a busy time of it up at their Newport, Rhode Island summer base, what with running the intense International Invitational Series in which Ireland’s Anthony O’Leary took Bronze for Royal Cork, and also taking time out to launch Defiant, the first of their two foiling challengers to take on New Zealand in the America’s Cup.

As the images show, dedicated training in smaller boats means that the US challenge is operating in a foiling environment which is at an entirely different level to less experienced crew trying to do their best with International Moths or even Figaro 3s, but then the new AC boats are pure foiling craft to an extent which is light years away from the Figaro 3.

Another useful lesson from this short vid is that attention to detail should extend to everything, even to being a hundred per cent sure that in the naming ceremony, the champagne bottle is smashed first time out. We can think of one particularly excruciating occasion when a new vessel of great importance in Ireland was being named, and it took five – repeat FIVE – attempts to smash the bottle.

Personally I think the quieter ceremony of a gentle pouring of a drop and more of best Irish Whiskey over the stemhead is much more appropriate, but it seems the people want to see the champagne bottle being smashed good and proper, and they infinity prefer it to be done by a very pretty girl – hence the Edwardian expression “smasher”.

Published in America's Cup
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There must be very few people in sailing who don’t know something of the America writes W M Nixon. She was the “low black schooner” which came across the Atlantic from New York in 1851, and won a race around the Isle of Wight for the One Hundred Pound Cup against the best that the Royal Yacht Squadron could muster.

The trophy in time became known as the America’s Cup, and thus was inaugurated what we’re told is the world’s longest-established international sporting challenge. Currently held by New Zealand, it has become a Holy Grail of top end sport, raced for by sailing machines at the most advanced (and expensive) level of technology. Yet such is the mystique of the boat which gave the trophy its name that the original America survived until 1945, and today replicas of the 139ft vessel still sail the sea.

san diego america2The original rig may have been modified for ease of handling, but America’s hull sails as sweet as ever

One of the best-known is in San Diego in California as a living seagoing display at the Maritime Museum. Her presence celebrates the fact that in 1987 the city’s favourite sailing son, Dennis Conner, returned to San Diego with the America’s Cup. The Australians had won it in 1983 from the previously impregnable American retention of 132 years, but the Californian skipper duly took the silver cup back from Australia in 1987, and put San Diego even more firmly on the global sailing map.

Recently, we were exchanging emails with Johnny Smullen, formerly of the National YC but now of San Diego, where his brilliant detail-work boat-building skills have long been associated with Dennis Conner’s remarkable collection of classic yachts. The reason for our email exchange was the success of Bill Trafford of Alchemy Marine in County Cork in winning the of Classic Boat “Spirit of Tradition” award for the extraordinary re-working he did in transforming a very ordinary and rather tired Etchells 22 into the head-turning and immaculately dark blue weekend cruiser Guapa.

This is a project that Johnny is much taken with, and in cheerily signing off, he mentioned that next day, he and the crew of his own beautiful classic Altair - an International One Design - would be transferring their skills aboard the schooner America for the 29th Annual America’s Schooner Race, a noted feature of the San Diego sailing calendar.

johnny smullen america3Johnny Smullen of the National YC on America’s helm in San Diego

While they may not be able to muster the considerable schooner numbers of the glory days of the rig, the presence of the low black schooner America as a competitor is enough to be going along with, while anyone with the smallest drop of sailing blood will be fascinated to know how the America handles, and particularly what she’s like to steer.

For in her day, before new owners (who included two Anglo-Irish landowners) started to change her, America was renowned for her simplicity of rig and lightness on the helm. In fact, it’s said that at one stage she was tiller-steered, and the tiller required was no longer than a broom handle. As for her original rig, it was quintessential mid-19th Century American, with well-raked masts of much the same modest height, a single jib on a boom, and a boomless gaff foresail which overlapped the large mainsail to provide added slot effect. And that was basically it – a topsail above the mainsail appears to have been only there as a light weather sail.

"America was renowned for her simplicity of rig and lightness on the helm"

Under this rig, she had come across the Atlantic with impressive ease. And as for racing, the clockwise circuit of the Isle of Wight may have included only 15 miles of direct beating off the southeast coast of the island, but over those 15 miles the supposedly un-weatherly schooner put more than seven miles between herself and the next yacht, a cutter.

She was simplicity itself, and not unduly cluttered with luxury accommodation, so inevitably her successors – which have corporate entertainment with its necessary comforts ranked high on their programmes – tend to be heavier. And they may have a more easily handled rig, for the original three basic sails were enormous.

schooner americas lines4.jpgThe sweetest lines afloat – thanks to having a vertical rudder and a balanced shape, America is good to sail and steer

Nevertheless the spirit lives on, and when we look at her lines we see why she is light on the helm – her rudder is vertical for maximum effectiveness, and though she won’t spin like a top, she is very manageable to steer - as Johnny Smullen tells us, she is really nice to sail, even if the tiller is replaced by a wheel.

But while San Diego’s America always causes a flutter when she puts to sea, the main story in this year’s sailing of the 29th Annual America’s Schooner Race in San Diego was that the winner was the same schooner which won the event at its inauguration nearly 30 years ago, and she’s still being sailed by the same owner and his family.

schooner dauntless5Paul Plott’s 1930-built Alden 61ft schooner Dauntless won the first America’s Schooner Race thirty years ago, and did so again this year. Photo: Johnny Smullen

schooner dauntless6In the light breezes, Dauntless’s huge spread of sail enabled her to nip in ahead of America

The 61ft schooner Dauntless is classic John Alden type, built in 1930 with her lines evolved from the great fishing schooners of the Grand Banks. She sets an enormous spread of sail, so in the lightish winds for this year’s race, she was in her element and her owner Paul Plotts was a very popular winner.

But then, at age 91 and with well over thirty years of caring for the often-successfully-raced Dauntless, Paul Plotts is somebody very special. The schooner America can’t have minded being bested by this remarkable combination of boat and skipper.

paul plotts7Paul Plotts in great form as he wins with Dauntless nicely in time for his 91st birthday

Published in Historic Boats
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Welcome to my weekly podcast…. That question – where is sailing going? - has been in my mind since Emirates Team New Zealand media information came to me this week about the yacht they intend to race at the next Americas Cup in 2021.

With foiling increasing, it makes me wonder where and what the sport will be like when the youngsters preparing this week for sailing’s primary talent-spotting competition next week in Dun Laoghaire – the Youth Sailing Pathway Championships – reach mature sailing age.

I’ve never seen anything like this new boat. Most sailors won’t have.

The Kiwis have described it as “a flying monohull….” and Afloat.ie reported previously on it here

A boatbuilding acquaintance said: “I hope it’s made from strong stuff otherwise it will be like flying a plane with a wing missing,”

Instead of a keel, it has two canting, ballasted T-foils, will tack and gybe on the foils and be self-righting in the event of a capsize, the Kiwis say.

It has taken the only other fully-funded and confirmed team for 2021, Ben Ainslie’s British Land Rover BAR, by surprise, but they’ve described it as “a good call in the spirit of the Cup.”

The Kiwis maintain that they have kept faith with their stated intention to move the Cup back from catamarans to monohulls, bringing together the best features of multlhull high speed with traditional monohull sailing, to be raced by a crew of 12.The challenger of record, Luna Rossa, has partnered in the design which, according to ETNZ “promises to open up another immense new chapter in foil development and sailing technique.”

Grant Dalton, New Zealand Team CEO says the Cup in Auckland in 2021will be an exciting place….

That seems very likely….listen to the podcast below: 

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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