Luna Rossa et Emirates Team New Zealand vendredi à Auckland

America’s Cup: The Protocol discussed

Defender Emirates Team New Zealand and challenger of record Ineos Team UK unveiled the Protocol for the 37th America’s Cup on Wednesday. Tip & Shaft has spoken with some experts – Bruno Dubois, the team manager of Groupama Team France in the 35th Cup, Dimitri Despierres and Philippe Presti, who were on the American Magic and Luna Rossa challengers on the last Cup – to decipher the document that outlines the 37th edition.

The America’s Cup will remain a classic match-racing event with a Challenger Series (Round Robin, in which the defender can participate, a semi-finals and final) and a Cup Match. The dates are not yet specified – “between January and September 2024”, they are linked to the choice of the venue which was to be announced initially before September 17, 2021 and will be finally, like “the approximate dates”, be announced before March 31, 2022 (the “precise dates” before November 30, 2022).

Cork, Valencia and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) are in the frame for a 37th edition which, according to our three experts, will certainly take place “between May and September 2024.” It will be preceded by three Preliminary Regattas, two run in AC40s (see below), one in the AC75 in the venue of the Cup.

The AC40s will also serve as the class for the Youth and Women’s America’s Cup Regattas, details of which will be known before June 30, 2023. This opening up to young people, but especially to women, a first for the Cup, is viewed very positively by Bruno Dubois: “Between these regattas and what is being done on SailGP, we are creating a big pool of female sailors who will have access to a super professional high level of competition.” Dimitri Despierres believes that the organizers could have gone further:” It’s a very good idea, but they could very well have imposed a quota of women on board the AC75s.”

A single AC75

Appearing first in the 36th Cup, the AC75 is confirmed for the next two America’s Cups. While the challenges could build two boats for the 2021 edition, only one new build will be allowed for 2024, to be built in the home country of the challenge’s yacht club. “It goes in the direction of reducing costs, and that is also because Team New Zealand don’t have enormous financial means”, comments Bruno Dubois. This cost reduction objective, to accommodate more teams, also explains why the number of crew on the AC75s will be reduced from 11 to 8 sailors.

This prompts Dimitri Despierres to say: “This reduction in the crew numbers leads to the elimination of winches, everything will be hydraulic. If you read between the lines, the return of bikes is authorized. Prada (challenger of record in the 36th Cup) had vetoed it, but for Ineos it is a not surprising when you consider that they are the owners of a professional cycling team. Moreover, the average weight of the sailors goes from 90 to 87.5 kilos, which goes in the direction of putting cyclists who are lighter than traditional grinders.”

This measure also contributes to the lighter boat (6.9 tonnes against 7.7), which will allow the AC75 to be more efficient in the light winds. “Below 9 knots, the boat was not taking off well, now that it is lighter, it will take off earlier,” confirms Philippe Presti. The AC75s of the 2021 Cup will be able to be used by the challenges registered for the 37th edition, but not before September 17, 2022, with an exception for new entrants who will be able to sail a maximum of 20 days from June 17, 2022.

AC40 and hydrogen chase boats

Until these first new generation AC75s see the light of day (so, not before 2023), the registered challenges will be able to sail an AC40, a reduced scale one-design version provided by America’s Cup Events, the organizer. Team New Zealand will be the first to have one (probably at the end of 2022), Ineos the second, the date of acceptance of the other challenges will then dictate the order of delivery. These boats, at 1.85 million US dollars (1.64 million euros) will serve both as a training platform – the challenges can buy two – and for development, but will have to be put back in “one design ”configuration for the preliminary regattas of the Cup.

“In my opinion, if a challenge is to do things well, they must have two boats, to train in match-racing but also to develop, test foils and so on. So it starts to cost more ”, judges Bruno Dubois. Philippe Presti is fairly circumspect on the development aspect: “I see the AC40 more as a way to train for match-racing and to keep the Cup alive until 2024, because otherwise, we won’t see a boat before then.  In terms of development, 80% of design today is done in simulation, such a boat will only be used for details.”

Finally, each challenge must have at least two hydrogen powered foiling support vessels, the aim being to reduce the environmental footprint. “It is very good, because it is not normal, when an AC75 is propelled by the wind at 40-45 knots, to see chase boats chasing after them burning up a lot of money in fuel and polluting”, comments Dimitri Despierres. He also sees in this measure a less obvious objective: “For Team New Zealand, this project and the fact of signing it up on the Protocol is a way of keeping part of its design team active and thus preventing some from going elsewhere.” Bruno Dubois adds:” We also understand that the New Zealanders would not be against the teams buying these boats from them, it is also a way of financing their campaign.” Support vessel price: 2 million New Zealand dollars (1.25 million euros).

Very restrictive nationality rules

Yacht clubs wishing to compete in the 37th edition of the Cup must submit their challenge between December 1, 2021 and July 31, 2022, latecomers being accepted, subject to financial penalties, until May 31, 2023. Faced with the threat of losing its best sailors, including Peter Burling and Blair Tuke who still have not renewed their contracts, Team New Zealand has hit hard with a strict nationality rule: a sailor must hold the passport of the nation of the yacht club challenge as on March 17, 2021 or have resided at least 548 days in this country between March 18, 2018 and March 17, 2021.

“It is clearly written to block the route to Alinghi,” analyzes Dimitri Despierres. “For example, the Swiss could not recruit Nathan Outteridge, who is Australian, while Team New Zealand were able to, as he fulfills the residency criteria in New Zealand.” “It’s part of reducing costs,” smiles Philippe Presti, “so the Kiwis are not going to need to pay their sailors more to stay! More seriously, I think it’s not for a sense of openness, a lot of guys who don’t have the right passport are already getting stuck.”

Bruno Dubois is more nuanced: “It’s a way for Team New Zealand to protect itself, it also prevents a challenge from coming in with lots of money to buy up top sailors. Afterwards, I find it unfortunate that the rule is not applied everywhere: it is imposed on sailors, for the construction of boats, but why not extend it to designers and engineers?” The only exception to this nationality rule, emerging nations will have the right to a quota of non-nationals. The criteria for receiving the status of emerging nation are at the sole discretion of the defender, while the number of non-nationals depends on the team’s overall experience in competitive sailing, but also on the sailors who sail it. make up. “Their idea is to be able to rule on the people you can take on“, summarizes Philippe Presti.

Photo: ACE / Studio Borlenghi

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