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Sail-World NZ - October 7, 2020: Challengers all in Auckland.. AC75's line up on Waitemata

by Richard Gladwell, 6 Oct 2020 12:01 UTC 7 October 2020
Emirates Team New Zealand and American Magic - Stadium Course - Waitemata Harbour - September 21, 2020 © Richard Gladwell,

Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for October 7, 2020

Apologies for the delay in compiling this newsletter. Its lateness is due to several reasons - mostly geared around the America's Cup buildup and making sure we are in the best possible position when the serious racing gets under way - and beforehand when the four teams are sailing in Auckland.

Those who followed the saga of refusal by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to allow the international sailors in the Youth America's Cup to enter New Zealand, would not have been surprised at the news that Australia, and not New Zealand, would host the six-week, 12-match Rugby Championship spanning six weeks.

As the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron said in their initial media statement: "The reasons we were given for not getting the immigration clearance required were that MBIE has not invested directly into this event and that New Zealanders could perform the sailing roles for the international teams. We are struggling to understand how that is possible as it is an international event and teams have to represent their country. Furthermore, it came at no cost to the Government at a time where New Zealand needs this type of event and investment."

The Auckland Boat Show has also been called off - having been due to start this week, or October 8. The decision was taken against the backdrop of uncertainty created by COVID-19 and not being able to predict what alert level Auckland would be working under at the time.

There was also the serious concern of owners having potential carriers of coronavirus onto their boats.

The loss of the Auckland Boat Show is incredibly disappointing as for many marine businesses. It is their major selling event of the year and the event where they generate a lot of business leads. This show is particularly vital in an America's Cup year when the Cup events might be the trigger to buy a new boat, new engine, rig or whatever.

All told there were some 14 events planned around the America's Cup. Apparently, this information hadn't been fed, let alone digested by the panjandrums at MBIE, and events like the Youth America's Cup just weren't on their radar.

Another casualty has been the Moonen Yachts Sydney to Auckland Ocean Race. It had attracted 20 entries and over 100 expressions of interest from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Europe and Asia.

Quite what happens now to the 2020 Sydney to Auckland event is anyone's guess, with the now soft bubble proposed by Autralia between NSW and New Zealand. Again the changing Alert Levels underscore the difficulty - and the very significant opportunity cost of trying to run events in the current environment.

On the positive side, it seems that only New Zealand being put back into Alert Level 4 can stop the World Series, Prada Cup and America's Cup events going ahead.

Having watched a 90-minute sailing exhibition by Emirates Team New Zealand and American Magic, a couple of weeks ago, Auckland sailing fans at least can look forward to a fantastic on the water sailing event.

Whether the onshore and on the water management is up to the mark is a different story entirely.

On the water spectator boats are completely unnecessary when racing on Stadium Racecourses - which is essentially what America's Cup courses A, B, C and D effectively are. Course E off Eastern Beach is similar and can be easily viewed from Eastern Beach or Musik Point.

On Stadium Courses at the Olympic Regatta, there are no spectator boats allowed - for the wake they create, disturbance of the wind, race management and security reasons. Plus of course, anchored or moving spectator boats can block the view of the shore-based race fans - who along with the international viewers are the priority audience.

In recent Olympic and America's Cup Regattas, the port and race areas are closed the Stadium racing concept. In Auckland's instance, this only needs to be for one hour before the start of racing and one hour after the finish, making for a total closure of around four hours.

Yes, boat wake is an issue on the Waitemata Harbour, however, sitting on the water's edge at North Head it is evident that the majority and worst of the wake is caused by fast ferries and similar craft.

The America's Cup racing is easily seen from shore, and particularly with the advantage of height that can be gained off the major vantage points - the same as sitting in a rugby stadium. A pair of binoculars are nice but not essential.

Of course, with the work that has gone on with 5G and the video broadcast, shore-based spectators can watch the big picture unfold, and then go to their mobile device to see the close-up action. Being shore-based is a great viewing experience, not a second rate option.

In San Francisco and Bermuda, spectator boats were confined to pens - meaning they were anchored off to one side of the course. In Bermuda, this was usually at the bottom of the course - where they saw three of the six mark roundings and had to view the start and finish from a distance.

There is, of course, a safety issue with the AC75 and the speeds at which they sail. There can't be spectators ringing the edge of the racecourse as happened in 2000 and 2003. There must be a big run-off area into the sides of the course. This boundary just forces any spectator boats further away from the racing and significantly reduces their viewing opportunity.

Those with longer memories than most will recall the incident at the start of the 1989/90 Whitbread Race in Auckland where The Card charged into the anchored spectator fleet. She snagged the rig on a large anchored yacht, pulling the yacht onto it beam ends, and ripping the mizzen mast out of The Card.

The AC75 sailing situation is no different from F1, where for obvious reasons, spectators are not allowed to stand at the edge of the race track.

The primary focus of the America's Cup has to be on the international audience, which means that TV production has to go according to schedule. To be able to deliver on that the course management has to be very agile. There isn't time to be shifting a big spectator fleet to create room for a new racecourse.

One of the unique advantages of the AC75's is their ability to be towed while foil-borne - meaning that if required, movement between course areas can be achieved quickly.

With the racing starting mid, or late afternoon and finishing around 5.00 pm or 6.00 pm, the teams and media need to get to back to shore quickly, for media conference and other end-of race functions and activities. Battling with a returning spectator fleet at the same time is not conducive to achieving media deadlines - and bearing in mind that the live broadcast of post-race media conferences was one of the highlights of Bermuda.

The events that have led up to the 36th America's Cup have created an excellent opportunity for a new style of event and viewership. It is to be hoped that organisers inject some new and lateral thinking into the race and event management, and don't just serve up the 2020 version of the same recipe used for 2000 and 2003 America's Cups - which were a completely different style of event and different course location.

For all the latest news from NZ and around the world see the Top 50 stories below.

Between newsletters, you can follow all the racing and developments in major and local events on or by scrolling to the top of the site, select New Zealand, and get all the latest news and updates from the sailing world.

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

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