With January’s and February’s Prada Cup competitions complete, the advancing teams, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, battled in mid-March for America’s Cup. Perhaps the most unique America’s Cup regatta in 170 years, the COVID-19 pandemic is creating an unusual setting for the competition for the world’s oldest sports trophy.
Team NZ piled on the advantages by bringing back nearly all of its team members from its 2017 win, a move that helped it continue to build the team culture for which Sir Peter Blake laid the foundation in 1995. Team NZ also edged out the competition by crafting the fastest boat. Luna Rossa put out fierce speed in the Prada Cup, but by America’s Cup, it could only best compete in three races in the first-to-seven match.
New Zealand also improved upon the AC75s America’s Cup yachts. Their boat kept up speeds above 50 knots, and throughout the six-leg race, the hull never touched the water. The AC75s proved safer than the foiling catamarans used in prior races, and the virtual boundary around each yacht helped keep competitors from crashing into one another at top speeds. An unusual March of mild weather produced no drama such as the competition saw in 2000 and 2003.
The event’s “dream course” navigated through the Stadium Course, Course C, inside Waitemata Harbor. This arguably provided the best racing of the 2021 season, including the January and February events leading up to the March foray. The course eliminated the need for those in Auckland to use a boat to watch the race.
\That proved helpful since the pandemic thwarted the ability of yachts and superyachts to dock and disembark. With borders locked down and alert levels changing daily, spectators found it difficult, if not impossible, to attend off-the-water events. The match’s start incurred a four-day delay due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in Auckland and limited the number of people coming through the Cup village. A community outbreak of COVID-19 in Auckland delayed the start of the Cup match by four days. The pandemic caused the cancelation of the World Series events in Cagliari and Portsmouth and the Youth America’s Cup, which provides an entry point for yachtswomen.
The latter was much needed since no crew had a female sailor. The complete absence of women from the competing crews created calls for an America’s Cup rule similar to that used in Sail GP and Ocean Race that each team must include at least one female sailor on the racing crew. That’s hardly a logical jump, especially when this year’s America’s Cup Event (ACE) was chaired by a woman, Tina Symmans, who featured a female event manager, Carmen White, and an assistant race director, Melanie Roberts. None crewed any yacht in 2021’s Prada or America’s Cups of the many qualified female sailors.
With new engineering feats to improve this year’s yachts and time for rules changes, there’s plenty to anticipate for the next competition. Imagine the celebration