Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ), defender of the America’s Cup, and Luna Rossa, challenger of record, have become embroiled in a war of words over a ruling that ends the former’s plans for a land-based stadium event surrounding the 36th edition of the sailing showpiece in Auckland.
The America’s Cup Arbitration Panel issued a ruling overnight that effectively cancels the use of the inner harbour stadium race courses for all racing of the Prada Cup, the challenger selection series to be held in January and February 2021, along with the America’s Cup Match itself, scheduled for March 6-21.
As the defending champion from the 2017 America’s Cup, ETNZ has held the right to organise the next edition and had been planning to include two courses in the Rangitoto Channel nearest to Auckland’s inner city waterfront and along the North Shore’s eastern beaches.
This would have allowed land-based spectators a closer view of the action, with ETNZ stating the images with Auckland City as a backdrop during racing had always been a “critical part” of showcasing Auckland and New Zealand to the world in an event with a significant global audience.
“Quite frankly we are outraged by this decision, it has gone against everything we have been trying to achieve over the last three years, with no consideration to the effect this has on the public of New Zealand and the city of Auckland,” said ETNZ CEO Grant Dalton.
The New Zealand government and Auckland Council are reported to have invested around NZ$250m (£127.3m/€141m/$166.7m) into the staging of the America’s Cup and ETNZ has said it is considering if there are any options to remedy the decision.
Nick Hill, independent chair of AC36 Chief Executive Group, added: “We’ve been clear that the parties need to work together to resolve these issues as quickly as possible. The uses of the courses and the parameters around their use were agreed to by all of the agencies, including the Challenger of Record representative and the Defender in February.
“We expect to see an event where Aucklanders can share in the experience, and that showcases Auckland to the world, and we will work with the parties to help achieve that outcome.”
For its part, Italian syndicate Luna Rossa, which was supported in its appeal by fellow challengers INEOS Team UK and American Magic, maintained their move was based around the concept of sporting fairness as the two courses in question would not have been available for the entirety of the regatta.
Luna Rossa said in a statement: “In early September, the Challenger of Record discovered, without having been previously involved nor informed by the Defender, that the Round Robins and the Semi-Finals of the Challengers Selection Series – the Prada Cup – could not be sailed on courses B and C, designated as preferred courses for the Final Match. A situation that the Defender had kept hidden since the end of January/beginning of February.”
It added: “The attacks by Emirates Team New Zealand are intended solely at discrediting the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team with populist pretexts that tend to mask the attempt to gain an unfair advantage over the Challengers who, we repeat, unanimously supported COR 36 by each lodging their own independent submission.”