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America's Cup: Issues emerge over Match Conditions, AC75 performance and latest ETNZ sponsor

by 16 Feb 03:40 GMT 16 February 2020
America's Cup Debate - February 14, 2020 © Sailing Illustrated

It might be Valentine's Day but there is not too much love lost between Sailing Illustrated's host, Tom Ehman, and Sail-World's NZ Editor, Richard Gladwell as they cover the issues of the day 12 months out from the America's Cup in Auckland.

With Ehman based in San Francisco and Gladwell in Auckland, they have different perspectives on many of the issues - some of which were triggered by the surprise release of the Match Conditions on Friday (NZT).

- Has the Cup schedule been shaped to exclude the sole remaining Late Challenger Stars + Stripes USA? Ehman thinks they are toast, Gladwell says they are valid until they withdraw.

- How will the wind limits work? Ehman says they worked fine in San Francisco, Gladwell says they were nonsensical, and in Auckland, by subtracting the tidal factor they could create a lower limit that was valid to race but too low for the boats to foil.

- How will the requirement to submit a single measurement configuration before each series work? Ehman says the teams will find a way around the rules and will still mode the boats. Gladwell says new rules remove much of the opportunity and they will have to develop a single set of foils that will be fast right across the wind range.

- Should MacDonalds be a sponsor on the Emirates Team New Zealand boat? Ehman questions whether the Cup should be used to promote fast food. Gladwell says that is just virtue signalling and the Cup needs to get to those who don't currently follow sailing.

- Why are there so few Challengers? Ehman says the boat is too extreme and a more conservative boat would have encouraged more teams to enter. Gladwell says the AC75 are spectacular and will pull a mainstream audience, and the real culprit for the low entry is the years from 2007 to 2013, when the Cup was locked in a Court battle from which it has never recovered.

- AC75's capsizing? Ehman says the Cup should not be sailed in boats that can capsize. Gladwell says the boats need to be able to sail to "red-line" and if they do capsize the AC75's can be righted in less than five minutes and continue sailing in the next race of the day.

Plus there is a lot more information about the Cup and Auckland, and how the event is shaping up. Apologies for the crunchy audio during the America's Cup 2010 segment.

As background, the diagrams and charts below are relevant to the discussion on the Cup courses - in a note last week Cup organisers said the Priority 1 course was Course C; Priority 2 was Course A, and Priority 3 was Course B, Priority 4 is Course D. However in a later amendment Cup organisers say they will set anywhere within the general course boundaries as shown in the bold box outline in the Appendix 2 image.

Gladwell says that sailing on Course C will be more like a golf course for competitors - riddled with traps and hazards including reefs, sand hazards off Cheltenham (pronounced Chelt'nam) Beach and North Head, and volcanic cones affecting the wind strength and direction (there are 48 volcanoes in the Auckland field).

The Challenge for the competitors will be to find the fairway and stay on it. In the video below, shot looking into the Course C race area, at 3m20s Te Aihe sails past Cheltenham Beach (which is much longer than the zoom lens portrays). Immediately behind Te Aihe there is a tideline of rougher water as the outgoing tide is forced around a large sandspit off Cheltenham at low tide the sandy area (shown just below the surface) dries out and you can walk and then wade in the area behind the AC75 at this point.

Tides in Auckland range up to 3.3metres (10ft 10") each month. The main tidal flow sweeps through the Rangitoto Channel, but it will also split to flow east around the southern shore of Rangitoto and head for the Motuihe Passage. The Tamaki Estuary is also a significant influence, with the Tamaki Strait coming into play as the racing moves SE.

With all areas the key is the volume of water being forced to enter/exit via some quite narrow channels, or obstructed by reefs forcing the tide sideways on the change at the bottom of the tide, and then becoming less of a factor as they submerge and the tide can flow over the top of the sandbank/reef with unimpeded flow. The narrowest point of Course C is 1nm (between Bean Rock and North Head).

For Auckland tidal predictions for 2021 click here

Course A is the closest to the America's Cup course area used in 2000 and 2003 - it's a traditional America's Cup course area but is exposed in a sea breeze and with a bad wind against tide condition in some areas in a sea breeze (easterly). Course B is useable in some unusual wind directions for Auckland. Similarly with Course D - but that is further away from land based spectators. Course C is the most spectator friendly course, and will get fans within 75-100 metres of the action at times - close enough to hear the boats and the whine of the AC75 foil arm motors as they are engaged in a tack or gybe.

Dominant landmarks affecting the wind strength and direction in the predominant SW breeze are North Head - 50 metres (160ft) and nearby Mt Victoria 87 metres (100ft). Rangitoto Island is a 600year volcano rising 260 metres (850ft) and is a dominant factor in a seabreeze (NE) condition. It affects Course B and C quite badly in a SW breeze.

All land based viewing is free including the America's Cup Village. You will also be able to view the racing live on any device, and free to air. 5G is already installed in the North Head area. The best City based viewing areas are around the waterfront drive, Tamaki Yacht Club and Bastion Point (owned by the Ngati Whatua iwi, who are closely associated with Emirates Team New Zealand. (The video above was shot from Bastion Point looking across the Cup Course "C" towards North Head.)

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