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'The America's Cup is now New Zealand's Cup' - 25th Anniversary of NZL32's win

by Barry Pickthall/Compiled by S-W NZ 13 May 00:36 BST 13 May 2020
Stars & Stripes crosses ahead of NZL32 - 1995 America's Cup © Sally Samins

After an eight year tenure, the San Diego Yacht Club lost its most treasured piece of silverware, won for them by Dennis Conner off Perth, Western Australia in 1987. It was lost to a team of tenacious Kiwis who swept all before them, winning the trophy by the widest margins in the 144 year history of the event.

The New Zealanders, led by former Whitbread hero Peter Blake and world match race champion Russell Coutts, lost just one of their 42 races during four months of trials. Their yachts, Black Magic I & II, dominated from the outset, overpowering six rival challenges from Australia, France, Japan, and Spain, as well as from elsewhere in New Zealand. The same supremacy comprehensively defeated the best American technology that Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes team could muster.

Conner's final defeat on May 14 was another rout, with Russell Coutts and his crew securing their fifth win by a yawning one minute 50 second margin. It was a remarkable achievement, for during the series this Kiwi crew led round all 30 marks, gained time on 25 of the 30 legs, and trailed for less than half an hour during more than 30 hours of racing. They gave the defenders no quarter.

"Little ol' New Zealand has won the America's Cup. That's pretty damned good," exclaimed Peter Blake after putting the 'Auld Mug' to his lips to savour the champagne. "If a nation like New Zealand with just 3.5 million can do it with limited resources, then anyone can win this Cup."

'Lucky red socks'

They lost one race, against John Bertrand's oneAustralia, during the finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger trials. It was when Blake was not aboard. "It wasn't him we missed as much as his lucky red socks," laughed Coutts afterwards. "If he is off the boat again, Peter's wife Pippa has promised to roll them up and put them aboard herself."

There was no need for that. Within a week, the whole of New Zealand, it seemed, had picked up on the idea and wore 'lucky red socks' whenever the crew raced. Television New Zealand quickly latched on to the idea to support the team, and within a week more than 100,000 pairs had been sold, raising more than $500,000 to pay for new sails.

"I'm a bit embarrassed," Blake admitted. "Red socks are a private lucky charm that I have always worn when it mattered. Now people walk up to me in the street and lift my trousers to see if I have got them on, or wave their own socks at me," he laughed.

New Zealand brought to a standstill

In the last exciting month of the campaign, the whole of New Zealand (3.5 million population and probably a large percentage of the 70 million sheep) focused on the Black Magic campaign. When racing, the streets of Wellington and Auckland were empty of traffic during the normal morning rush-hour. Everyone was glued to their television sets. "Production and time-keeping went to pot back home. No one went to work before 11:00am when the racing ended," said Denis Harvey, the TV producer responsible for the blanket live coverage given to the Cup.

Interest was so great that a vicar, obviously wired for sound, broke off his Sunday sermon to tell the few parishioners who had shown up for his Sunday morning sermon, the latest mark roundings; a judge, hearing an arson case, stopped proceedings to tell his court the outcome of one race; even at 30,000ft around the world, Air New Zealand pilots kept passengers informed of every tack and gybe.

On the day the Cup was won, TVNZ won record 92% ratings for a 13 hour special on the event. "The TV was on in just about every house," Harvey added proudly.

The celebrations were just as concentrated in Team New Zealand's compound in San Diego. During the party that followed 500 bottles of Mo't champagne were popped within hours. They were quickly followed by 500 bottles of wine and 4,700 bottles of Steinlager beer. The following day, 83 further empty bottles of champagne were found on the boat. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of sore heads on both sides of the Pacific the following morning.

No tears from Conner

Conner was gracious in defeat - his second in three decades of dominating the event. "New Zealand had a fabulous campaign. It was a just reward for them. With the benefit of hindsight, the defence should have pooled its resources instead of fighting amongst ourselves like sharks in a pond. We didn't have the money to compete on equal terms."

In fact that was not true. According to their published budget figures, Team Dennis Conner spent US$2 million more than the New Zealanders on building one out-dated boat, which they later swapped for the equally slow Young America. By comparison, the Black Magic crew directed their US$15 million resources, not into high salaries and commissions, but into building two competitive boats.

Team approach

The New Zealanders worked with a true team ethic: no prima-donnas; no hidden agendas; everyone hand-picked by Coutts and Blake to provide particular skills for the two-year campaign.

Doug Peterson, the American designer from San Diego, was rejected by the three defence syndicates. He then turned to New Zealand to ply his trade. "The hull was not the reason we have been winning, just like it was not the sails, rig, crew or appendages by themselves. It was not any one thing. Success came from putting together a total package," he said.

Tom Schnackenberg, the 50 year old sail designer, whose wizardry powered Alan Bond's Australia II to victory against Dennis Conner in 1983, and who co-ordinated the design team, agreed. "The secret is boring. It's simply teamwork. It sounds obvious. It is obvious, but it was not easy."

Peterson praised Peter Blake, the winner of the 1993/4 Whitbread Round the World yacht race, for putting the team ethic first. "Peter wanted the sailing team involved in everything from day one. Before we started with any of the design, we sent out a questionnaire asking what kind of boat they wanted, then worked with the crew who were free to come in at any time and look at what we were doing."

What the sailors asked for was a good all-round boat that would be equal to what anyone else had, but with performance focused on upwind speed. It was achieved said Peterson, by taking an integrated approach. "It wasn't like, 'Well, we've finished the hull, now let's do the mast and sails'. It was more - how does all this relate?"

Throughout the four month long trials, the two Black Magic boats out-performed all the challengers upwind. However, after analysing the American boats and finding them to be faster downwind, the sailing team called on the designers to trade some of this upwind superiority for more downwind speed. The designers made the necessary alterations.

According to Peterson, a smaller rudder saved them more than a minute around the course; a new gennaker shaved a further 10 seconds off their downwind leg times, and other small changes were made to the winglets on their keel. It added up, giving them an average two minute 52 second advantage around the 18 mile track. This, as Conner's crew found, was an unbeatable formula.

Conner swaps boat for Young America - another bending of the rules?

Before the Cup series began, Dennis Conner chose to retire his own Stars & Stripes yacht and take over Kevin Mahaney's mermaid-painted Young America. The swap was allowed under a controversial ruling made a month before by the three-man America's Cup Trustees Committee.

The committee was made up of representatives from the New York YC, Royal Perth YC and the San Diego YC. They ruled that 'the defending club may select its defending yacht from the finalist of the Citizen Cup'.

The public, and much of the press, saw it all as yet another rule-bending exercise by the defenders. The move was allowed under the two boat rule, in which each challenging and defending syndicates had been restricted to building or acquiring two new boats during the five month series.

Until the finals, Conner's challenge had been treated as a one-boat campaign because the original Stars & Stripes which he used for the first round of trials, had been built for the 1992 Cup series. Each team was also limited to a total of 45 sails. Like New Zealand, the Young America crew had already used up much of their allocation advancing through to the finals, but Conner, who had operated on a much lower sailing budget than his rivals, still had a 15 sail credit for Stars & Stripes.

Blake and Pedrick lambasted San Diego YC for playing to two sets of rules.

Not everyone agreed with the move - least of all Dave Pedrick, the humiliated designer of Stars & Stripes. Indeed, Pedrick, who had led Conner's design team for almost a decade, resigned from the group in protest over the rule-bending, manipulations and politics which dogged the defence trials throughout.

"The reputation of yachting in general, and Americans in particular, has been tarnished by syndicate actions and defence decisions during the past six weeks," he declared. "These 1995 Cup trials have been a wake-up call that we cannot do business as usual in the future and expect to capture the support of the world, let alone sponsors."

It followed a similar outburst from Blake on the eve of the Cup. He had complained at the way the rules were changed: first, to allow Conner to join his two rivals in the finals after being knocked out in the semi-finals, then to swap boats for the Cup series.

"If you can't win by fair means, just change the rules and see what you can get away with. That is how San Diego has played this," he observed. "If we are fortunate to win this, we are going to clean it up. It is going to be fair for both groups - an event that people will want their sons and daughters to get involved in the sailing because they can see they have a fair sporting chance of getting through and actually winning the Cup."

Pedrick said that the fundamental question was whether the America's Cup should tolerate letting the defenders play by different rules than the challengers, rather than adhering to consistent rules of fair play. "Is the American approach to the America's Cup to be a team sport concept, or to win at all costs"? he asked.

"After winning the league championship playoffs, a baseball team doesn't then cast about for an all-star team to play in the World series. Clearly the challengers believe in a normal sporting system and have been outraged by the collusion among the American syndicates culminating in the swapping of boats a week before the Cup began."

What outraged Pedrick most, of course, was the fact that it was his boat Stars & Stripes, that had been dropped from the Cup. "That decision was a big mistake. Stars & Stripes defeated Young America in the hardest fought defence trials. It is optimistic to believe that a crew from one yacht can get peak performance from another yacht with less than a week to prepare. It is also a manipulation of the rules and an outright shift in the spirit of the race," he said.

Wytie Cable, the beleaguered chairman of San Diego's defence committee, remained unrepentant. "The defence candidates built three new boats against eleven by the challengers. Naturally, the challengers would like to limit the defender's rights as much as they can, but this particular right to select any one of the finalists was not bargained away," he argued. "All the boats in the defence trials represent one entrant - the San Diego YC. We will not, at this late date, give up a right the defence has had for 144 years."

But in a separate development, a poll among members of the San Diego YC showed that 70% of the membership wanted the America's Cup to go elsewhere even before the series began. "This is nothing to do with the arguments and politics that presently surround the trophy," said one influential member. "We just want our Club back as it was, without us having to stand on ceremony all the time."

Final preparations

Conner's crew, who test-sailed Young America for the first time just seven days before the Cup races began, were convinced she was faster than their own boat, though were concerned at the short time they had to get accustomed to her. "If we had to race today, we wouldn't be ready," said Tom Whidden, Conner's veteran tactician. "The deck layout and cockpits are quite different but the technical programmes above the deck are identical. We use the same mast, rigging and North Sails. The one risk is that we don't sail Young America to her full potential."

Money on the Kiwis

Judging by the money changing hands in Las Vegas on the eve of the Cup, where the odds were 3:1 against Dennis Conner and 2:1 on for Team New Zealand, there were more Americans backing New Zealand than Kiwis themselves.

Pundits put this down, not to Conner's inability to defend the Cup successfully, but to a reflection of the awareness among Americans, from New York to nearby Newport Beach, that the San Diego Yacht Club had somehow jimmied the rules AGAIN to keep the Cup at all costs. "The Cup has lost its appeal. All this re-writing of the rules to keep Conner in the competition has taken the sport out of the event. I want to see it go to New Zealand," one San Diego shop-keeper was telling his clients on the eve of the series.

Certainly, few understood how the five-time Cup contestant could have finished third to Bill Koch's women's team in the semi-finals, then be allowed to compete in the finals simply because his sponsors had not received the television air-time they deserved. Neither could they understand how, having won the Citizen Cup defender trials in his own yacht Stars & Stripes, he could defend the America's Cup aboard a rival's boat.

The Club has done nothing to explain these extraordinary twists, but Conner went some way towards rationalising recent events. He pointed to the 144 year history of the Cup, and how the New York YC, which ruled supreme for 132 of those years, often mixed and matched crews and yachts to gain the strongest possible defence.

There is no doubt that the Stars & Stripes crew and the Young America yacht were the strongest combination for the defence. Young America, skippered during the trials by Olympic silver medallist Kevin Mahaney, went into the finals with a 21:7 win/loss record, against 13:15 for Conner's Stars & Stripes.

It was only when Young America experimented with winglets on the bottom of her rudder, and Mahaney was distracted by divorce papers served on him at the start of the finals, that cracks began to appear in the campaign.

The 'Nelson' rudder winglets were short-lived, but time, or rather the lack of it, ruled out other changes to Young America, outside a new suit of sails once Conner's crew took over the yacht.

By contrast, Coutts and his crew worked to improve their boat with vital daily tuning sessions over the 16-day period between winning the Louis Vuitton Cup and the start of the America's Cup. They also received a NZ$500,000 cash injection from the New Zealand government to buy new sails. "Our coffers were empty, so this money could not have come at a better time," Blake said. In terms of tourism alone, it was probably one of the best investments his government has ever made.

Computer statistics give first pointer to a rout

'There are lies, damned lies and statistics' was the response from one respected Cup watcher, when confronted with computer derived figures from the defender and challenger finals. The figures suggested that the New Zealanders had a 2-6% speed advantage upwind in the light conditions between 6-10 knots of breeze, and an almost equal speed downwind. Above 10 knots and the gulf between the times around the course narrowed considerably. However, the advantage, according to the computer graphs and tables, still favoured Black Magic.

In fact, the averaged figures, taken directly from the global positioning system on each yacht, proved remarkably accurate. Though the figures were deliberately fudged by plus or minus 7% in an effort to negate such comparisons, they predicted a series of two to three minute victories for New Zealand which is exactly what happened.

Conner was also concerned. On the eve of racing he conceded that the New Zealanders would be very strong. "They have the best sail maker in the world in Tom Schnackenberg, who made my sails for the last Whitbread Round the World Race, one of the top match-race skippers in the world in Russell Coutts, and Brad Butterworth as tactician, who skippered my yacht, Winston, in that race. I can see no weaknesses."

Robert Hopkins, who coached Peter de Savary's British Bulldog team,Victory,, in the 1983 Cup, helped Conner bring the 'Auld Mug' back from Australia in 1987, and was the navigator on Young America until the Stars & Stripes take-over, also predicted that the Kiwis had an edge. "They are going to be tough to beat. That boat of theirs is very fast," he said.

David Allan-Williams, the British designer within the New Zealand team, was also confident. "It will be tight, but it is my bet the final score will be five-two. The best thing to happen is that we are racing against Dennis. None of us liked the prospect of racing the women's team, but the lads are relishing the prospect of knocking Conner off. They have a few scores to settle here."

Race 1 for the America's Cup

The talking ended at 13:10 Pacific Standard Time when the two yachts converged on the start for five minutes of jousting before the gun fired. If there were butterflies in stomachs, they were quickly dispelled as the two crews locked horns in an effort to push the other into making a mistake. Paul Cayard, at the wheel of Young America, was first to break away and head back towards the line, leaving Coutts clear to challenge for the starboard end of the line to windward.

The two boats started within a second of each other, with Black Magic riding on Young America's weather hip. Ordinarily, the wind, seeping through the rig of the leeward boat, has an adverse effect on the boat immediately to weather, but before Conner could finish congratulating Cayard with - "Nice start Paul. They can't live there for long" - the American was to realise that Black Magic was no ordinary boat.

Pointing two to three degrees higher than Young America, the Black Magic crew soon opened up a large distance while matching the American yacht for speed. From that point on, the realists within the US camp knew the game was up. Cayard was handicapped by a sudden instrument failure on Young America.

Two-thirds up the first beat, he compounded his problems by ducking under the stern of Black Magic in an attempt to break out onto the favoured right side of the course. The decision was made in an instant but lacked the vital input from navigator Jim Brady, who was busy below decks trying to locate the fault in the electrics.

The New Zealanders let Young America go, but no sooner had Cayard sighed in relief at not having Coutts throw a slam-dunk on him, when he found that the boat was already on the lay-line to the mark. "I wasn't aware that we were that close," Cayard admitted. "In hindsight, it was a bad move, but with the instruments down, we were not playing with a full deck of cards."

From that point on, Coutts & Co had the race in the bag. Making the most of the testing Pacific chop and 15 knot winds, they rounded the weather mark with a 32 second lead. They lost some ground on the following run when the spinnaker pole end fitting kept releasing its hold, but after bowman Joey Allen rushed forward and made a makeshift repair with a snatch-block, Team New Zealand leapt ahead.

By the second weather mark, the gap had extended to 42 seconds; then 1:22 at the leeward mark, 2:44 at the final windward turn, and the team finished the day 2:45 ahead.

"They sailed well today in difficult conditions," Cayard conceded later, but added: "We don't know what they will be like in typical nine knot, flat water, San Diego conditions." It was not long before he found out!

Race 2

The second race in the series was even more of a rout than the first, with Team New Zealand dominating just as surely in the much lighter conditions. Conditions in which Conner and his crew expected their borrowed yacht, Young America, to excel.

The New Zealanders recovered from a poor start after being pushed up around the wrong side of the committee boat, to power away up the first beat to reach the first mark 39 seconds ahead.

Black Magic's downwind speed was just as devastating, with Coutts and his crew opening their lead up a further 11 seconds on the first spinnaker leg before steadily stretching out to four minute 14 seconds by the finish.

To rub salt into Conner's wounds, this was the largest margin of defeat any American defender has had to endure since James Ashbury's British challenger, Lavonia, beat Columbia by more than 15 minutes in 1871. "That was hard on the guys," Bill Trenkle, Conner's operations manager, said afterwards. "We are not used to that kind of a stomping."

The start showed up the most dramatic differences between the two yachts. While Coutts and his crew were struggling to turn Black Magic round behind the committee boat and get her up to speed, Paul Cayard, had the American defender charging down the line towards what he believed to be the favoured end of the start.

New Zealand's weather gurus had told Coutts otherwise. Bob Rice, their chief forecaster, had predicted that the first wind shift would favour the right hand side. He was right. Within five minutes the race was all but over with Black Magic more than five boat lengths ahead. "We wanted that right hand side and fought hard for it, and despite crossing the start late, soon had an advantage. We don't always get the weather quite right, but this time Bob was 100% correct," Blake said afterwards.

"We had one of the finest starts I've ever seen Paul Cayard make, and they answered with an unbelievable gain," said Josh Belsky, the dispirited pitman aboard Young America.

"During the first run, I thought they were pulling away because of the sail they had up, but maybe they are just faster. One thing is clear, they can certainly point higher than us," said Cayard after the drubbing.

Conner's crew stayed out at sea after the race, testing new sails in the hope of somehow finding a winning ingredient overnight, but the New Zealanders were now supremely confident that it would take more than new sails to beat them. "The point still hasn't registered with the Americans," said David Alan-Williams, the British designer working with Team New Zealand.

"While they spent the last the last three months slugging it out in close tacking duels, the challengers have been concentrating on speed. We reckon oneAustralia and TAG Heuer, and perhaps even Nippon Challenge were all faster than the defenders."

Race 3

Black Magic's crew served up another salutary lesson during race three. They established an early lead, shook off an American-instigated tacking duel to round the weather mark 20 seconds ahead, then pulled out another minute on the following run. They were on their way towards chalking up a third successive victory.

It left the man they call 'Mr America's Cup' scratching his head at the speed differences between the two yachts, looking in vain for divine intervention to stop the rout.

"We really had no idea that the differences would be so great," admitted Jim Brady, Conner's navigator. "The defenders and challengers have been racing on different courses for the past four months so it has been difficult to gauge relative speeds. We knew that the New Zealanders were fast by the way they sailed through the challenger trials undefeated, but no one appreciated that the defenders were so far off the pace as well."

After losing this third race by one minute 51 seconds, Jim Belsky, Conner's colourful pitman, put up the idea of going to church, but the New Zealanders had no intention of allowing this series to run into Sunday prayers. "We want to win this five-zip and really rub it in," said grinder Andrew 'Raw Meat' Taylor, the powerhouse driving the sheet winches. He had competed in all three previous Kiwi Cup campaigns and remembered the four-nil slaughtering they had received at the hands of Dennis Conner back in 1987.

By now the New Zealanders had led round all 18 race marks to date, gained on 15 of the legs, maintained their time advantage on one, and suffered small losses on just two legs - invariably the last ones, when Coutts and his crew had an opportunity to relax.

All attempts to combat the Kiwi speed advantage failed. During this third race Cayard made a concerted effort to engage the New Zealanders, but a soon as the Americans drew within fighting distance, Coutts & Co simply broke off the engagement and sailed away into a fresher breeze.

"When we can get them into a match race, our guys are doing a good job, but then they simply break off and use their boat speed," a dejected Conner reflected after this third mis-match.

"Basically, match racing is not their game," Cayard explained. "They know how to turn the game around to what is best for their boat, and it is tough to fight someone who is fast enough to run away."

The dejection was there for all to hear. The onboard TV microphones picked up Cayard saying: "They are not even covering us anymore," to which tactician Tom Whidden observed: "I don't think they are even looking back."

Race 4

Conner's crew again made the best start in race four, even though the New Zealanders forced Young America above the line to scramble back moments before the gun fired. Coutts, however, had the favoured side of the course even though this did not manifest itself until the two yachts were two-thirds up the first beat. Young America was ahead at the first cross and forced Coutts to tack back over the to left hand side of the course, just in time to pick up a change in the wind that lifted New Zealand into the lead.

The New Zealanders drew further and further ahead. They extended their lead from 1:19 seconds at the weather mark to 1:58 at the leeward turn, leaving Conner's crew trailing home: a demoralised three minutes 32 seconds adrift.

To Conner and his dejected crew, defeat had become a foregone conclusion, especially after this fourth bruising. "I have never been in a race where I felt I had so little control over the outcome - And I've been in some uphill battles in my life," Cayard admitted. "You are witnessing the best performance by a challenger in recent history."

In fact, this New Zealand rout was the best by any challenger since the schooner America first won the Garrard fashioned silver ewer in a race around the Isle of Wight in 1851. Even when Dennis Conner beat Iain Murray's Kookaburra four-nil to win the Cup back from Australia in 1987, the margins of victory were nothing like as wide as this.

"We never guessed there would be this kind of discrepancy," Whidden said. "We never imagined the entire defence programme was so far off pace. I'm pretty surprised."

Whidden, the president of North Sails, which made the sails for both boats, realised by now that the New Zealanders had won the Cup six months earlier. There was nothing his crew could do to upgrade their borrowed boat in time to salvage the Cup. "They were focused when they arrived here last November and they have stayed at it. It's a great two-boat effort. Their edge comes from a whole bunch of things from the hull to how it relates to the aerodynamics of the rig and sails. The crew has done a good job too. We knew that we were in trouble coming into this series and hoped that the switch from our own yacht, Stars & Stripes, to Young America would put us in the ball game. The margins would have been scary in the other boat."

This fourth race was settled within 15 minutes. The New Zealanders fought for and won the left hand side of the course, but the wind quickly changed to favour Young America. They held a two boat-length lead when the two yachts converged for the first time. The Americans maintained that margin when they cross-tacked a second time, forcing the New Zealanders back out to the left hand side of the course. Then the wind filled in as Coutts and his crew expected. Within eight minutes, they were eight lengths ahead.

"We got a wind shift and sailed like heck to get a two-length lead. They get a shift and the gap is eight lengths," Cayard said incredulously. "They are just very fast."

Race 5

The fifth race, sailed in 8-12 knot winds, went just like the others. The outcome, a splashy champagne affair, made the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron only the third yacht club to win the America's Cup in the event's 144 year history.

Young America began with a slight edge, but again Bob Rice and his weather team had the best measure of the swinging winds, to give the Kiwis the better pointer up the all-important first beat. Black Magic enjoyed a 21 second lead at the top mark, added a further 11 seconds on the following run, then continued to edge ahead, to win by a 1:50 margin. It was all over.

Conner was one of the first to offer his congratulations. "They had a fabulous campaign. If the Cup had to leave San Diego, there could be no better home for it than Auckland. This team really earned it and I know they will enjoy it and take good care of it. New Zealand can be proud of its heroes. They did a great job and my hat is off to you all."

Recalling his first defeat back in 1983 when Alan Bond's Australia II unbolted the Cup from the New York YC's clutches, he said: "That was a pretty miserable feeling. We felt that we let the New York YC down and ourselves down. But this time we don't feel so bad. We feel we did everything possible to make for a successful defence, including sailing our hearts out.

Looking back now, all of us onboard Young America feel like we can walk away with our heads held high knowing that there was very little else we could have done. We sailed the best boat America had, we bought new sails, but it just wasn't enough."

New era - New challenge

Within seconds of Black Magic crossing the line for the last time, officials from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron had accepted a challenge from the New York YC for a defence in the year 2000.

The 'hip-pocket' challenge was presented by Bob James, vice Commodore of the American club, directly to Squadron Commodore Peter Hay. It was presented at the finish line to thwart any maverick attacks like that launched by Michael Fay's 'Big Boat' challenge to the San Diego YC in 1988, putting the Cup in court during two years of bitter arguments.

Determined to end the rule-bending shenanigans employed by the San Diego YC to keep the Cup, the New Zealanders hope that their partnership with the New York YC, which held the trophy for 132 years, will return some tradition to the event. Significantly, the San Diego club has not been invited to play any role in the management of the next Cup.

The New Zealand and New York clubs agreed to hold the 30th defence of the America's Cup off Auckland in March 2000. They outlawed challenges from 'paper' yacht clubs, and the right to take any issues to court. They also tightened up the rules governing nationality of designers and crew, and limited the structural changes that can be made to the yachts. The ban on tobacco advertising is also maintained.

Launching their new Protocol for the Cup, Blake explained that the changes agreed with the New York YC would ensure a level playing field for both defenders and challengers. "We want to revitalise the event without diminishing its unique qualities. We contacted the New York YC last week, introduced them to our Protocol and convinced them of our intent and ambitions for the event. It took them by surprise, but they moved quickly to accommodate our request."

Paper yacht clubs like the USA YC, set up by Dennis Conner three years ago to control the fruits of victory in the future, have been outlawed. Challenging clubs must have been in existence for a minimum of five years, be financially supported by a 200+ membership, have a democratically elected board of directors and be a member of its national authority.

The New Zealanders had wanted to limit crews to those holding national passports from the country of challenge but finally agreed to setting a three year residency clause for designers and sailors.

Each challenge will be limited to building two boats and structural alterations are limited to 20% of the hull bottom and 50% of the topsides to avoid any repeat of the extensive rebuilding that went on with Nippon '94 and oneAustralia during this year's trials.

Challengers had one year to launch their campaigns and lodge a US$100,000 deposit with the New Zealand Yacht Squadron, which planned to organise a series of races to maintain momentum and interest in the Cup during the next five years.

Six other American clubs, together with others from Australia, Japan, Italy, Germany and France are also waiting in the wings in anticipation of an exciting new era in the history of the Cup. "From our own count, we believe between 12 and 20 clubs could challenge us, so we need time to build up the facilities" said Blake.

Five years may be a long time to wait, but New Zealanders promise a fantastic regatta when the time comes. "I only hope I live long enough to see it," said Frank Hope, the retiring chairman of America's Cup '95.

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America's Cup Rialto: Aug 3 - New York train alone
American Magic looked to have settled into a training routine putting in five hours on the water American Magic looked to have settled into a catch-up routine to close out the five months they have been off the water. NZL-60 the 2000 America's Cup champion has been refurbished and will go on public display at the ETNZ base. Posted on 3 Aug
America's Cup Rialto: August 1 - AC75's compared
American Magic sailed their AC75, Defiant compared to ETNZ's AC75 Te Aihe While American Magic sailed their AC75, Defiant on three days of the four available, last week, Emirates Team New Zealand have opted to sail only their 12 metre long test boat Te Kahu. Here's some thoughts and images on what we've seen. Posted on 1 Aug
America's Cup Rialto: July 30 - A revealing day
American Magic looked to have dropped into a solid training routine New York Yacht Club's American Magic looked to have dropped into a solid training routine, necessary to catchup the five months that the team has been unable to sail their AC75, Defiant. Posted on 30 Jul
America's Cup: US$35,000 set as refit minimum
NZ government has clarified the requirements which must be met obtain border exemption The New Zealand government is, from July 2020, allowing foreign flagged vessels and yachts with booked-in refits or repairs to enter New Zealand. The minimum repair/refit value has been set at NZ$50,000 (US$33,300) Posted on 29 Jul
America's Cup Rialto: July 28 - First hookup
The two America's Cup teams enjoyed a fresh easterly breeze and flat water, before doing a hookup. On the water the two teams worked to a very different regime - with the Kiwis doing various runs and manoeuvres - but of course with only four crew on the 12 metre long test boat. Updated with video of the day Posted on 28 Jul