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America's Cup: Challengers want assurance that teams will be allowed into New Zealand

by Richard Gladwell, 20 May 10:29 BST 20 May 2020
American Magic base in the foregronud, with INEOS Team UK behind - America's Cup base construction - Wynyard Point - May 20, 2020 © Richard Gladwell /

INEOS Team UK CEO, Grant Simmer says the New Zealand Government have been "quite silent" on whether they will facilitate the entry of America's Cup teams into New Zealand.

Simmer, an Australian was navigator aboard Australia II, when they wrested the America's Cup from the New York Yacht Club in a come from behind win in 1983.

Simmer was responding to a question from leading yachting commentator, Peter Shipway, in a Zoom interview conducted on Sunday in Australia for CYCATV.

Asked as to whether the Cup should be delayed or pushed back, Simmer responded:

"Dalts and his team have consistently said, "we want to hold the Cup on schedule." The New Zealand Government have been quite silent on that - which is frustrating to ourselves, the Americans and the Italians. They [NZ Govt] haven't come out and said that it is definitely on.

"The Australians in the teams don't need a work visa to work in New Zealand, but they [NZ Govt] haven't told us they are going to give us [non-Australian team members] work visas. So we don't know when we can enter New Zealand. Already we need to get a forward party of people there to get the base set up and to start things happening. [Actually, under current policy no-one other than New Zealand Residents are allowed into New Zealand.]

"All governments have got more important things on their plate than the America's Cup," Simmer noted. "But we are hoping they could spend a moment to give us an indication that tells us when our work visas can be processed, and when we can get into New Zealand. It is hard for us to plan without that advice."

Turning to the actions of American Magic who have already put their AC75 on ship for New Zealand, expected to arrive in mid-June. "That's a pretty big gamble isn't it?" Shipway asked.

"They're hanging it out there!" Simmer chuckled aware that the New York Yacht Club team will not have sailed an AC75 for four months by the time their first boat, Defiant arrives in Auckland.

"They [the US team] are getting a bit sh**ty with the Kiwis", was Simmer's smiling response. "But we're playing a competitive game, and I don't think the kiwis are in any hurry to tell us when those Visas are going to be issued and when in fact we can go to New Zealand.

"There is no question that when we get there, we're going to have to quarantine for 14 days."

"But I would stress that the NZ Govt have done a good job in locking the place down. They have got to protect the population first and foremost, and our event may not be high on their priorities. But it would be nice to get a little bit of news so that we can plan with some surety."

Simmer's comments echo those of both his team principal Sir Ben Ainslie, and also that of New York Yacht Club's American Magic's Executive Director Terry Hutchinson. Both have said they expect to have to undergo a supervised 14 days quarantine of their teams on arrival in New Zealand, and that quarantine costs would be met by the team.

Typically America's Cup teams number about 120 members. In normal circumstances, the teams would be at the Cup venue for eight months. There is no shortage of accomodation for three America's Cup teams in Auckland, with 85% of the hotel accomodation in New Zealand either closed or vacant. Sky City announced last year as"Official Hotel and Accomodation Partner" for the America's Cup, announced two weeks ago that 900 staff will be laid off.

Sail-World understands that prior to the escalation of the COVID19 pandemic, Visa applications were being processed for the America's Cup teams. However as part of the lockdown measures, New Zealand's borders were closed to all but returning residents. Official comment has been that the borders will remain closed "for some time". That would appear to preclude team entry into New Zealand unless an exceptional arrangement can be put in place.

American Magic has 16 NZ residents either in quarantine or about to travel to New Zealand in the near future. Six of those including helmsman Dean Barker, are part of the sailing team. INEOS Team UK lists eight NZ residents in its team including Chief Designer Nick Holroyd.

The upcoming APEC conference is also due to take place in Auckland, beginning before the America's Cup in December 2020, with 20,000 attendees expected for nine events in three locations.

Construction continues on the INEOS Team UK base on Auckland's Wynyard Point, with the roof in place, prior to the facility being closed in. American Magic's base alongside is ready to take a container walled base, with a flexible roof. Italian challenger Luna Rossa's base is yet to start construction, with the team not expected in Auckland until October.

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