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America's Cup Musings, TOR Europe, Rolex Giraglia, and One Design news

by David Schmidt 22 Jun 16:00 BST June 22, 2021
Fans gather in front of the Emirates Team NZ base in Auckland to welcome Te Rehutai after the AC36 win - March 17, 2021 © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com / nz

I'll admit that I'm not much of a Guns N' Roses fan. Sure, Slash can play the six string, no question, but Axl's preening and chauvinistic ways never sat well. But the other day, as I was driving around Connecticut on a long overdue visit with my family, Sweet Child O' Mine came on the FM airwaves, and - for whatever reason - my index finger didn't immediately tap the "scan" button. Right about the time that my tolerance was saturating, Axl started crooning: "Where do we go? Oh, where do we go now?" And of course, my mind immediately turned to the America's Cup.

In fact, Axl's was an excellent query for Grant Dalton and the Emirates Team New Zealand's brain trust. Where, exactly, will the racing go now?

Some backstory. After decisively winning the Auld Mug on March 17, 2021 in a best-out-of-13-race series that went down in the record books as 7-3 against the Challenger of Record, Circolo della Vela Sicilia's Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, the Defender - the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's Emirates Team New Zealand - completed the impressive feat of winning the Cup (2017) and then successfully defending it on home waters.

While the 2021 Cup didn't deliver the ROI that sponsors, investors, and the New Zealand Government had hoped for, thanks to the pandemic, the 36th America's Cup was a great show and an impressive display of Kiwi engineering and sailing acumen.

Enter a new Challenger of Record - the Royal Yacht Squadron Racing's INEOS Team UK - and rumor of a possible one-off Defense to be held on the Solent in 2022 soon emerged.

Wait... the Solent? As in, the United Kingdom's famous brine? While no one can dispute the historical significance of these waters, nor their world-class reputation as an amazing place to sail and race, they are a long, long ways removed from the Hauraki Gulf and the waters off of Auckland, where AC36 was decided.

Moreover, given the New Zealand Government's impressive job of managing the pandemic during racing, sans vaccines, not to mention their investment in ETNZ, it also begs some serious questions as to why this Defense wouldn't again be held on home waters.

These questions have continued to gain momentum in recent weeks and months, as ETNZ, the New Zealand Government, the Auckland Council and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron have been negotiating the team's financial aid package for the next Cup cycle during a three-month exclusive negotiating period.

This ended in mid-June, sans resolution.

This means that ETNZ is now shopping hosting rights for AC37 around to other countries. (Likely suspects now include Valencia, Spain, the UK (Cowes), Ireland (Cork), and the Middle East; however it's also believed that Auckland is still in the hunt.)

Sound familiar? If you followed the Cup during AC34 (2013) and AC35 (2017), you've seen the shuffle: A near-perfect Defense held on San Francisco Bay (I was there - it was epic), followed by an offshoring of the Cup to Bermuda.

"By all means, the end of the exclusive negotiation period does not eliminate all possibility of the event or an event being hosted in New Zealand," said Dalton, ETNZ's CEO, in an official statement. "If resources enable an event in New Zealand, we will remain open to it. But, we must explore other opportunities to ensure we can put up another successful Defense.

"No matter where in the world we are, we will always be Team New Zealand. Our priority has always been to keep and defend the America's Cup successfully. We certainly want to explore holding a regatta in Auckland and along with discussing the venue for AC37 with other nations, would like to work through that opportunity also."

For their part, the RNZYS also seem keen to hold AC37 on home waters. "Whilst we also remain hopeful that the cup can stay in New Zealand it would be prudent to now explore other options as well, with the primary objective to ensure we keep the America's Cup trophy in the cabinet here at the club," said Aaron Young, commodore of the RNZYS, in the same statement.

"As such we also understand the need to help ensure the viability of Emirates Team New Zealand so we have every opportunity to defend the America's Cup again, wherever that may be. It would be an unprecedented achievement to win the America's Cup three times in a row and taking the Cup overseas may well offer the best chance for us to do so."

While we will forgive Mr Young of his imprecise use of the term "unprecedented" (Exhibit A: The New York Yacht Club successfully defended the Auld Mug 24 times, from 1870 through 1980) the fact remains the AC37 could be raced far away from Auckland.

This, of course, brings to mind two things: unpleasant memories of the 1988 and 2010 Deed of Gift Challenges (DoG), and Axl's familiar refrain:

"Where do we go? Oh, where do we go now?"

For some insight into what led to the 2010 DoG Challenge, check out Shirley Robertson's excellent Sailing Podcast interview with four-time America's Cup winner Brad Butterworth.

If you're anything like me, you might just find yourself humming a little GNR and really hoping that the America's Cup world can be spared the collateral damage that's almost always part and parcel of DoG Challenges.

Meanwhile, in offshore sailing news, the past few weeks have seen The Ocean Race Europe (May 29-June 19) unfurl. This stage-race event took the fleet of five IMOCA 60s and seven VO65s, all racing in fully crewed mode, from Cascais, Portugal to Genova, Italy, and also included two coastal races (Cascais and Genova) that gave sailors the chance to flex their short-course muscles.

Once the finish guns fell silent, Offshore Team Germany was topping the IMOCA leaderboard, followed by 11th Hour Racing and Viva Mexico. The Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team proved the fastest gun amongst the One Design VO65s, followed by Sailing Poland and AkzoNobel Ocean Racing.

And in keeping with the offshore theme, last weekend also saw the 68th edition of the Rolex Giraglia unfurl on the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Some 138 yachts participated, 128 of which completed the Giraglia's 241 nautical-mile course.

"The race demanded competence in every area, from the point of view of our boat, our crew and our tactics," said Jean-Claude André, co-owner of the Sydney 43 GTS Imagine, which took the race's overall handicap win. "Nobody can predict who will win this race as a lot of aspects are at play. We knew we were doing well on the water and a key moment was the direction we took after the turning mark off Cannes to the Giraglia. It is a great feeling to win the Rolex Giraglia after some 15 to 20 years of participation."

Meanwhile, and much closer to home, this past weekend also marked the ILCA (nèe Laser, Laser Radial, and Laser 4.7) Nationals and U.S. Singlehanded Championships, which took place on the waters off of Norfolk, Virginia. The J/24 Nationals also unfurled last weekend and were determined on the waters off of Blue Point, New York (congrats to Keith Whittemore and his Seattle-based Furio crew).

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, Tanner Krygsveld (USVI) took top honors at the 28th International Optimist Regatta, which was hosted by the St. Thomas Yacht Club. And finally, word recently broke that Oman will be hosting the 50th edition of the Youth Sailing World Championship (December 11-18, 2021).

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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