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AC36: Dalts confirms return of grinders, nationality rule for sailors only; 'Prada Cup' for

AUCKLAND – More details about the 36th America's Cup are emerging via the Italian media, including nuggets from Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton that traditional grinders will return and that nationality rules will be limited to sailors, not also designers. The revelations came from La Stampa, the Italian newspaper that last week quoted Challenger of Record head Patrizio Bertelli as saying that the Cup will return to monohulls. That forced ETNZ at least to confirm that the Auld Mug will be contested in "high performance monohulls" with more specifics expected when the Protocol is announced later this month. Even so, the Class Rule isn't expected to be finished until the end of November (Sailing Illustrated thinks even that is a push, as it is no simple task to write a good class rule).

Now comes word straight from Dalts that the revolutionary "cyclor" bicycle grinding stations will go away after just one edition of the Cup. The cyclor system was one of many innovations the Kiwis used to trounce Larry Ellison's two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA. Of course, with the 50-foot foiling catamarans going away, so will many of their components.

"The grinders will return," Dalton told La Stampa.

Dalton offered the first real comment from ETNZ about the switch back to monohulls. He said conditions in Auckland were not conducive to racing in catamarans, suggesting that Auckland Harbor with its flatter waters was too small and constricted. This portends racing "outside" in the rougher Hauraki Gulf, as Sail-World's Richard Gladwell predicted on SI's Tuesdays with TFE Facebook Live show last week.

“We believe our design team is capable of giving us another great yacht, and that catamarans wouldn’t be ideal'' for Auckland, Dalton told La Stampa.

“But I want it to be clear that winning the America’s Cup is a privilege, a privilege that includes the duty to safeguard its sporting value,'' Dalton said, echoing comments he made the day the Kiwis finished their rout of OTUSA in Bermuda.

Since before the Cup ended in June Sailing Illustrated has been ahead of the curve on predicting changes for the next Cup, tentatively scheduled for early 2021 in the New Zealand summer. And we'll make another one.

Owners of the TP52 class yachts in the Med, and the similar Pac52s on the USA's West Coast, are coming into AC36 – at least some of them. The DeVos family (USA, Macatawa Bay YC, Holland MI) own and campaign the TP52 QUANTUM as well its namesake Quantum Sails, and together with Hap Fauth (USA, New York YC), the owner/driver of the Maxi 72 BELLA MENTE may be teaming up for a challenge from NYYC. That would be a real feather in the AC36 cap, and help attract other teams. Note, too, that Fauth and DeVos share AC veteran Terry Hutchinson as tactician as well as a number of other AC-veteran crew. There is now talk among some of the owners of the Pac52s, to say nothing of AC-aspiring crew of those yachts, that there could be an AC campaign or two forthcoming from California clubs. Finally, Bertelli's skipper and racing director, Max Sirena, was in Menorca earlier this week – where the TP52s are having their 2017 grand finale regatta – talking with teams, including Russians, about coming into the event, and reportedly trying to buy a TP52 (QUANTUM?) as a Luna Rossa training platform. Our Dear Readers who follow Tuesdays with TFE will have heard that both ETNZ and Luna Rossa campaigned TP52s in the "downtime" during AC33 (2010) when only OTUSA and Alinghi were in the AC Match. The foregoing is well-informed speculation by SI's Editor-in-Chief Tom Ehman; now some more specifics....

Luna Rossa off Valencia, Spain in 2010 training for the series then known as the Audi MedCup, now the TP52 SuperSeries. Photo: Carmen Hidalgo.

Dalton said a nationality rule would be limited to crew. The percentage is expected to be high, but specifics won't be known until the Protocol is released. Most affected will be Australians who sailed for OTUSA and other teams. Likewise Artemis Racing (SWE), which for AC35 was largely crewed by Brits. It is expected that Australia will make a long-awaited return to the Cup. Will that include Jimmy Spithill (AUS) as he has said he wants to stay in the Cup. Bob Fisher wrote in Yachts & Yachting last week that Russell Coutts said in an email that Ellison was done with the Cup), but SI believes that is not necessarily the case, so standby.

According to Ehman, OTUSA's core shore team, led by veteran Mark "Tugbot" Turner (NZL) is still in place. If and when he leaves, you can start to believe that Larry might have thrown in the towel. He said on yesterday's Tuesdays with TFE that there are rumors now of possibly two GBR teams, not just a return of Land Rover BAR – the second Brit team said to be connected with the owner of GLADIATOR, the TP52 now slightly modified and soon to compete in SF as, tah dah, a Pac52. The owner of GLADIATOR is Tony Langley, a self-made British billionaire and industrialist.

There is still talk of pre-Cup racing in Europe, but that has come only from Bertelli with no solid details or confirmation from Dalton.

According to another report out of Italy, it seems that Bruno Trouble, the former French skipper, will be back in some role. He initiated the Louis Vuitton Cup for challengers in 1983 and has been a voice for traditionalists who weren't amused watching multihulls sail in the last three editions of the Cup, including the 2010 one-off between OTUSA and Alinghi.

It was Trouble who famously bemoaned the lack of style and elegance in the Cup when Sir Russell Coutts, was running it, saying, "What we have now is a vulgar beach event smelling of sunscreen and French fries.''

According to that same report, the long partnership with Louis Vuitton is over, and could be replaced by the Prada Cup, which would be awarded to the winner of the Challenger Selection Series.

Bertelli is CEO of Prada Group, and Luna Rossa certainly brought style to the America's Cup in the 2000s.

Patrizio Bertelli (ITA) and Grant Dalton (NZL), representing the Challenger of Record and Defending clubs respectively, are shaping the future of the America's Cup.

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