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AC36: Protocol (Notice of Race) has just been announced in Auckland at RNZYS; it's Back to the F

AUCKLAND, NZL – At a press conference today at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron attended by representatives of the Defender, RNZYS, and the Challenger of Record, Circolo della Vela Sicilia (ITA), and their representative teams (Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa), the Protocol governing the 36th America's Cup was announced.

In a nutshell, it's Back to the Future. AC36 will look like the Cups prior to 2010, and not much like 2013 in San Francisco and 2017 in Bermuda. Summary of the Protocol, that is effectively the Notice of Race:

+ The Challenger Selection Series, now known as the Prada Cup, and the America's Cup Match (finals) presented by Prada, will be held in Auckland, in the Hauraki Gulf (not in the Harbour as some had speculated), likely off Takapuna, in January-March 2021. However, if by reason of natural disaster or other that prevents the event from being held in Auckland, it will be held in Italy. Yes, Italy. The chances of it being in Italy are even less than Russell Coutts being hired to run AC36, IMHO.

+ The yachts will be "spectacular" 75' monohulls; whether the "AC75" class yachts will incorporate hydrofoils has not yet been decided. The final AC75 Class Rule will be published in March 2018, with details of the yacht announced on November 30, 2017. Each competitor is permitted to build two AC75s, the hulls of which must be laminated in the country of the competitor – a big strengthening of the Deed's "constructed-in-country" provision from 2013. The first boat is not permitted to be launched prior to 31st March 2019, the second can be launched after the 1st February 2020.

+ 20% of sailing teams must be "true nationals" (citizens) of the country that the challenging club represents. The remainder of the crew can be made up of residents of the challenging yacht club’s country defined by being physically present in that country for a minimum of 380 days over a 2-year period between September 2018 & 31st August 2020.

+ The Defender will race with the Challengers in some number of pre-regattas, and in a final Christmas 2020 pre-regatta at Auckland, but not in the Prada Cup challenger selection series in January-February 2021.

+ Each team may build a maximum of two AC75s, but tank-testing and wind-tunnel testing is not permitted (only CFD, e.g. computer testing), and two-boat testing is prohibited except for the Defender while the Challengers are racing in the Prada Cup. Other significant cost cutting rules are being put in place.

+ One other detail that was illuminated in the Q&A, was that races would be longer again, more on the order of 40 minutes, not the 16-18 minutes in Bermuda, and that starts would be back to the traditional upwind, not on a reach as in 2013 and 2017. Another was that the crew would likely be 10-12 sailors depending on the final design of the boat.

+ UPDATE since our first draft of this article, your Ed. has had a chance to skim through the commercial rules in the Protocol. This appears to be a rather large departure from any previous Cup in that the sponsor of a team, Prada, has a virtual lock on the control, management and activation of commercials rights for the Match, the Prada Cup (Challenger Selection Series) and pre-regattas.

Details on the ETNZ website here. More on SI later, and we promise not to gloat (too much) about how the bulk of our predictions were correct.

The AC36 Protocol held between the Commodores of RNZYS and CDVS, with ETNZ CEO Grant Dalton (NZL, far left) and Team Luna Rossa President (and CEO of the Prada Group) Patrizio Bertelli (ITA, far right) looking on.

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