PORTSMOUTH, GBR (#1044) – This unattributed photo [update: photo was taken by Jar Vahey (GBR)] has appeared on the "Foiling Week" Facebook page with, obviously, branding for Sir Ben Ainslie's AC36 team now owned by Jim Ratcliffe and his energy company INEOS. The AC36 protocol prohibits teams from building more than two of the new AC-75 foiling monohulls. To give teeth to that rule, and as has been the case since a limit on the number of boats a team could build went in to effect for the 1995 Cup (and effectively all Cups since), there is a rule in Protocol which prohibits teams from building surrogate yachts to get around the two-boat ...
Sailing Illustrated has previously reported that we understood that at least Emirates Team New Zealand were planning to use a McConaghy 38 (12m is 39.37 feet) as a test platform, and possibly NYYC's American Magic team would do so as well.
Our Facebook friend and yacht designer Hugh Welbourn added a comment on the Foiling Week thread with the suggestion that the INEOS yacht is a modified (again, obviously) Quant 28, which he designed – not an RC44 as some suggested; an RC44 would be too long for the surrogate-yacht rule.
Another commenter suggested the INEOS yacht was just wheeled out as a "psyop" to psych out the other teams. Looks real enough to your Ed. The thread is well worth looking at for the other comments, which range from "This is the dumbest concept I've ever seen; ugly, impractical, dangerous" to "The next America's Cup will be a revolution."
Time will tell.