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Cheap talk stops in just five days: 36th America's Cup entries open

by Richard Gladwell, 27 Dec 2017 19:19 NZDT 27 December 2017
Skipper Glenn Ashby gives the thumbs-up as Emirates Team NZ is about to cross the finish line in Race 9 of the 35th America's Cup and win the torphy for the third time. Bermuda, June 26, 2017 © Richard Gladwell

The talking stops in just five days in the 36th America's Cup.

That's when entries open for the regatta due to be held in Auckland in March 2021.

The window for entries will be open for just six months, closing on June 30, 2018. A further late entry period is open until the end of November subject to the payment of a hefty $US1million late entry fee on top of the initial $US2million regular entry fee.

The first entry instalment of $US1million must be paid within ten days of the Challenge being accepted by the Defender, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

For Challengers who enter early, there are several advantages.

The primary advantage is that the order of base allocation in Auckland will be determined by the order of entry.

Under the Halsey Street Extension proposal favoured by Emirates Team New Zealand, this would have been of little consequence, as all bases were relatively equal and launched into the same piece of water, with good shelter.

However, since the local and coalition politicians became involved, the base locations have some significant differences with some, who launch into the enclosed basin, offering significant advantages in terms of boat shelter and public exposure.

In 2013 America's Cup the order of entry dictated who would become the new Challenger of Record in the event of the withdrawal of the first appointed COR. The withdrawal of the first challenger of record, Club Nautico di Roma triggered a case to the International Jury as to who was the successor with Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Kungliga Svenska Segelsallskapet (KSSS) each claiming the right. The International Jury held that RNZYS had, in fact, made their entry a few seconds too early - ahead of the entry period and awarded the role to KSSS represented by the team Artemis Racing.

That set the scene for years of bickering and argument with KSSS siding with the Defender Golden Gate Yacht Club over many key issues against the other two Challengers Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa.

The 2007 America's Cup also got off on the wrong foot over a similar issue when the Swiss Defender Societe Nautique de Geneve (SNG) accepted a challenge from Club Nautico Espanol de Vela (CNEV), which the New York Supreme Court held did not satisfy the requirements of the Deed of Gift for the America's Cup.

The current Protocol sidesteps a lot of those issues by stipulating several requirements which a Challenging club must meet relating to size, years of operation and similar to prevent teams entering using sham yacht clubs as a front.

In addition, there is a process prescribed for the appointment of a replacement Challenger of Record - which in simple terms is based around the democratic choice of teams already entered - and not the order in which they entered.

Further, entries must be made using the template provided by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron ensuring that only clubs of substance can enter.

The Defender has also left the organisation of Challenger affairs to the Challenger of Record, so in the Protocol, there is no mention of a Challenger Committee and the like. It is over to the Challenger of Record to deal with the Challengers and for the COR, in turn, to deal with the Defender. They have a joint body (CoR/D) which is the collective body for decision making for the America's Cup regatta.

It follows that whatever process is used by the Challengers, those who have entered will be listened to a lot more seriously than those who are still holding back. That means having no real input to rule changes or other arrangements.

Getting closer to the head of the queue for base selection - after Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa - is the real incentive of early entry.

Further, as bases in the central venue may be limited to seven or eight teams - being ninth or lower on the order of entry may have more than nominal significance.

One only has to read the Auckland Council analysis of all potential sites to realise the consequences of missing out.

Half of the spots in the queue are expected to go quickly with Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa taking the first two. New York Yacht Club and Royal Yacht Squadron having announced their intention to enter are expected to take the next two - leaving just three or four base sites for other potential entries.

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