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The Prada Cup impasse resolved after Challenger of Record accepts 11th hour offer

by Richard Gladwell / 18 Feb 11:59 NZDT 18 February 2021
Prada Cup in the America's Cup Village - February 19, 2021 - America's Cup 36 © Richard Gadwell / / nz

The warring parties in the 36th America's Cup have agreed that racing in the Finals Of the Prada Cup can resume on Saturday, with a limitation on course areas that can be used.

The settlement came after the Challenger of Record accepted an 11th hour offer made by permitted event organiser America's Cup Event Ltd for the racing to resume on Saturday, with the exclusion of two spectator friendly courses.

ACE confirmed to Sail-World that all the Protector fleet of 27 marshall boats and other race committee vessels would be provided to the Race Committee, and they could see no reason why the Prada Cup could not resume on Saturday.

The Challenger of Record confirmed to Sail-World that the restriction on course usage would not be carried over into the America's Cup, negating the Arbitration Panel ruling earlier that only courses available to the Challengers for the Prada Cup could be used for the America's Cup racing. In other words, the Regatta Director will have complete freedom of choice of courses to be used.

In a later statement INEOS Team UK accepts that racing would start on Saturday, however they like ACE would have preferred the date to be delayed to allow the Alert levels in Auckland to be reduced to Level 1, which has been the case throughout the regatta.

"Given that it is a possibility that Auckland may move to Level 1 by Monday, we feel that delaying the restart until Monday would enable full spectator participation, even if this means racing continues past 24th February," the British team said.

This matter would now seem to be resolved, assuming that there is no change in the COVID-19 Alert status in Auckland, given that there are still test results to be returned from over 200 students of a South Auckland college, and that the Ministry of Health officials had not yet identified the index contact in the outbreak of community transmitted COVID-19.

[For those outside New Zealand it is important to note that in the Alert Level system used in New Zealand for managing COVID19, that there is a big gap between being in Level 3 and Level 2. Last time New Zealand was at these levels a new Level termed Alert Level 2.5, was made up to bridge the gap between the two levels. Levels 3 and 4 are quite close, with the main difference being that under Level 3 non-customer facing business can continue. Schools are closed but will take students who have two working parents. Level 3 was described as "Level 4 with takeaways". Under Level 4 only those businesses deemed essential can continue, otherwise a complete lockdown applies - except for an hour of exercise per day. Level 2 is a more stringent version of Level 1 - affecting mainly hospitality industries and social distancing. Groups are limited to 100 in number. In terms of the America's Cup Regattas, moving from Level 3 to Level 2 is a big step making the difference between being able to run a Regatta - albeit with no fans present, and not being able to do so. Group size under Level 3 is restricted to just 10 people and then only for weddings and funerals.]

The ACE statement reads:

While America's Cup Event is encouraged by the news that Auckland has come down to COVID Alert Level 2, one step closer to Level 1 potentially early next week, it is clear that COR are determined to remain inflexible to a change in the race schedule against the interests of the public and commercial benefits to the city and businesses. ACE has consistently maintained our preference to have the best opportunity to race at Alert Level 1.

Chair of America's Cup Events Tina Symmans said, "This is a disappointing situation, it is my responsibility to do my best to run the event with the best interests of the public and all stakeholders in mind.

So with the current impasse, while not agreeing with the Challenger of Record, we want to see the regatta completed on the water".

ACE now considers the best solution that can be hoped for is to continue racing this weekend which will at least allow as much opportunity as possible for the public to enjoy the viewing in small gatherings or via the TV broadcast.

"Since Sunday, we have worked really hard on behalf of everyone in Auckland and all Kiwis to give COR the opportunity to demonstrate some honour and respect for this country and delay the PRADA Cup until we have a greater chance of everyone being able to enjoy and benefit from being back into Level 1" explained Symmans.

"Clearly they have forgotten the words of their leader Patricio Bertelli at the opening press conference who spoke about how privileged everyone is to be in Auckland without significant Covid restrictions and that therefore everyone has a commitment and responsibility to deliver great sportsmanship and the PRADA Cup to be a major sporting event."

"This plea has fallen on deaf ears and it's clear that their focus is solely on Luna Rossa taking the PRADA Cup rather than the greater good of the country who have worked so hard in order to be in a position to stage this event." Symmans concluded.

With this in mind racing under COVID19 Level 2 can continue with the following restrictions:

Racecourses B & C will not be used for racing, to mitigate the chance of large public gatherings on shore, which are in line with Government Level 2 restrictions.

No public viewing opportunities such as dock out shows or public screening of racing in the race village.

Including gatherings of no more than 100 people in the America's Cup Race Village or public spectator vantage points around Auckland.

Limited village activations to ensure no more than 100 people. 2 metre physical distancing, and face masks recommended. All bars, restaurants and cafes surrounding the Race Village can remain open in line with Ministry of Health COVID-19 Level 2 Guidelines.

Public are reminded to always scan the NZCOVID19 Tracer App.

INEOS Team UK responded:

INEOS TEAM UK has been informed by America's Cup Event Ltd (ACE) that they are considering recommencing racing on Saturday under the Tier 2 COVID-19 restrictions that apply in Auckland. Whilst INEOS TEAM UK has not been consulted, we fully respect and will abide by the decision of ACE and will be ready to race as requested.

We believe this potential outcome would be a shame for the racing fans in Auckland when the city has done such a wonderful job of staging the regatta. The race village will be closed and courses B & C will not be accessible to limit gatherings of over 100 people.

Given that it is a possibility that Auckland may move to Level 1 by Monday, we feel that delaying the restart until Monday would enable full spectator participation, even if this means racing continues past 24th February.

We would like to thank the people of New Zealand for staging a wonderful event and we look forward to the resumption of competition and hope to provide some great racing.

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