America’s Cup 2021: Team New Zealand to reach 80 days without racing as America’s Cup match against Luna Rossa postponed

Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa will have a few more days to finetune their performances before the start of the America’s Cup match, with a delay in racing confirmed.

Due to Auckland’s return to Covid-19 alert level 3 for seven days as of 6am on Sunday, America’s Cup Event Limited (ACE) announced the match would not start this weekend as planned, but would instead be postponed until at least Wednesday next week.

The delay means it will be at least 80 days between races for Team New Zealand, who have not been in the competitive environment since December 20’s Christmas Cup race against Ineos Team UK – which saw neither team able to foil due to light conditions and was ultimately abandoned. Their last completed race was a win against Luna Rossa in the final race of the America’s Cup World Series on December 19.

It’s a different story for Luna Rossa, who have had the most races in an AC75 of any syndicate after having to go through all three stages of the Prada Cup. While not ideal, the delay does provide the Italians another few days to enhance their performance before getting a shot at the defender.

Throughout the campaign, Luna Rossa have improved at every step, seemingly finding the balance between time on the water and time in the sheds. Co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill said those one reason for those continued improvements was the mindset of the team.

“We’re never satisfied; there’s always more and it’s great to see everyone in the team actually doing that,” Spithill told the Herald.

“It’s easy to say things like that – put the team first and yourself second – but putting it into practice, it’s been so cool to see the guys taking that on. Every day, everyone comes in thinking they could have done more and we’ll only grow stronger and get better.”

As was pointed out by Challenger of Record Luna Rossa when a similar situation arose during the Prada Cup finals, there are protocols and processes in pace to allow for racing in alert level 3 – which would be a ‘behind closed doors’ approach with no spectator fleet – with an exemption from the Government.

However, ACE, a subsidiary of Team New Zealand set up in 2018 to run the on-water racing, Cup village, security and broadcasting for the 36th defence of the Auld Mug, made the early decision to shift the start of the event.

In a statement, they noted the purpose of making the decision so early decision was to provide at least some certainty in planning for all event stakeholders this weekend.

“ACE has always said that it wishes to hold as much of the racing under level 1 restrictions as possible,” ACE chairperson Tina Symmans said.

“But to be prudent, ACE will apply for an exemption to race under level 3 restrictions so as to keep as many options open as possible. However, racing will not occur before at least Wednesday 10th March.

“We need to understand all likely scenarios so that an updated racing schedule can be put in place whilst also ensuring the regulatory requirements are met,” Symmans added.

With the postponement, the America’s Cup match now will not start until March 10 at the earliest – just three days earlier than the suggested start date when ACE hoped to postpone the Prada Cup final during the three-day lockdown in Auckland earlier in February.

In the meantime, ACE say they will continue to work closely with the relevant authorities over the next few days as this latest Covid-19 situation unfolds.

Challenger of Record (COR) representative Francesco Longanesi Cattani said they accepted the delay, and were in contact with the Defender and racing director to start racing as soon as possible, pending Government decisions on the matter, “but always in respect of the calendar.”

If the Government grants an exemption to allow racing under alert level 3 by the March 10 date, he said COR would want to get the series underway.

“We want to go in the water as soon as possible,” he said.

Heading into the Cup racing?

• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the Cup.

• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It’s the best way to ride.

• Don’t forget to scan QR codes with the NZ COVID Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America’s Cup Village.

• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.

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