The America’s Cup Event (ACE) has stirred up a hornet’s nest in what seems to be an attempt to slow down Challenger of Record (CoR) Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli’s march to winning the Prada Cup by using a COVID-19 Level 2 edict by the New Zealand government to halt or postpone racing.
What should be “a fair and friendly competition between nations” is anything but when it comes to the America’s Cup. Unfortunately, a recent flare-up of the virus in South Auckland has led to partial lockdowns, a resumption of Level alerts, and a full-blown controversy between the CoR and ACE.
In a memo released by ACE in advance of NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s press conference announcement, the organizing committee chair called on the CoR to join them and resume racing next week, when the threat level will return to Level 1.
The crux of ACE’s argument is that “The intention of the potential rescheduling will give the best possible opportunity to see the event run with maximum engagement and benefits for public and stakeholders.”
What is even more stunning is that INEOS is onboard with this! Clearly ACE wants “fans in the stands” to sell popcorn to, and the Brits, I’m sure, would like to go back to the shed to modify a slow boat. “INEOS Team UK fully respect the government’s decision to curtail racing until it is safe to do so and would support a delay in the competition if that is required.”
The CoR has the rules on their side in this matter. They’re well within their right to have the America’s Cup Race Management stick with the Prada Cup race schedule. The Italian CoR “urged ACE to request an exemption to carry on the Final of the Prada Cup in compliance with the racing calendar and in order to meet the legitimate expectations of the competitors involved. Unfortunately, this did not happen, notwithstanding a protocol and a procedure which were put in place in the event such circumstance would occur.”
The AC Event Management on Land and on Water Plans for COVID-19 state: “This protocol requires the village to be closed and regattas to be conducted without public and behind closed doors,” if necessary. This is similar to other international sporting events that have taken place since the advent of the pandemic, like Formula 1, the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Indy 500, etc.
Wanting or wishing that the virus will go away next week so that fans can return and racing can resume is folly. If we have learned anything in the last year, it’s that COVID-19 isn’t going away soon.
Barring a last-minute resolution, this will probably play out in front of the AC Arbitration Panel. But, as we know, if there weren’t controversy, it wouldn’t be the America’s Cup.