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The ACE Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

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.

Auckland skyline with AC racing in the far distance
An aerial view of Auckland, Rangitoto Island and the Hauraki Gulf.
© 2021 Carlo Bolenghi

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.

Prada fans
Because the Kiwis had done such a good job stopping the ‘rona, social distancing has not been necessary in New Zealand for some time. The fan village has looked soooo 2019.
© 2021 Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli / Studio Borlenghi

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.


  1. Chris Boome 3 years ago

    NZ has done a wonderful job of curtailing the spread of COVID 19. To write an article like this is just trying to stir up controversy. There are more important things in life that a sailboat racing schedule.

    • Mark Reid 3 years ago

      The Government of New Zealand and the country as a whole have done an inspiring job of containing this deadly virus, which still reakes havoc around the world killing thousands daily and is the tragedy of our time.
      Unfortunately, the controversy in question was stirred by the ACE Chair who unfairly put the blame on the Luna Rossa team who have done nothing but treat their hosts with dignity and respect, asking only that the Event follow the rules and guidelines as written and agreed to.

  2. Vince 3 years ago

    NZ has virtually removed COVID from its shores. The went to lockdown with 3 known cases.

    Oh that our country had done the same thing a year ago. We’d likely be as free of COVID as they are.

    Let the NZ decide what’s best for their country. After all it is their country.

    • Mark Reid 3 years ago

      Agree. The whole pandemic is a tragedy. The fact that the event finds itself in the middle of these war of words is sad. My hope is that both sides find a way forward in a respectful way and also try to honor those who have fallen.

  3. Christine Weaver, Latitude 38 Racing Editor 3 years ago

    Absolutely; New Zealand has done an excellent job controlling the virus. No one is arguing with the government of NZ or Auckland. Mark Reid, the author of the piece, clarifies: “The NZ Government has steered completely clear of this controversy for the most part. The PM hasn’t really commented on the matter in any respect. This is between the chair of ACE and the Italian team. This is a fight that has been brewing for some time.”

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