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America’s Cup 37 Protocol Announced

With the release of the Protocol for the 37th America’s Cup by Emirates Team New Zealand and INEOS Britannia we have learned a lot and really very little at the same time.

America’s Cup 37 Venue Still Unknown

There are several eye-popping changes, and yet the biggest question of all has been put off until March of next year, and that is: Where will the next America’s Cup be held?

Timeline graphic
The timeline for AC37.
© 2021 America's Cup 37

The reality is that with boat design, logistics and — most importantly — fundraising, little can be done until the interested teams, like American Magic and Prada Pirelli, know where the venue is going to be.

We’ve heard that Cork, Ireland; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Valencia, Spain, are in the mix. And of course Auckland, New Zealand, which has generated a fair bit of controversy by the suggestion that anywhere but a home defense is even contemplated.

In the breaking-news department, Richard Gladwell of Sail-World reports that the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron is going to take up the issue of a home defense to hold a Special General Meeting to consider amending the club rules requiring “that the America’s Cup shall always be defended in the waters adjacent to the City of Auckland.”

Protocol Released

The Protocol sets the foundations and rules of participation for all teams in the 37th America’s Cup and records the items of mutual consent under the America’s Cup Deed of Gift (DoG) agreed upon between the Defender and the Challenger of Record (CoR), which establishes the basis for a multi-challenger event.

Ratcliffe and Ainslie
INEOS Britannia Team principals Sir James Ratcliffe and Sir Ben Ainslie represent the Challenger of Record, the Royal Yacht Squadron Limited.
© 2021 Graham Ella / INEOS

“As CoR, we have sought with the Defender, ETNZ, to make the next America’s Cup less expensive and more inclusive,” said Sir Ben Ainslie, CEO of INEOS Britannia. “The Protocol this time around will see reduced team operating costs without compromising any of the technical development which the Cup is so famous for.

“There is an opportunity for change, so for AC37 we will see the first Women’s America’s Cup Regatta, and we also welcome back the Youth America’s Cup.”

AC75 Class Rule

An updated ‘Version 2’ of the AC75 Class Rule has been released as well. The new AC37 Protocol includes:

  • Teams are only permitted to build one new AC75.
    • The AC75 class of boat will be maintained for the next two events.
    • Limitations on the quantity of foils and componentry that can be built for the AC75s.
  • Race crew onboard the AC75 reduced from 11 to 8 sailors.
    • More one-design elements.
    • Shared team reconnaissance.
    • Supplied starting software.
    • Introduction of the multipurpose One Design AC40 class that teams will be able to convert and use for testing, component development and match-race training.
    • AC40 class will then be converted back to the measured One Design AC40 class for use in the exciting new America’s Cup Women’s Regatta and America’s Cup Youth events. These events have been developed to create new accelerated inclusive pathways into the America’s Cup for the growing global talent pool of female and youth sailors.
boats graphic
The AC40 and AC75 designs.
© 2021 America's Cup 37

The Women and Children

Recent National Sailing Hall of Fame inductee and America’s Cup legend and pioneer Dawn Riley weighed in on the new Women’s America’s Cup, saying, “On the positive, they are trying to do something. From what I read it seems like someone said, ‘Quick we have to do something to help those “women and children”. We’ll just say we are and figure out the details in a couple of years.’

“On its face, separate but equal is not a thing,” said Riley, who was part of the 1995 all-women’s America’s Cup team and the CEO of America True in 2000. “And yes, SailGP [Women’s Participation Program] and The Ocean Race are much better solutions.”

AC40 rendering
The multipurpose One Design AC40 class, which teams will be able to convert and use for testing, and which then will be remeasured for the new America’s Cup Women’s Regatta and America’s Cup Youth events.
© 2021 America's Cup 37

Nationality Rule

The Crew Nationality Rule will require 100% of the race crew for each competitor either to be a passport holder of the country of the team’s yacht club as of March 17, 2021, or to have been physically present in that country (or, acting on behalf of such yacht club in Auckland, the venue of the AC36 Events) for 18 months of the previous three years prior to March 17, 2021.

As an exception to this requirement, there will be a discretionary provision allowing a quota of non-nationals on the race crew for competitors from ‘Emerging Nations’. Enter Alinghi?

Clean Support Boats

As part of the ongoing drive for innovation and new clean technology in the America’s Cup, it is now a mandated obligation of all teams to build and operate two hydrogen-powered foiling chase boats for their campaign (subject to proof of concept).

Foiling chase boat
The new prototype hydrogen-powered foiling chase boat, which will have a dramatic effect on the reduction of the teams’ carbon footprints.
© 2021 ETNZ / AC37

“A significant proportion of teams’ carbon footprints is in their on-water operations, through their long days of testing, development and training,” said Grant Dalton, CEO of both ETNZ and AC37. “So, for the past year we have been researching, designing, and are now building a prototype hydrogen-powered foiling chase boat which will have a dramatic effect on the reduction of the teams’ carbon footprints, as well as pushing the development of hydrogen in the marine sector.”

Cross section of chase boat
A view of the innards of the proposed hydrogen-powered chase boat design.
© 2021 ETNZ / AC37

I didn’t think the team had any money — skipper Peter Burling and helmsman Blair Tuke remain unsigned — but, wow, those boats don’t look cheap.

Mark’s Take

Even the British feel that Dalton is dragging his feet on the venue selection process and they, like the rest of us, are waiting with bated breath to get on with it.

“Rules” without a venue is generally a joke. My question is: How is hosting the event outside New Zealand going to help ETNZ raise money for their ‘Defense’?

The potential host is going to have to raise hundreds of millions of dollars just to create an infrastructure for the venue, which may take years for approvals and construction.

Auckland is the only realistic option. Dalton needs to choose to run either the event or the team. He can’t do both. He should concentrate on what he’s good at, which is running ETNZ.

There seems to be confusion that the venue selection is ETNZ’s decision to make. It is not! It is the purview of the ‘yacht club’, the acting Defender/Trustees. Not its racing team. That is where the potential legal action may come from and, in a way, is long overdue.


  1. John Rathbun 3 years ago

    The sooner the cup is ripped from there hands and handed to a different team the better for the sport. They are always playing cute with the rule book.

  2. Mark Reid 3 years ago

    Hey John, That seems to be playbook for “winning” teams in the America’s Cup lately. Since New Zealand lost the Auld Mug in 2003 every Defender/Trustee seems to drift astray from the moral pulse of what the event should be and is a bit corrupted by the power of the “one true ring” (Cup). I am hopeful that either the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron or their team ETNZ will see the light and submit a home defense in Auckland. Time will tell.
    The Deed of Gift which was written in 1887 has always been subject to interpretation, but of recent has the New York Supreme Court been asked the right questions of which to rule on? Home defense and the role of the Defender’s racing team are certainly two that are ripe for rulings.

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