Cup capers continue in Auckland 

 

The proposed final development for Wynyard Quarter, looking south. © Sea+City www.seacity.co.nz

 

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com

 

Auckland venue:

The speculation over what will happen in Auckland is bubbling away.

The regatta will be held in Auckland, and in February 2021 – which is only three and a half years after Bermuda. That’s two of the three basic questions answered. The boat-type will apparently be answered when the Protocol is released in September.

Local media, without a lot of knowledge of the Cup, were quick to suggest a race course on the inner Waitemata. Lake Pupuke would be more suitable.

A bit of quick work with Google Earth will tell you that the Waitemata harbour is about half the width (and substantially less at low tide) of the Great Sound in Bermuda – and the Sound was tight to accommodate America’s Cup racing.

In turn, the course length in the Great Sound was about two-thirds of the course length in San Francisco – Cup courses just can’t keep getting shorter and shorter.

Plus, the Waitemata harbour is orientated east-west, and the prevailing wind SW/NE is diagonal across the harbour. Racing on the harbour will result in skewed courses which are an unacceptable comprise.

The next location option, off North Head, drops the racing in behind the influence of the 850ft high volcano Rangitoto in a sea breeze (a very common wind direction in February) – which will make the racing a complete lottery.

Fans wanting to view the racing from North Head (the closest vantage point) will have to endure traffic on the most congested road in New Zealand. Fans might put up with that for a once off Volvo Ocean Race start – but not on a regular basis of sitting in a car for four hours to see 40 minutes of racing.

The concept of stadium racing in the America’s Cup is flawed. In Bermuda, the fans in the grandstands saw about 60 seconds each race at the finish, and for the rest of the coverage, they relied on big screen coverage of the TV feed, plus what they could pick up in the distance out on the course. For sure it was a great day out, but even the brochure sold it as the chance to see the great entertainment in the America’s Cup Village, with the opportunity to first see some America’s Cup racing.

Racing further out into the outer Waitemata harbour/inner Hauraki Gulf is the only sensible option. But will require a seaworthy America’s Cup Class of which the AC50 is probably too small for a 15-18kt sea breeze with a moderate sea, and often wind against the tide as well.

 

Monohull v Multihull

Turning to the boat type – keelboat vs catamaran – a factor that seems to be overlooked with the former is Auckland’s three metre plus tides, which will require dredging for a keelboat base venue – to give all tide access.

Dredging and harbour intrusion is very difficult to get through a planning process in Auckland, with sailors being at the forefront of protest action on previously mooted projects.

A catamaran is much more practical, as they can operate in the normal Auckland harbour water depth – without any need for dredging. Wingsailed catamarans are not that easy to manoeuvre, tow and hoist – requiring some work before the Auckland bases are sorted.

The other big advantage of catamarans (for the reason of relatively shallow draft) is that other locations around the course such as Gulf harbour, Tamaki Estuary and other marinas can be used, which is not suitable for other than shallow drafted keelboats. There is plenty of existing infrastructure which can be used without the need for new facilities.

If they wished, prospective Cup teams could start training in Auckland this coming summer, using their existing catamarans and pick up valuable weather and performance data.

Emirates Team New Zealand has a huge advantage in this area – having worked up for two campaigns on these waters – first with their two AC72’s, and then having spent a lot less time in the AC50/AC45S, preferring the ‘Back Paddock’ off Browns Island for training.

Getting the teams out of the central City for the Cup build-up also has the advantage of the crews not having to battle with Auckland’s rush-hour traffic – which is in full flight at 6.30am.

It also reduces the pressure on the need for inner city accommodation with the price gouging that invariably occurs with major sailing regattas, significantly increasing the cost for visiting teams.

 

The Viaduct Harbour has been taken over by office and hotel complexes – leaving no room for America’s Cup bases. © Richard Gladwell www.photosport.co.nz

 

Shore bases:

Already there has been some interaction with harbour protection groups and the Auckland Council.

But in contrast to the planning fiasco with the ‘Supes’ in San Francisco, the early submissions on base positioning are a lot more positive.

The only area that will work for bases is clearing the tanks and junk off the Wynyard Wharf area and turning that into a flat area that can be used by the teams for base construction, using prefabricated or temporary bases similar to that used in Bermuda.

What must not happen is that developers become involved in the way that occurred around the Viaduct Harbour development post 1995. Once the Cup was gone the reclaimed land was snapped up for apartments, hotels and expensive office buildings. If Auckland loses the Wynyard Wharf to developers there will be no more harbour space that can be used for future Cups, and taken public space.

Auckland’s legacy from this Cup and the Wynyard Wharf area must be a substantial area of public waterfront space, without any of the antics that have served to block public access in the past.

New Zealand is one month out from a General Election. A priority after the votes are counted is to pass America’s Cup empowering legislation, as was done for the 2000 Cup, to allow fast tracking of planning hearings and allow early demolition and construction to get underway.

Plans for the Wynyard Wharf area must include a permanent base for Emirates Team New Zealand and get the team out of their spartan accommodation in their current temporary base. In the development yet to come in Wynyard Quarter, the area that should be levelled and used for bases is currently being covered with tanks. Currently a modest 4.5 ha perimeter park is planned on two sides with the rest of the tanks remaining. Other graphics show the tanks removed and with yet more office and hotel space.

Despite the concept drawings, the latest signs are encouraging with Auckland Councillors being urged from within to follow Emirates Team New Zealand’s planning example and ‘throw the ball out as far as possible’ when conceiving options for the hosting of the America’s Cup. Expect some out of the box thinking. But don’t criticise Councillors and others coming up with some wacky ideas – provided they aren’t compromising the quality of America’s Cup competition.

 

Boat choice:

Those involved in the selection of the boat should be listening to the views of new generations of sailing fans and not hitting system reset on a type of boat which has grabbed the attention of a much wider sailing audience.

One of the issues with the AC50 revolved around having the bulk of the sailing team involved in ‘moving oil’ rather than focussing on active sailing functions.

Regardless of whether a monohull or multihull is chosen, there will need to be an onboard power source – whether it be battery driven for a catamaran, or diesel to drive a canting keel in a monohull.

The same happened in the 2010 America’s Cup, and wasn’t the major issue it initially seemed. Without an engine the Cup boats, mono or multihull will still be powered by contemporary galley slaves.

Using a more efficient engine will free crew to actually sail the boat, and get away from the ludicrous situation of the AC50 where at least half the crew were tied up on power generation and the remaining two or three shared daggerboard control, sail trimming, tactics, steering, tactics and navigation.

Essentially the 35th America’s Cup was a short-handed sailing event, marred by the snafus created when two people try to do the job of six. A big factor in Bermuda was how the functions were split between the crew, with Emirates Team New Zealand opting for a different functional split than the other five teams.

In Bermuda, how often were good races abruptly decided by one team sailing outside a boundary, because of a navigation error? Or even more ridiculous because the penalty for sailing outside a boundary was less than the distance lost by tacking or gybing with less than the required hydraulic pressure and consequent splashdown and stop. There was a situation where taking the penalty for sailing through a boundary was the lesser evil.

 

Nationality:

There’s an interesting recent angle on the proposed nationality rule – with Kiwi sailors complaining they can’t go and sail for other teams if they don’t make the cut for Emirates Team New Zealand.

The America’s Cup should not exist for the furtherance of individual professional sailing careers – with the hired guns being able to play off one billionaire against another for their services. That just drives up costs and adds little to the event.

There are plenty of other sailing events which cater for multi-national crews and professional sailors of all nationalities. The America’s Cup is a “friendly competition between foreign countries” and by implication, the crews should be nationals of those countries.

The solution for spare Kiwi sailors is to sail for another team, either on the trial horse or some other guise without being on board the race boat. If they are that good, they will be invaluable in lifting the performance of the nationals on the race boat. The alternative is to comply with the new Protocol’s nationality clause and get a passport of the country they wish to represent or work within whatever residency restrictions are in place.

The way to build interest in the America’s Cup is with a tight nationality clause – which lowers the payroll cost and attracts fans in the state of origin of the defending/challenging club.

The demise of nationalism in the last few Cups has been accompanied by the sanitising of the profiles of those at the top end being perceived by the viewing public as somewhat bland personalities.

Jimmy Spithill is the glorious exception with his ability to spark a story with a few words at a media conference or interview. Sadly, the real personalities of the Cup who could have gone head to head with Spithill were kept off the America’s Cup stage, right until the very end. Hopefully, the so-called ‘Dalton clause’, designed to curb adverse comment will be struck from future America’s Cup Protocols, and the competitive sparks can again fly.