All the Prada Cup finals action between Luna Rossa and Ineos Team UK with AUT’s Sailing Professor Mark Orams.
The Prada Cup final series is finally back on Saturday following Auckland’s snap lockdown and a bitter dispute between America’s Cup event organisers and the Challenger of Record Luna Rossa.
The Prada Cup will head out to course E near Waiheke Island, though there’s a good chance there will be a delay in the action getting underway.
With winds at the lowest possible limit of the agreed upon racing rang forecast for 4pm, race management are hopeful of getting the event underway on time but expect there to be some sort of delay.
The wind is expected to pick up for 5pm and hold at around 7-10 knots through past 6pm. Racing can begin no later than 6pm, so a delay of more than an hour would likely mean only one race would be sailed today.
Race director Iain Murray said they probably wouldn’t have a clear picture of what the conditions and wind direction are doing until 3pm.
The course, off the coast of Maraetai and Bucklands Beach, was partly chosen due to its remote location to discourage the mass gathering of spectators at locations that are usually preferred by the race organisers.
Auckland is currently under Level 2 restrictions, due to recent community cases of Covid-19, which means gatherings of over 100 people are not allowed.
The lighter conditions are expected to favour the Luna Rossa boat which has consistently performed better at the lower end of typical AC75 racing speeds.
America’s Cup Events Ltd. (ACE) criticised Luna Rossa in a statement to media released Thursday only minutes before Luna Rossa held a news conference at which it sought to explain its desire to re-start racing.
Luna Rossa was eager to race even on Thursday and certainly on Friday if arrangements could be put in place in time. The organising committee has reluctantly agreed racing should start again by the weekend.
Race director Iain Murray of Australia finds himself in an embarrassing position, caught between the warring factions whose dispute stems from their disparate personal interests.
ACE, which is partly controlled by America’s Cup defender Team New Zealand, runs the public side of the regatta. It has put in place the infrastructure for the event, funded by national and local taxpayers, and oversees public interaction with the event.
While Auckland moved to a reduced alert level at midnight Wednesday, public gatherings are still restricted to 100 people meaning the large crowds which have followed racing from the Cup Village can no longer do so. Large crowds have also watched racing from vantage points overlooking the race courses.
ACE has indicated its reluctance to see racing take place while spectators, who have helped fund the regatta, are limited in their ability to watch it.
Luna Rossa, as the Challenger of Record, governs the Prada Cup challenger series and therefore has the power to decide when racing takes place. Italian team also holds a 4-0 lead over Britain’s Team UK in the first-to-seven-win Prada Cup final.
For that reason, it has had to answer claims it has a conflict of interest in both participating in the races and deciding when they should occur. Team UK so far has sided with ACE in showing reluctance to race while the current alert level remains.
“Whilst Ineos Team UK has not been consulted, we fully respect and will abide by the decision of ACE and will be ready to race as requested,” Team UK said.
“We believe this potential outcome would be a shame for the racing fans in Auckland when the city has done such a wonderful job of staging the regatta. The race village will be closed and courses B & C will not be accessible to limit gatherings of over 100 people.”
In its blistering press statement Thursday, ACE accused Luna Rossa of showing inflexibility in its refusal to allow a change in the race schedule while alert level restrictions are in place. Luna Rossa insists the schedule, which requires the Prada Cup final to conclude by Feb. 24, has been agreed and should be respected.
ACE chairwoman Tina Symmans accused Luna Rossa of failing to demonstrate “honor and respect for this country and delay the Prada Cup until we have a greater chance of everyone being able to enjoy and benefit from being back into (Alert) Level l.
“Clearly they have forgotten the words of their leader Patricio Bertelli at the opening press conference who spoke about how privileged everyone is to be in Auckland without significant COVID restrictions and that therefore everyone has a commitment and responsibility to deliver great sportsmanship and the Prada Cup to be a major sporting event.
“This plea has fallen on deaf ears and it’s clear that their focus is solely on Luna Rossa taking the Prada Cup rather than the greater good of the country (which has) worked so hard in order to be in a position to stage this event.”
Challenger of Record spokesman Francesco Longanesi Cattani had just read the ACE statement when Thursday’s news conference began and was clearly angry.
He “disagreed totally” with the comments Symmans had made “firstly because in my view anything that has to do with sporting fairness relates to respect for the regulations and that is what we are doing.
“Secondly, we want to respect the government provisions regarding the COVID situation and the protocols which have agreed with ACE and which allow racing to go on under level 2.
“Thirdly, the comment that COR is just pushing for Luna Rossa, I disagree because the opportunity to race gives (Team UK) more chances to win races and to win the competition on the water.”
Longanesi Cattani said changing the race schedule with the challenger final in progress was like changing “the height of the goal posts if you have a small goalkeeper.”
Professor Mark Orams is a former NZ and world champion sailor, Team New Zealand member, author, environmentalist and Professor of Sport and Recreation at the Auckland University of Technology.
The Prada Cup final is a best of 13 series, with the winner moving on to challenge Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup match in March. There will be two races per race day of the Prada Cup final. The racing window for each race day will be around 4pm-6pm, with the first race of each day scheduled for 4.15pm.
Feb 20: Race 5 and 6
Feb 21: Race 7 and 8
Feb 22: Race 9 and 10
Feb 23: Race 11 and 12
Feb 24: Race 13
Prada Cup final series winner:
Luna Rossa – $1.10
Ineos Team UK – $5.75
To win Race 5:
Luna Rossa – $1.35
Ineos Team UK – $2.90
How to watch and stream
The Herald will have live updates on nzherald.co.nz/sport while you can listen to live commentary on Gold AM and iHeartRadio.
America’s Cup coverage is free-to-air on TVNZ. You can also stream the action live or on-demand on TVNZ.co.nz or on the America’s Cup YouTube channel.
Race officials will determine which course will be used on each racing day.
Restrictions at alert Level 2
• Racecourses B & C will not be used for racing, to mitigate the chance of large public gatherings on shore, which are in line with Government Level 2 restrictions.
• No public viewing opportunities such as dock out shows or public screening of racing in the race village.
• Including gatherings of no more than 100 people in the America’s Cup Race Village or public spectator vantage points around Auckland.
• Limited village activations to ensure no more than 100 people.
• 2 metre physical distancing, and face masks recommended.
• All bars, restaurants and cafes surrounding the Race Village can remain open in line with Ministry of Health Covid-19 Level 2 Guidelines.
• Public are reminded to always scan the NZCOVID19 Tracer App.
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