Terry Hutchinson, president of sailing operations and skipper of American Magic, weighs in on AC37’s new venue in Barcelona, the competition and a revamped organisation
America’s Cup 37 is off to a somewhat ambiguous start. It’s losing on the positive energy created by AC 36, an event that demonstrated an incredible development in the technology of the AC75. However, Defender Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) and Challenger of Record Ineos Britannia have navigated through a different time in America’s Cup and world history: the continued pressure of Covid-19, and now a war on mainland Europe.
Plus, from the conclusion of AC 36, the Defender consistently communicated that a “home” defense was not a guarantee. The two parties have met the self-imposed deadline for protocol release and stayed close to the deadline for locking in the AC75 class rule but missed the venue deadline. ETNZ CEO Grant Dalton clearly stated that his team needed more financial resources for a proper defense. This approach created an imbalance in the competition and kept the challengers in a place of uncertainty. A competitive advantage, maybe, a self-inflicted wound for the Defender, again, maybe.
The venue being “for sale” left several options: Auckland, New Zealand, which was apparently “always on the table;” Málaga, Valencia and Barcelona in Spain; Cork, Ireland; and finally, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. These options created a massive amount of strife on the Defender’s home front, especially the thought of an event in Jeddah. The term “sportswashing” has been used to describe high-visibility sporting events in countries with dubious human rights records.
New Zealanders, for their part, did not take kindly to the concept of the event being held outside of New Zealand, and out of that came the Kiwi Home Defence Fund, which showed a strong level of support for the home team. And yet the crux of the Defender’s argument was that not enough money could be raised to successfully compete against the likes of Ineos, Alinghi and maybe Luna Rossa, all of them with solid ties and relationships with Formula 1 teams. A legitimate argument? Hard to say as each team faces challenges not known to the others. I can see strengths and weaknesses in that argument, but it’s not my place to speculate.
The reality is the America’s Cup is an expensive sporting event. Winning is not all about financial resources, yet a team will need the appropriate resources even to have a chance. I am sympathetic to all sides, and even as I write this, I am not sure of the motives. But something does not seem right.
Finally, on March 30, the Defender announced that AC 37 would be held in Barcelona. The event will slide to September (Challenger Selection Series) and October (America’s Cup 37), meeting the requirement outlined in the deed of gift. From NYYC American Magic’s perspective, this is a win, as sad as we are to leave New Zealand, where we have so many friends and even teammates.
The Northern Hemisphere location will be easier operationally on NYYC American Magic. Sliding the event five months to the right of the 2024 calendar also gives NYYC American Magic more time to develop, evolve our design processes and get faster on the water. The time gain is equal for all teams and yet I can’t help but think NYYC American Magic and Team Alinghi have the potential to gain the most as both are redeveloping design teams.
Our NYYC American Magic team has taken the lessons learned from AC 36 and has begun applying them to AC 37 and beyond. We have ordered two AC40s for meaningful internal competition and training. The AC40s will also serve for foil development. AC 37 will have a limit of three foils from the same family, making this AC40 development paramount. (In AC 36 we were allowed six foils of all different sizes and shapes, so AC 37 is quite restrictive in this regard.)
Our partnership with the New York Yacht Club is for the next two Cups, which allows for meaningful development on the business side. One lesson from AC 36 was that the team would benefit from a business-minded structure that would evolve from strictly private funding to a mix of corporate and private funding. Mike Cazer joins the team as CEO, bringing his business expertise from his time as COO of Amway. This is great step forward in the NYYC American Magic trajectory.
As I conclude this piece, I am optimistic about the development and continual improvement of NYYC American Magic and AC 37. The painful change of the venue from New Zealand gives the event a great platform to develop in the center of Europe. I do hope that over time all wounds heal, and our Kiwi friends can come to Barcelona and at the very least support American Magic, if not the “home” team. Lessons learned from AC 36 give NYYC American Magic another opportunity for success. Our ability to learn, develop and move forward is critical. As always, it is not about how you get knocked down; it is always about how you get back up. I am happy to say we are standing on our two feet and moving forward.
First published in the June 2022 issue of BOAT International US. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.Shop Now