Analysing the Defender/Challenger Protocol announcement

Youth AC returns, first ever Women's AC – and a brand new AC40 one-design

There was a lot to unpack in the recent announcement from America’s Cup Defender Emirates Team New Zealand/Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and the Challenger of Record Ineos Team UK/Royal Yacht Squadron Ltd which revealed some new elements in the soon to be released the Protocol for the 37th edition.

First – and perhaps most importantly – the announcement confirmed that the 37th America’s Cup will be a multi-challenger event and not the DoG (Deed of Gift) single challenger affair which had been rumoured a few months ago.

This is good news for all concerned. Nobody really wants to win or lose the America’s Cup in a DoG Match. There have been several over the years and none of them make the list of the memorable AC cycles.

So multi-challenger it is – and hopefully there will be a few new syndicates emerging to boost the current crop. As previously mentioned, the most likely is the Swiss outfit Alinghi – winners of the 31st and 32nd editions – but other hopeful Challengers will doubtless make themselves known once the venue is revealed.

Also announced was the introduction of Women’s America’s Cup, and the return of the Youth America’s Cup – both to be held at the 37th America’s Cup venue. Details of both are yet to come but the Defender and Challenger of Record are to be applauded for committing to each of these initiatives.

Staging a Women’s America’s Cup is a revolutionary concept that could transform the prospects of ambitious female high-performance sailors with their sights on competing in the full America’s Cup one day.

It is hard not to make a comparison with SailGP which this season mandated that all teams must have at least one female sailor. However, without any additional pressure to include them on the crew list for the racing, their time on the AC50s has been limited to training sessions only.

Many of these sailors must surely now be eying a tilt at the Women’s America’s Cup.

The Youth America’s Cup has proved successful since it was introduced in 2013 at the 33rd edition in San Francisco (when, incidentally, it was won by a Kiwi crew led by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke).

The Youth America’s Cup was held again at AC34 in Bermuda, but COVID 19 and the New Zealand Government’s stringent immigration policies put paid to planned third edition at AC36 in Auckland in 2021.

That event attracted interest from 15 international teams and was to be sailed in a new class known as the AC9F – a 9-metre (30-foot) foiling monohull. At AC37, however, both the Women and Youth America’s Cup will take place in a brand new 40-foot foiling monohull class called the AC40.

The AC40 is a scaled down version of the AC75 class design and will first be used by the full America’s Cup teams for their scale testing and development (non-class legal rigs and foils can be easily added for development and testing), match racing practice, as well as the preliminary regattas.

During the AC36 cycle the preliminary regattas included America’s Cup World Series events in Italy, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, as well as the Christmas Cup regatta in Auckland. Whether the same approach will be taken for the 37th America’s Cup was not revealed.

Capable at times of attaining speeds similar to its big sister, the AC40 promises to be a thrilling boat to race and one that will be challenging to get to grips with for the both the veteran AC sailors and the Youth and Women’s America’s Cup teams.

The boats will be built in Auckland by Emirates Team New Zealand and each AC team will be required to buy at least one – although surely most will surely buy at least two for match racing purposes.

Part of the purchase agreement is that all team-owned boats must be returned to class certification and made available for the Youth and Women’s America’s Cup events.

Private owners can also purchase AC40s, with the hope of creating a vibrant international AC40 class that operates outside the America’s Cup world. The teams are expected to receive their boats around the end of 2022, with private owner orders being fulfilled early in 2023.