America’s Cup 2021: Royal Yacht Squadron UK confirmed as next Challenger of Record, strict nationality rules introduced

Team New Zealand have moved to keep the country’s top sailing talent out of the clutches of America’s Cup competitors – only days after winning the Auld Mug for the fourth time.

Speaking to NZME, commodore of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) Aaron Young announced new nationality rules, that require 100 per cent of crews to be citizens or have spent two of the previous three years in the country they represent.

With the America’s Cup locked away safely for the next few years, it allows Team NZ to hold onto the likes of helmsman Peter Burling and flight controller Blair Tuke, who all would have attracted the interest of billionaire-backed teams such as Ineos Team UK, who are bankrolled by Britain’s richest man Jim Ratcliffe.

As first reported by the Herald on Tuesday, the British Royal Yacht Squadron – who are tied to Team UK and have Sir Ben Ainslie as their skipper – has been confirmed as the next Challenger of Record for the 37th America’s Cup.

“There’s a lot to work through yet … we have a number of months to work through a lot of detail,” Young said.

The British are also the logical partners for the next Cup, given how the association between Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa – the COR for the 36th America’s Cup – has steadily deteriorated over the last year.

Young also confirmed that the next regatta would be sailed in the AC75s foiling monohulls – used for the first time in Auckland.

“The main thing is that we will be sailing the same boats – the AC75s. We’ll be seeing them out again, hopefully in New Zealand.

“They’ve changed the sport for the average person. They’ve made it more relatable, more exciting. The America’s Cup has always been about innovation and technology as much as sailing and the AC75 has done that.”

The AC75 Class shall remain the class of yacht for the next two America’s Cup cycles, and teams will be restricted to building only one new AC75 for the next event, while the defender and the Challenger of Record will be investigating and agreeing a meaningful package of campaign cost-reduction measures – including measures to attract a higher number of challengers and to assist with the establishment of new teams.

Another new addition will be the introduction of strict nationality rules targeting the sailing crews, specifically.

This will require 100 per cent of the race crew for each competitor to either be a passport holder of the country of the team’s yacht club as at 19 March 2021, or to have been physically present in that country (or, acting on behalf of such yacht club in Auckland during the 36th America’s Cup) for two of the previous three years prior to 18 March 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”.

Asked about an earlier Herald report, that Team NZ are considering excluding other challengers in a once-off regatta against Ineos Team UK in England next year, Young said the RNZYS’ preference was to keep it in New Zealand.

“As we all know the option sits with New Zealand to see if we can put something together to enable us to race the 37th Am Cup in Auckland but there’s a lot to work through and there’s a lot for and against,” Young said.

The venue for the 37th match is intended to be determined within the next six months.

The new citizenship rules help avoid a scenario Team New Zealand were forced to endure in 2003 ahead of their Cup defence. Skipper Russell Coutts was lured away on a lucrative deal to join Swiss syndicate Alinghi, immediately becoming the Kiwis’ arch-rival.

Tactician Brad Butterworth followed Coutts and the two helped lead Alinghi to victory in Auckland in 2003.

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