America’s Cup: Several changes to protocol – dates, proxies and pursuit boats
by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz 5 Aug 12:29 UTC
August 6, 2022
Barcelona – 2024 America’s Cup Venue – Sept-Oct 2024 © Maria Muina
AC40 Wing under construction at McConaghy Boats. August 2022. Rule changes prevent these slides from being tested on team-built pursuit boats. © McConaghy Boats
Several changes have been made to the protocol and other documents governing the conduct of the 2024 America’s Cup.
Some of the changes relate to the announcement of Barcelona as the host city, others close loopholes that could have been exploited and there is an extensive section on hydrogen-powered support vessels.
Changes in the calendar for hosting the America’s Cup and other supporting regattas were expected. The two-month race period initially scheduled for May – June 2024 has now been extended to three months and has now been postponed to August – October 2024.
The reasons for the change are to avoid a clash with the Paris 2024 Olympics, which will take place from late July to mid-August, and to get more moderate weather and a reliable breeze.
Within those three months, two America’s Cup Preliminary Regattas will be sailed between the Challenger/Defender teams sailing in AC40s – the one design approximately half the size of the AC75 America’s Cup class, sailed by four crew members.
A third preliminary regatta will be held between the challenger/defender teams with the AC75s to be raced in the 2024 America’s Cup.
The preliminary regattas are expected to be spread over ten days each, including two weekends. The dates must be published one year before the first race of the America’s Cup.
The Women’s America’s Cup and the Youth America’s Cup will also be raced in the same three-month AC2024 regatta period using the Team AC40s. Details of the race program are not yet available.
The time frame in which practice sailing is allowed has also been changed following the announcement of Barcelona as the venue for the 2024 America’s Cup.
America’s Cup teams will still not be allowed to start sailing until mid-September 2022.
The exception is Alinghi Red Bull Racing, along with all new and unannounced challengers. The so-called New Teams were allowed to sail a first generation AC75 for a period of 17 days between June 17 and September 17, 2022.
There is currently only one new team – two-time America’s Cup winner Alinghi Red Bull Racing, who may be sailing their AC75, formerly Te Aihe, acquired by Emirates Team New Zealand for the next five weeks.
They are understood to be based in Barcelona and will be stationed at the AC2024 venue.
Voluntary resignation please
The requirement for teams to designate an eight-week “driving ban period” between March 1, 2023 and May 31, 2023 has been dropped. Presumably the other schedule changes made the requirement impractical.
The reason for the voluntary sailing ban was never clarified. Its purpose is believed to allow teams to move to the venue ahead of the old ‘Venue Only’ sailing period of June 1, 2023 to September 30, 2023.
In another change, the Venue Only sailing period remains at four months, but has been postponed by one month, starting July 1, 2023 and running through October 31, 2023. If the teams want to sail during those four months, they can only do so in Barcelona. You can still only race a single AC75 (except in the case of Alinghi Red Bull Racing – who as a new team are allowed to have two AC75s – one a first generation boat and the other a racing boat, like all the other new competitors.
The purpose of the Barcelona only sailing period in 2023 is to bring as many/all teams together as possible at the Cup venue one year after the Cup. The logistics of this laudable intention are very different for the Europe-based teams than for the Cup defenders, who face a 50-day sea voyage to bring an AC40 to Barcelona. It is unknown if the team will return its sole AC75 Te Rehutai, the 2021 America’s Cup champion, to service. At some point the team, like everyone else, will have to have a match racing program, held between two crews in the AC40 – which is not possible with one in Barcelona and the other in Auckland. American Magic faces similar problems, but with much less travel time between their Pensacola base and Barcelona.
In Barcelona, teams are still not allowed to conduct reconnaissance that has not already been conducted against other teams by the Joint Recon Program. This program is expected to start in September or when Alinghi Red Bull Racing sails. It includes both AC40 and all AC75 sailed by the teams.
But teams are allowed to eye their opponents from afar. Binoculars will probably be allowed, but cameras and other digital recording devices/instruments are prohibited. In previous cups with a similar non-competition practice, teams have inadvertently gotten close enough to their competitors to measure relative performance. During the Barcelona launch they can also see first hand the foil wings and rudders used by other teams on their AC40 or AC75.
SailGP/F50 is now legal
There was a change in the rules regarding the use of spare boats used as AC75 development platforms. As with the last America’s Cup, teams are prohibited from sailing yachts over 12 meters overall that are capable of “producing design or performance information”.
Teams are also prohibited from doing the same to another sailing yacht (or towed platform, or now “motorized” to simulate a sailing yacht) that was longer than 6 meters (19.69 feet).
Rules have been relaxed, banning the use of racing yachts in the class outside the maximum length 12 meter yacht or 6 meter platform restrictions.
The rules, which previously only mentioned TP52 as a legal class above the 12 meter (39.37 ft) length limit, now also specifically allow F50s/SailGP and racing-only yachts in force at the time of winning America’s 2021 IRC or ORC certificates possessed Cup marking the beginning of the new Cup cycle.
Changed the requirements for the Hydrogen Pursuit Boat
Other changes to the protocol revolve around changes to the rules for foiling chase boats.
The first version of the protocol contained a provision that “COR/D [Challenger of Record/Defender] is considering a requirement that each competitor deploy at least two Hydrogen Powered Support Vessels (HSV) at the venue to support its own racing operations.
The “quid pro quo” for two HSV per team has now been confirmed with at least one per team.
Protocol now dictates that the competitor must have one HSV in the race area and a maximum of four “non-hydrogen powered support vessels operating in the race area”.
The reduction to one HSV per team is said to be in response to global issues affecting supply chains and fuel cell availability. This is happening against the background of a rapidly increasing demand for alternative energy systems and finite production capacities to manufacture the systems.
It is expected that even with just one HSV per team, the fossil fuel chase boat limit will be enough to impact the water and the event to be a positive example of hydrogen technology in the marine sector.
Competitors may purchase HSVs from America’s Cup Event Ltd, the regatta organizer – or its nominated manufacturer, or build their own provided they meet the performance requirements in the protocol.
A set of rules was introduced covering what are now classified as Generation 1 or 2 Foiling Chase Boats. These changes relate to foil area and the new rules apply to pursuit boats if they have a foil size greater than 0.3m². These apply to foiling support boats, regardless of whether they are HSVs or conventionally powered boats. Presumably it prevents teams from using the pursuit boats as test boats for the foil design, consistent with other protocol changes to using spare yachts, but there’s still no explanation for what is a fairly complex set of rules overseen by the powerful survey committee .
The move to bring pursuit boats under the purview of the Survey Committee is a first in Cup history. Some evidence of their necessity lies deep within the rules, where there are references to the use of “wing flaps” and “hydrodynamic surface” geometry that cannot be changed once explained to the board of surveys. “Hydrodynamic surface” is a defined term in the AC Technical Regulations – and it appears that the new regulations are a means of blocking teams from testing wings outside of the limitations on wing and flap counts set out in the rules for the foiling of yachts in the America’s Cup are contextual.
The defender, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, has yet to explain whether they have received new challenges almost a week after the registration deadline. Numbers currently stand at four challengers, one more than at the 2021 America’s Cup, but late registrations remain open until May 2023. Late registrations after August 1, 2022 will incur an additional fee of $100,000 per month. The regime partially increases the probability of a flood of late entries at the last entry deadline.