Wellington (AFP) – Team New Zealand moved Friday to cut the cost of competing in the America’s Cup and tighten nationality rules after years of criticism that yachting’s premier event has become a billionaires’ plaything.
The New Zealanders, who won the Auld Mug from Team USA in Bermuda last June, get to set the rules of the next regatta, which they confirmed will be held in Auckland in March 2021.
The rule book, known as the protocol, was released Friday and specifies the race will be contested by high-performance monohulls, rather than the futuristic catamarans used in the past two editions.
It contains a section dedicated solely to keeping expenses down, saying: “An ongoing objective has always been in containing costs for teams.”
Previously, the likes of billionaire Oracle founder Larry Ellison and Swiss pharmaceuticals magnate Ernesto Bertarelli have bankrolled successful campaigns by hiring the best crews, designers and builders from around the world.
For the 2021 regatta, the teams’ boats will all have to have common design and manufacturing elements.
Teams will also be banned from carrying out expensive wind-tunnel or water-tank testing and cannot commission their own meteorologists for weather forecasting.
Syndicate head Grant Dalton has tightened nationality criteria after seeing many of his Kiwi sailors poached by well-funded rivals over the years.
Under the new rules, at least three of the 10-12 man crew must be citizens of the country the team represents, and the rest must meet strict residency criteria.
“It still provides plenty of opportunities for internationals to sail for other teams, it just means they need to commit to living in the country of the yacht club their team represents… it also encourages countries to grow their own talent,” Team NZ said.
The syndicate also confirmed that Italian fashion house Prada will sponsor the challenger series, where teams vie for the right to race New Zealand in the final.
Prada’s chief executive Patrizio Bertelli is also team principal of Italy’s Luna Rossa, the challenger of record for the regatta.
Team NZ said that “in the unlikely event” Auckland could not host the 2021 regatta, such as a natural disaster, it will be held in Italy.