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36th America’s Cup Will Race Monohulls — New Crew Nationality Rules

By Steve Morrell

In September, Team New Zealand—winners of the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda last summer—announced that the 36th America’s Cup will race in monohulls in 2021. In Bermuda, team Luna Rossa dropped out of the Cup races because of what they claimed were constantly changing rules implemented by Oracle Team USA. But they aided Team New Zealand in their quest by giving technical expertise, lending them a test boat along with crew help. One of the conditions of their aid was that the Cup return to monohulls. New Zealand was short of cash at the time and accepted the help under those conditions.

The Boats

The new Protocol that was announced for the 36th Cup stated that the AC75 Class of boat (75-foot boats) would be the new competing monohull. Initial design concepts and drawings will be released at the end of November. Final design rules will be released in March. One question will be whether the monohulls will be foiling boats or not. Another new rule will be that the boats’ hulls be laminated in the competitor’s country.

The Protocol has been defined to limit costs, in hopes of attracting as many challengers as possible. To help control costs, some one-design components will be part of the boat design. No tank testing or wind tunnel testing of the boats is allowed. Cycle grinders building up hydraulic fluid will be allowed.

Preliminary international regattas will be held in 2019 and 2020 in the AC75 boats. Each competitor can build two boats. The first must be launched March 31, 2019 or later and the second February 1, 2020, or later.

New Crew Rules

New rules have been set on the crew nationalities. Twenty percent or three crew, whichever is higher, must be citizens of the competing club. The rest of the crew must be physically present in the club’s country for a minimum of 380 days over a two-year defined period. Boats will be sailed with a crew of 10-12.

There will also be longer races of 40 minutes each and with an upwind start.

Italian fashion company Prada, which was the sponsor for Luna Rossa, has also become the new sponsor for the cup, replacing Louis Vuitton. The challenger selection series will be renamed the Prada Cup. The series will take place in Auckland, New Zealand, in January and February 2021, although the possibility was left open that the race could be held in Italy.

Some Surveys Show Most Favor Monohulls

SailingScuttlebutt.com did a survey of their readers and found that 82 percent preferred monohulls in the America’s Cup over multihulls. Many left comments with their vote.

Many commented to have stricter nationality rules for the teams, which is part of the new protocol. Plus the requirement that the boats be built by the competing teams in each one’s country was also promoted. The new protocol did require that the hulls be laminated in the competitor’s country.

A large number of comments wanted to see sailors doing more what sailors traditionally do: running around the boat raising and lowering sails and trimming them.

Many of those who preferred keeping the multihulls commented that they are cutting edge technology and to let the boats’ designs develop as the technology improves.*

Spithill Questions Monohull Decision

Jimmy Spithill, Team Oracle’s skipper, questioned the move away from multihulls to monohulls, stating that he wondered if Team New Zealand and Luna Rossi have asked the crewmembers what they wanted, implying that they would prefer multihulls. He also commented about how many people he knew who never followed sailboat racing until these foiling monohulls became the boat of choice.

Personally, I started watching the America’s Cup a lot more when the multihulls first entered the America’s Cup scene for two reasons: Before the final Cup races were held in San Francisco in 2013, there was a series of big trimaran races held around the world for more than year. These boats were crewed by Cup challengers. The boats were fast and beautiful. That’s the first reason.

But what helped make it even more exciting was the TV coverage, which is the second reason it held my interest. Not only was their helicopter coverage of these races, but there were cameras on board in several locations on each boat. There was aerial and on-board viewing that was done beautifully. Plus there was an aerial view of the course, showing virtual start lines, gates, laylines, tracks, zones around the marks…and continuous commentators for those who didn’t know much about the rules of racing.

The last time I watched a monohull Cup race, none of these video enhancements were done. Everything was from a distance, the onboard cameras were one or two and not very good. It was a bit boring, actually. I am sure that the next race in monohulls will have these features for the television viewer, and it could be just as exciting—especially if they are 75-foot foiling monohulls—although the boats will be much slower and not nearly as dangerous as the multihulls—an element that does add to the excitement.

I say develop both monohull and multihull racing as the foiling multihulls have caused a revolution in sailing, and we don’t want to let that type of innovation fade away. Let’s see where the development of all types of boats leads—monohull, catamarans, trimarans…or who knows what’s next.

* Remember that the Sailingscuttlebutt.com survey was not a survey of all sailors or even of all those who watch the Cup. Although a lot of people follow this very good website, it is a survey of only their readers, which is a dedicated group of sailors, mainly racers, although they give coverage of all aspects of sailing. And the site states that it covers sailing “with a North American focus.” So remember this too: Most of the teams that sponsor Cup sailing are not in North America.