The number of Challengers doubled in December – Malta Altus Challenge, Stars & Stripes Team USA and a Dutch challenge were all announced by Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron – more news on each of them below.
Where will all these teams have their bases in Auckland? The most recent plans show five challenger bases on Wynyard Point and one, for Luna Rossa, on a new extension to the Hobson Wharf. Work has begun on the wharf extension.
In November ETNZ said they had received eight notices of challenge. Three have been announced. What became of the other five? All of them had conditions. RNZYS and ETNZ haven't released any more news. It's not clear where any more team bases could be located in Auckland.
Teams may not launch their first AC75 until after 31 March 2019. No team seems likely to launch that early.
Dutch Challenge – ‘Team The Netherlands’
The challenge from Royal Netherlands Sailing and Rowing Association and Royal Maas Sailing and Rowing Association is scheduled to open their team base in Scheveningen/The Hague on Wednesday 23 January.
Simeon Tienpont will be the skipper with Peter van Niekerk as the sailing team manager. Tienpont was the hydraulics system specialist on Oracle's AC72 during their comeback in the 2013 match in San Francisco. Van Niekerk was in the Alinghi crew in 2003 and 2007. He has also sailed three Volvo Ocean Races, most recently for Akzo Nobel in 2017-18, with Tienpont as skipper.
The challenge may be conditional on awarding an ACWS regatta to The Hague in 2020. That might require a change to the Protocol to accommodate a fourth ACWS. Challenger of Record Luna Rossa must approve any protocol changes. ETNZ alluded to this in their announcement of the challenge in December.
Oddly, as of 21 January 2019, there is no page for this challenge on the America's Cup website.
Stars & Stripes Team USA
Stars & Stripes confirmed that they bought a design package from ETNZ. They claim the design is identical to ETNZ's, except for appendage design, software, and sail design, which they will develop themselves. They refer to the current boat building project as their “first” boat, implying they have the funding for a two boat campaign.
Stars & Stripes head of design JB Braun is also director of design and engineering at North Sails. So it is no surprise that Stars & Stripes has a design partnership with North Technology Group in Minden, Nevada. They will focus on thin skin 3Di for the double luff mainsail on the AC75.
Stars & Stripes continues to add Americans to their sailing, design and build team. They will announce soon the process for American sailors to try out for the team. And they also have Kiwi Tim Smyth as a consultant on the boat building.
Tim recently left Larry Ellison's Core Builders, where he was one of the key leaders. Core Builders constructed all of the AC45's, Oracle's AC72, and Oracle and Team Japan's test boats and AC50's for the 2017 AC. Most recently, Core was responsible for the one design F50's that will race in the Sail GP circuit.
Malta Altus Challenge
There has been no news since the announcement of the challenge. Before Christmas I exchanged WhatsApp messages with team principal Pasquale Cataldi. He cancelled an interview we had scheduled. I've had no response to requests for information in January. The link on the America's Cup website points to the Royal Malta Yacht Club which has no information about the challenge.
America's Cup World Series 2019
There will be only one ACWS in 2019 – already announced for October, no exact dates set, in Cagliari, where Challenger of Record Luna Rossa has their base. How many teams will race? The Protocol requires all teams to compete, but what if the new challengers from Malta and The Netherlands cannot have their boats ready in time?
And what about the Foil Cant System? This is to be supplied equipment. Structural problems surfaced when the first foil arms were tested. Will ETNZ and Luna Rossa be able to deliver seven sets of Foil Cant Systems in time for all teams to race in October?
America's Cup World Series 2020
The Protocol calls for three ACWS regattas in 2020 plus the Christmas Regatta in Auckland, and specifies that the venues (but curiously not the dates) are to be announced by 30 November 2019. If it is true that the Dutch challenge is conditional on adding a fourth ACWS in The Hague, Luna Rossa's approval will be required.
Jack Griffin, Cup Experience