America’s Cup warmup races waiting for wind off Auckland

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — U.S. ambassador Scott Brown believes the American challenger will reclaim the America’s Cup when the contest for sailing’s most prestigious trophy takes place in Auckland next year.

“We’re taking our Cup home,” said Brown, a Donald Trump appointee coming to the end of his term in New Zealand.

The former senator from Massachusetts was speaking at the opening ceremony of the America’s Cup World Series and Christmas Cup regattas, which will begin racing Thursday on the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland.

New York Yacht Club-backed syndicate American Magic is one of three challengers from the United States, Italy and Britain which will emerge to race defender Team New Zealand for the America’s Cup in the 36th regatta in March.

The World Series and Christmas regattas are not part of the official Cup regatta, which begins with a series to find the top challenger in January and February. But it will mark the first occasion the challengers and defender race against each other in the new, high-tech AC75 class yachts.

The yachts are 75-foot (23-meter) mono-hulls which rise out of the water on foils and are capable of speeds in excess of 50 knots or almost 60 mph (100 kph).

But the absence of wind recently might be a concern for the teams as racing cannot take place if the wind speed does not exceed 6.5 knots.

Practice racing on Monday was affected by low wind speeds, and official practice was due to take place again on Tuesday.

The talking point of practice so far has been the inability of British syndicate INEOS Team UK to take part.

Team UK was due to race Team New Zealand twice on Monday but, after morning racing was called off because of a lack of wind, withdrew during pre-start maneuvering in the afternoon and its race boat had to be towed back to the team base.

The well-funded syndicate was also unable to practice last week, raising speculation it might be dealing with a major technical problem.

This week’s racing and the challengers’ series and America’s Cup will take place with full spectator participation because New Zealand has no community cases of the coronavirus. Francesco Longanesi Cattani, a spokesperson for Italian fashion label Prada which sponsor’s this week’s racing said “to be here is a privilege. No-one has the quality of life we are enjoying in New Zealand.”

The Cup is still subject to New Zealand’s strict COVID-19 regulations. New Zealand’s borders are closed to all but returning citizens and residents, except for some minor exemptions. Only three foreign journalists have been granted exemptions to cover the event and no overseas fans are expected.

Still, the Italian syndicate Luna Rossa received the loudest cheer from spectators at the opening ceremony when team members were introduced to the crowd, louder even than that for Team New Zealand.

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