Auckland’s natural grandstand offers prime viewing for America’s Cup racing

Iconic islands, prominent volcanoes and inner-city bays and beaches overlooking Auckland’s spectacular sailing grounds will provide a natural viewing platform for the next America’s Cup.

Emirates Team New Zealand has confirmed Auckland, the ‘City of Sails’, will host the 36th America’s Cup from 6 – 21 March 2021 and has highlighted the advantage for land-based spectators with unprecedented sailing action within close proximity to the city.

As the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand will race the winner of the Prada Cup challenger selection series in a best of 13, first to 7-point America’s Cup Match race series.

Racing will be centered on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf which offer a variety of race course options with a full range of wind directions and conditions. The harbour and gulf are surrounded by geographical landmarks that provide a variety of vantage points for spectators. 

The official race zone encompasses a wide area running south along Auckland’s North Shore beaches around the volcanic headland of North Head incorporating the inner Waitemata Harbour reaching as far as Auckland’s iconic harbour bridge and downtown waterfront, across Auckland’s eastern suburbs and south to the vicinity of popular Waiheke Island.

Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton said they needed to define a wide racing area to cater for all wind and tide directions and conditions. “We are very fortunate that the geography of Auckland allows us the ability to bring so many exciting and challenging race course options within close proximity to elevated vantage points for land-based spectators.”

He says there are places where the public will literally be able to hear the AC75 boats whistling above the water and see the wind shifts on the water without having to set foot on a boat.

As well as large crowds on land, a huge spectator fleet is expected on the water and Dalton says Emirates Team New Zealand has worked hard with the Auckland harbour master and related agencies to ensure they can cope with the fleet on the race course boundaries.

March is a popular summer month for holidaying in New Zealand and consideration is being given to race timing to maximise weather conditions and suit audiences both in New Zealand and abroad. It is likely the racing will take place between 1600 and 1800 hours local time to take advantage of the typical March sea breeze.

The races are planned to last around 35-minutes including pre-starts and the courses will involve leg lengths between 1.3-2.2 nautical miles. They will be set to a typical windward leeward configuration with potential for a dramatic final reaching leg to the finish line. 

Team New Zealand said consideration had also been given to minimising race day cancellations due to too much wind or swell as was seen in AC34 in San Francisco in 2013.

The America’s Cup updates were met with approval from the three confirmed challengers.  Terry Hutchinson, executive director and skipper of the New York's Yacht Club's American Magic, and Sir Ben Ainsley team principal and skipper of INEOS Team UK welcomed information about the race course area, likely wind conditions, sea state, length of course and schedule for the build-up regattas as it would help teams set their strategy for building and launching race boats.

Max Sirena team director and skipper of challenger of record Luna Rossa said they could not wait to get started.

36th America’s Cup key dates

2018:

  • 31 December 2018 - Late entries deadline

2019:

  •  31 March 2019 - Boat 1 can be launched
  •  2nd half of 2019 - 2 x America’s Cup World Series Preliminary Events

2020:

  •  1 February 2020 - Boat 2 can be launched
  •  TBC during 2020  - 3 x America’s Cup World Series Preliminary Events
  •  10 - 20 December 2020 - America’s Cup Christmas Race

2021:

  •  January & February 2021 - The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series
  •  6 – 21 March 2021  - The America’s Cup Match

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