Fire press conference in Auckland of the Challenger of Record rebutting, within minutes, a heavy-handed press release from ACE (America’s Cup Events, the Cup organizer ed.) against Luna Rossa. The words of Tina Symmans, CEO of ACE, come practically live to Francesco Longanesi Cattani (the Prada Group’s director of external relations) and Alessandra Pandarese (the Prada Cup’s head of legal affairs), who came to the press conference to tell the position of the Challenger of Record, the organizer of the Prada cup.
Tina Symmans first admits the green light to race over the weekend, then goes down hard on the COR and Luna Rossa, “clearly they have forgotten the words of their leader Patrizio Bertelli at the opening press conference who talked about how privileged everyone is to be in Auckland without significant Covid restrictions and that therefore everyone has a commitment and responsibility to provide great sportsmanship and that the PRADA Cup is a great sporting event.”
The reference is to the fact that, noting the Challenger of Record’s decision not to change the schedule, the races will be held without an audience ashore and at sea, with the shore village closed.
The retort is not long in coming and it is quite firm, from Francesco Longanesi:
“I did not expect this statement. I appreciate a reasonable approach in dealing with the calendar, I absolutely do not accept comments of a sporting nature, because those are first and foremost about respecting the rules. We respect the government’s decisions, and the Protocol says that with level 2 alert, racing can be done. The opportunity to race now gives Ineos a chance to get back into the regatta. The longer it is delayed the less chance Ineos has to recover, so it has a chance to play the regattas on the water. The most sporting thing you can do is to play by the rules.”
Regatta Director Ian Murray’s intervention certainly did not quell tempers:
“There is some pressure from Sunday, racing I see it unlikely tomorrow because of logistical issues regarding people having to work on the race course, with the restrictions going on, maybe it is easier on Saturday and I am not happy if we can’t race on Friday. Let’s see what happens, I have no control over these decisions.” The decision in this regard will be made by 4:30 a.m. Italian time, where an official communication from ACE is expected.
Alessandra Pandarese clarifies the position of the Challenger of Record and leaves no room for doubt about whether the calendar should be pushed back to February 26, as initially requested by ACE:
“I am very surprised to hear this from the Race Director, as organizers of the Prada Cup we have a crucial relationship with the Race Committee and we need their cooperation. We since Sunday have had this position, which is to race according to the rules of racing and the Protocol, as well as the safety regulations of the New Zealand government. And these say that regattas with alert level 2 can be held, and the calendar is clear, Feb. 24 is the last day of Prada Cup regattas, no matter what happens. On that day in each case the Prada Cup will be awarded to the team with the most points. The calendar change is not even on the table. There are conditions to race, as per alert 2, there will be other events on the weekend, there is not even a discussion on this point.”
In short, the Challenger of Record is immovable, and without agreement with ACE the schedule cannot be changed. The buck actually remains with Ian Murray who, while he said racing on Friday is difficult due to logistical issues, it is likely that he will be put in a position to have everything he needs to get on the water as soon as possible and get racing resumed.
The two crews remain at the window, with Ineos obviously needing to get back on the water at this point, while Luna Rossa is aiming not to be distracted by the situation, and no statements are filtering from the team’s men.
THE ACE STATEMENT
Chair of America’s Cup Events Tina Symmans said, “This is a disappointing situation, it is my responsibility to do my best to run the event with the best interests of the public and all stakeholders in mind. So with the current impasse, while not agreeing with the Challenger of Record, we want to see the regatta completed on the water.”
ACE now considers the best solution that can be hoped for is to continue racing this weekend which will at least allow as much opportunity as possible for the public to enjoy the viewing in small gatherings or via the TV broadcast.
“Since Sunday, we have worked really hard on behalf of everyone in Auckland and all Kiwis to give COR the opportunity to demonstrate some honor and respect for this country and delay the PRADA Cup until we have a greater chance of everyone being able to enjoy and benefit from being back into Level 1,” explained Symmans.
“Clearly they have forgotten the words of their leader Patricio Bertelli at the opening press conference who spoke about how privileged everyone is to be in Auckland without significant Covid restrictions and that therefore everyone has a commitment and responsibility to deliver great sportsmanship and the PRADA Cup to be a major sporting event.”
“This plea has fallen on deaf ears and it’s clear that their focus is solely on Luna Rossa taking the PRADA Cup rather than the greater good of the country who have worked so hard in order to be in a position to stage this event.” Symmans concluded.
With this in mind racing under COVID19 Level 2 can continue with the following restrictions:
- Racecourses B & C will not be used for racing, to mitigate the chance of large public gatherings on shore, which are in line with Government Level 2 restrictions.
- No public viewing opportunities such as dock out shows or public screening of racing in the race village.
- Including gatherings of no more than 100 people in the America’s Cup Race Village or public spectator vantage points around Auckland.
- Limited village activations to ensure no more than 100 people.
- 2 meter physical distancing, and face masks recommended.
- All bars, restaurants and cafes surrounding the Race Village can remain open in line with Ministry of Health COVID-19 Level 2 Guidelines.
- Public are reminded to always scan the NZCOVID19 Tracer App.