New York Yacht Club to challenge for America’s Cup

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The New York Yacht Club is returning to the America’s Cup after an absence of a decade and a half, perhaps the ultimate nod to tradition as sailing’s marquee regatta is reshaped following Emirates Team New Zealand’s stunning victory in June.

The NYYC announced Thursday that it will challenge for the 36th America’s Cup to be held in early 2021, most likely off Auckland. Teams can file challenges beginning Jan. 1.

The New York Yacht Club once enjoyed the longest winning streak in sports when it held the Auld Mug from 1851, when the schooner America beat a fleet of British ships around the Isle of Wight, until 1983, when Dennis Conner’s Liberty lost to the wing-keeled Australia II off Newport, Rhode Island.

The NYYC last backed a challenge in 2002-03 with Team Dennis Conner.

“The America’s Cup has always remained close to the heart of the New York Yacht Club, even in the years where we didn’t participate as a challenger or defender,” commodore Philip A. Lotz said. “For this cycle, a lot of elements have come together in the correct way for the Club to enter another challenge.”

The first was ETNZ’s rout of two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA, owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison, on Bermuda’s Great Sound. After winning the America’s Cup in 2010 in a one-off with a Swiss team that was forced by a bitter court case, Oracle Team USA did not hold defense trials in 2013 or 2017.

Word of the New York Yacht Club’s return was greeted warmly Down Under.

“We’re delighted they are back,” Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton said in an email to The Associated Press. “It really sets the tone for the next Cup, the world’s most prestigious Club.”

In a statement, ETNZ and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron said, “To have the most famous yacht club in America’s Cup history back after a 14-year hiatus is a significant boost to the event and the principles of tradition and fair play which the Protocol for the 36th America’s Cup is built on.”

The NYYC will be represented by Bella Mente Quantum Racing Association, which will be led by successful yachtsmen and businessmen John J. “Hap” Fauth of Naples, Florida, and Doug DeVos of Grand Rapids, Michigan. DeVos is president of Amway and the brother-in-law of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Fauth is a three-time world champion in the Maxi72 Class. He’s helmed three successive yachts named Bella Mente. DeVos and the Quantum Racing program have had overall series wins in the 52 Super Series circuit, and its predecessor, the MedCup, in 2008, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2016.

The common link between the two is America’s Cup veteran Terry Hutchinson of Annapolis, Maryland, a two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year who will serve as CEO and skipper.

Team New Zealand and the Challenger of Record, Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenge, announced last week that the America’s Cup will go back to monohulls after the last two editions were sailed in foiling catamarans.

Concepts for the AC75 Class, promised to be “high-performance” monohulls, will be released Nov. 30 and the class rule will be published March 31. It will have a crew of 10 to 12.

By announcing its challenge now, Bella Mente Quantum Racing Association can get a jump on hiring designers and sailors.

New nationality rules call for 20 percent, or three crew, whichever is higher, to be true nationals, while the rest of the crew must live in the country of a challenging yacht club for a minimum of 380 days between September 2018 and Aug. 31, 2020.

“Is every single person going to be an American citizen? Probably not,” Hutchinson said. “But we will definitely be waving the flag.”

Hutchinson, 49, said it’s unlikely he’ll be the helmsman, but, “this is the America’s Cup, and you never say never. It’s a bit too soon to say.” He sailed as tactician for Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2007 America’s Cup match, the last to be contested in monohulls.

Lotz said Fauth and DeVos “will mount a competitive effort that is respectful of the Club’s long history with the Cup and the competition itself,” and that the New York Yacht Club has “confidence the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, represented by Emirates Team New Zealand, will host a world-class regatta that honors the spirit, tradition and majesty of this great event.”

Team New Zealand said it has also received initial intentions from Britain’s Land Rover BAR and Groupama Team France.


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