If the recently announced Covid-19 lockdown in Auckland, New Zealand goes over it's initially announced three day period, there could be serious consequences for the Prada Cup

After the opening four races of the Prada Cup Final over the weekend, racing was set to continue between INEOS Team UK and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli on Wednesday 17th February, as the two teams continue their fight to challenge for the America’s Cup.

Update: Since this article was posted, America’s Cup Event Ltd has released the following statement: 


In these uncertain times, as the permitted Event Organiser responsible for the delivery of the 36th America’s Cup presented by PRADA in Auckland under the Host Venue Agreement with NZ Government and Auckland Council, America’s Cup Event Limited remains committed to maintaining as many aspects as possible of the Event as originally planned.

This includes the ambition to maximise the possibility of safe public engagement at the event for Aucklanders and Kiwis from around the country, as well as the commercial benefits to local businesses, event sponsors and partners which includes the New Zealand Government and Auckland City. We are also mindful of the global broadcasting rights holders that are taking the stunning images of our country with thousands of people enjoying the event and broadcasting them into living rooms and devices around the world.

America’s Cup Event Chair Tina Symmans said, “As event organisers, we have spent a considerable amount of time since Sunday evening looking at all possible scenarios. Like the majority of events around the country this weekend, the ramifications of running the remainder of the event need to be considered in an environment which is highly uncertain due to the latest COVID-19 concerns.”

ACE has consulted with the America’s Cup Minister Stuart Nash and senior Council officials and one consideration has been to postpone the current schedule of racing and events in the best interests of the public and all stakeholders given the current COVID-19 environment.

The position of ACE is based on one of two options based on the Government’s review of alert levels at 4:30 this afternoon:

If the alert levels drop to level 1 in time, then racing will resume this weekend.

If the alert level remains at 3 or 2, which obviously entails restrictions in gatherings and difficulties with events, racing and event activations would need to be rescheduled to recommence the Prada Cup Final on Friday 26 February. To respect the original timeframe scheduled between the Prada Cup Final and the America’s Cup Match, Race 1 of the Match would subsequently begin a week later on Saturday 13 March with the intention of racing still being completed by 21 March.

This morning the Challenger of Record (COR36) has made their position very clear in stating their desire to race from tomorrow despite COVID Alert level 3, to complete the PRADA Cup final by the 24th February in accordance with the existing PRADA Cup conditions.

They have also stated that if the racing program cannot be completed by Wednesday (24th) they intend to declare the leading point scorer the winner of the PRADA Cup and Challenger for the America’s Cup Match. Under the current points situation, that would be Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team.

“There is no guarantee as to what COVID-19 Alert Level Auckland or New Zealand will be operating under. If the event is faced with operating under COVID-19 Level 2 or 3, plans are in place to ensure the continued delivery and conclusion of the 36th America’s Cup presented by Prada within the scheduled dates.” Explained Symmans.

“Clearly this would have potential implications for public participation which we are trying to avoid, however the intention of the potential rescheduling will give the best possible opportunity to see the event run with maximum engagement and benefits for public and stakeholders.”

INEOS Team UK Prada Cup Final statement:

Following the statement from the America’s Cup Event Ltd (ACE) today: 

INEOS TEAM UK respect the decision communicated by ACE to delay the PRADA Cup racing due to the current COVID-19 alert level in Auckland.

The result of the PRADA Cup final should be won and decided on the water in the agreed format of first to win 7 races.

INEOS TEAM UK fully respect the government’s decision to curtail racing until it is safe to do so and would support a delay in the competition if that is required.

The solution put forward by ACE is sensible in ensuring both the safety of all in New Zealand, and the integrity of the sporting competition.

INEOS TEAM UK will continue with our race preparations and be ready to race when it is safe to do so.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Prada Cup Final statement:

The Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team is surprised by the statements published by America’s Cup Event (ACE) and by INEOS Team UK.

From day one of the teams’ activities in New Zealand, protocols have been put in place, together with ACE and all government bodies, to allow teams and organizers alike to operate in the different COVID-19 alert levels, enabling them to prepare and race behind closed doors, if need be, as happens in the Formula1, Australian Open and other events; the priority in these contexts is clearly the health of the people involved.

The Challenger of Record has confirmed that it is possible to race in total safety and has also offered full support to ACE and local Authorities for the application of the protocol indicated by the AC36 Event COVID-19 Management On Land and On Water Plans for the Covid-19 alert. There is no reason why teams that are allowed to train during this alert level should not be allowed to race, albeit behind closed doors, according to the same protocol.

The weather conditions for the next few days are ideal to carry out top level racing. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli is ready to race against INEOS Team UK on Friday February 19th, in compliance to the program of the Prada Cup Finals that which must end no later than February 24th. Even more so, now that the government has taken the decision to go down from Level 3 to Alert Level 2, allowing the regattas to take place in full respect of everyone’s safety.

Update ends

After racing concluded on Sunday came news that Auckland would go into a new three-day, ‘Level Three’ lockdown – the first in New Zealand in six months, a significant setback in the nation’s largely successful efforts to control the virus – and America’s Cup organisers were forced to announce the cancellation of racing on Wednesday.

INEOS stall in the Prada Cup Final

The ‘Level Three’ lockdown in Auckland essentially prevents people leaving the city, or leaving their household support bubble. Given this, it appears that racing will not be possible under current restrictions.

What next for the Prada Cup?

If Auckland is brought out of Level Three lockdown – or brought down to the Level Two restrictions that the rest of the country was placed under at the same time – then racing could go ahead under those slightly looser restrictions.

Article continues below…

Following an initial announcement Sunday 14th February about the cancellation of Wednesdays racing, on Tuesday the 15th February America’s Cup Event Limited released this a follow up statement, which reads:

In light of the Government’s COVID19 Level 3 lockdown overnight, America’s Cup Event Ltd and the competing teams are taking all of the necessary steps to continue to work in line with their COVID19 Level 3 working protocols as reviewed with WorkSafe NZ and the Ministry of Health.

Within the respective plans and protocols, there is a clear distinction between the individual team’s operations and official Prada Cup and America’s Cup racing itself.

For each of the teams; sailing, testing and training on the water is part of the core business of all teams.

As practiced under the previous Level 3 restrictions in 2020, the team’s operations must be undertaken like any commercial business operating on the water, as well as on land, in line with their individual protocols developed with WorkSafe NZ and the Ministry of Health working safely under COVID19 Level 3 restrictions.

From an event perspective; there are a number of plans for different scenarios. With regard to the current situation and rescheduling of on water racing and on shore event organisation, the event organisers are updating plans with respect to maintaining a fluid racing calendar in consultation with the Government and relevant authorities.

It seems, then, that organisers are keen to remain as flexible as possible to get racing completed for the Prada Cup Final.

Prada Cup final calendar

We can only speculate what might happen next at this stage. Should the lockdown be limited to the three days initially announced by the New Zealand government then it is likely that racing could take place on 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd February as initially planned.

Should they be needed, there are reserve days built into the schedule , the first of which is this Thursday 18th February; theoretically the first chance for racing after the three day lockdown window. Thereafter there are two further reserve days available on 23rd and 24th February too, so there is some small amount of leeway in the calendar.

Should lockdown be extended, however, completing the series could become difficult very quickly.

Within the notice of race for the Prada Cup there is provision to modify the schedule of racing. It reads:

5.1 The format and schedule for the Prada Cup are shown in Attachment 1 (the “Prada Cup
Format and Schedule”). Without prejudice to Article 3.3 of the Protocol the Attachment 1
may from time to time be revised or modified by COR/D in consultation with the Regatta

COR/D refers to the Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and Defender Emirates Team New Zealand.

The notice of race document also outlines the usage of reserve days and racing days. It states that:

Notes on Reserve Days

Monday 22 February to Wednesday 24 February (included) – If the Prada Cup Final is not completed prior to 22 February then racing will continue every day until completion or until the end of the last Race Day 24 February.

As things stand, should lockdown prevent racing from taking place over the coming weekend and early next week, it seems entirely possible that the Prada Cup could remain uncompleted. Inserting additional race days into the schedule would require sign off from both the Defender, and the Challenger of Record Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, who currently happen to be 4-0 up in the series.

It is undoubtedly in the interest of all teams, including Luna Rossa, to finish the series on the racecourse. The Italian team has been vocal about why they believe time on the water in race mode is irreplaceable.

However, if lockdown requires an extension to the schedule, there does seem to be scope for Luna Rossa to block further racing taking place over and above that which has been scheduled. Emirates Team New Zealand could potentially prevent further dates being added to the Prada Cup racing schedule too, but have little to gain from doing so.

We should soon know whether lockdown in New Zealand will continue beyond the initial three days. If it does not, racing will likely continue. If lockdown continues, however, things could get very messy indeed.

This is a hammer-blow for an event which has so far enjoyed being almost restriction-free for both competitors and spectators thanks to New Zealand’s zero-Covid policy.

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