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.
However, 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.
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.
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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.
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. FORMAT AND SCHEDULE
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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