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America’s Cup: NZ Government restrictions force Youth America’s Cup cancellation

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The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) has announced that next year’s Youth America’s Cup event has been cancelled due to New Zealand Government restrictions around immigration.

Despite the event being an official part of the America’s Cup, it was not be given the same exemption status that other America’s Cup teams have been granted.

The event was a collaboration between RNZYS, the China Sports Industry Group (CSIG), and Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ). The curtain raiser regatta was initially scheduled to run in China, and this was later changed to Auckland with the impact of COVID-19 in China.

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With 19 entries from 13 nations confirmed, it was to take place over a three week period in the off sailing days of the Prada Cup Challenger Series finals and America’s Cup Match. The schedule for racing in 2021 was on February 18-23, March 1-5, and March 8-12.

It was estimated to generate more than 10 million dollars into the New Zealand economy, create jobs for New Zealanders, and promote New Zealand internationally. Many of the international teams entered had indicated they would be arriving months in advance to train for the regatta.

“We are bitterly disappointed,” says RNZYS Chief Executive, Hayden Porter. “The sailors, boat builders, sponsors plus everyone who has invested their time and passion into the Youth America’s Cup event are all devastated by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment’s (MBIE) decision that this event cannot go ahead.

“The reasons we were given for not getting the immigration clearance required were that MBIE has not invested directly into this event and that New Zealanders could perform the sailing roles for the international teams.

“We are struggling to understand how that is possible as it is an international event and teams have to represent their country. Furthermore, it came at no cost to the Government at a time where New Zealand needs this type of event and investment.”

RNZYS Commodore Ian Cook is also the Yard Owner of Yachting Developments (YDL) who were building the AC9F yachts that were to be used. “The boat design and build project has required a huge amount of financial investment from YDL and other New Zealand marine businesses as well as incredible dedication and many hours being spent by my talented team,” said Cook.

“It is hard to face the disappointment we all feel with the event no longer going ahead through no fault of our own. It is a big blow to the NZ Marine industry.”

The AC9F foiling monohull boats have been designed by Yachting Developments in collaboration with a number of parties including Harken, Southern Spars, and North Sails.

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Image © Andrew Delves/RNZYS

Initiated during the 2013 America’s Cup, the Youth America’s Cup had become a stepping stone into the main America’s Cup event for young sailors. As the third edition, this event was to also be the first gender diverse event of its kind.

“The event was fully funded and had been creating jobs for New Zealanders,” said Porter. “It is frustrating because the teams were also willing to quarantine here at their own expense but New Zealand Government rules around immigration have forced the cancellation, despite the obvious benefits in terms of jobs and international investment.”

If Emirates Team New Zealand has a successful America’s Cup defence in March 2021, the RNZYS intends to reinstate the Youth America’s Cup later that year with both international and local events. The AC9F yacht will be available for international teams to purchase and train on for these events.

Main Image © Andrew Delves/RNZYS

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