Front Rudder – by Mark Reid

The In-Betweens Of America’s Cup Memos And Memes

Here we are. The 36th America’s Cup is at hand and we are all waiting with bated breath. There is nothing more exciting in sports than that “magic moment” in Race 1 Leg 1 when the Defender and the Challenger make that first fated cross for the lead in pursuit of yachting’s most prestigious prize!

The America’s Cup and the Prada Cup. Photo courtesy of CoR36/Studio Borlenghi.

After what seemed like just a few races here and there for the Prada Cup the Italians have emerged as the winner, and now have the unenviable task of trying to beat the Kiwis in their own backyard.

They have been here before 21 years ago, and they were swept right out the door. Much has changed since then as the Cup Class moves at 50 mph on foils with unfathomable closing speeds in what is now a made for TV event.

Not to say that the New Zealanders won’t show up in droves on the water which they will, since the actual racing has been pushed back several days due to local lockdown levels in Auckland as COVID-19 has reared its ugly head again and wreaked havoc, not only in the America’s Cup Village, restaurants and bars, but also with sticking points between the organizing wing of the event America’s Cup Events Inc. (ACE) and the Challenger of Record (CoR).

Hail to the victors as Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and their team leader, Max Sirena holds up the Prada Cup as protection from Jimmy Spithill’s champagne barrage. Photo courtesy of CoR36/Studio Borlenghi.

Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) will line up with their AC 75 version of “white lightning” Te Rehutai, which in Maori means, “where the essence of the ocean invigorates and energizes our strength and determination” against Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli flying its “rose moon” colors of Circolo Della Vela Sicilia in Sardinia, Italy.

The Kiwis are led by their longtime skipper/wing trimmer, Glen Ashby, Helmsman Peter Burling and Blair Tuke under the watch eye of CEO Grant Dalton.

The Italians match them with their twin helmsman Francesco Bruni and the one-of-a-kind Jimmy Spithill, who has replaced Dennis Conner as the skipper you love to hate. The team is micro-managed by Max Sirena, who like Dalton is no-nonsense with a lot of experience “herding cats” or in this case, foiling monohulls with temperamental personalities on board.

Unfortunately, though, the drama on the water is going to have to wait a bit longer, but that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been fireworks between the teams on land. To say the relationship between ACE and the CoR is frosty is an understatement as the competing organizations trade memos and memes in every which way possible, so watch out. Neither side is taking prisoners!

As far as the on the water stuff, ETNZ has shown blazing speed with Te Rehutai knocking on the door at 60 knots. The AC 75 certainly carries a full-bodied hull with very angular shapes to it and a paper thin, razor sharp foil package that has been unsuccessfully replicated by the other teams so far…

The Italians on the other hand have shown superiority in the lower wind ranges and have by far the sleekest, most elegant hull shape. They are not unlike the many beauties from their rich wine ensconced country steeped in history, tradition and passion, not to mention speed.

When you think of Italy, what comes to mind? Ferrari, which translates to the aforementioned and they had plenty of it whacking the British 7-1.

First Weekend Of The America’s Cup Match Postponed

In light of the latest Auckland COVID-19 Level 3 lockdown put in place by the government for the next 7 days, America’s Cup Event Ltd. has postponed the first weekend of racing.

The purpose of this early decision is to provide at least some certainty in planning for all event stakeholders with regard to next weekend initially.

America’s Cup Event Ltd. Chair, Tina Symmans said, “As ACE has always said that it wishes to hold as much of the racing under Level 1 restrictions as possible. But to be prudent, ACE will apply for an exemption to race under Level 3 restrictions so as to keep as many options open as possible. However, racing will not occur before at least March 10, the 9th for us here in the States.”

In the meantime, ACE will continue to work closely with the relevant authorities over the next few days as this latest COVID situation unfolds.

“We need to understand all likely scenarios so that an updated racing schedule can be put in place while also ensuring that the regulatory requirements are met,” concluded Symmans.

March 1 was the declaration deadline for both teams to define and finalize the configuration of their boats for the match. With that deadline now passed, both teams will have laid out precisely the boat that they will use for the series with specific details on all the key areas such as the hull, rig, foils and many other areas of the boat including its precise weight.

The philosophy behind this subtly different approach was to encourage teams to prepare their boats to be an all-round boat. This is a marked change from previous Cups, where the rules on declaration allowed teams to turn up to each race day in the best configuration. The result was that teams would apply to the measurers for a new certificate ahead of each day’s racing.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Win The Prada Cup!

The G.H. Mumm Champagne was flowing for Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, who sailed to victory today in the PRADA Cup Final. The Italians winning the Series 7-1 over INEOS Team UK, now move onto the America’s Cup Match. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli outraced the British team in medium to light conditions that proved to favor the Italians so markedly.

A splashdown at the start for Luna Rossa as INEOS “arged” into the starting line as both teams were over early. Photo courtesy of Gilles Martin-Raget/

For the second time in their six attempts, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli has their name included in the exclusive list of just 36 challengers in 170 years that have made it to the America’s Cup itself.

As happened 20 years ago, the Defender Emirates Team New Zealand will face Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli on the Hauraki Gulf to decide who will win the most difficult and oldest trophy in the international sport.

By the finish, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli was .56 seconds ahead and the Prada’s Cup was theirs!

Having resisted high fives and open displays of celebration in the races leading up to this point, now there is no holding back. The Italians were over their “red” moon.

“We kept the mistakes down, stayed calm, made good decisions and the boat did the job” said Co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill. “Pretty good day at the office,” he then said when asked on TV how he felt, clearly struggling to shake off the understated approach that had served them through the Final. “Fantastico!” Francesco Bruni yelled into the camera, “It’s a great day for us and for Luna Rossa, and it’s a great day for Italy. It was a tough Final and we are in for a very good fight in the America’s Cup.”

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli extends their lead over INEOS as the Italians led at every mark in the races they won. Photo courtesy of Gilles Martin-Raget/

“Well done to Luna Rossa and well done to Italy,” said Sir Ben Ainslie, INEOS CEO and skipper. “It’s a big deal in Italy to get into the America’s Cup again. So, congratulations to the team, to Jimmy and Checco and all the boys. They sailed brilliantly and deserve to take the Final. Hats off to them. We are obviously disappointed we didn’t get through but we are to go away, back on the drawing board and see what we can do.”

“I’m really happy for the guys, for all our sponsors, for all the people who worked for us in this project,” said Sirena, skipper & team director. “It was not so obvious and trivial to win because even if we were a few teams, we were three super competitive teams. I am happy for the team because it has not been an easy campaign so far, and it is fair that today they can enjoy the day. From tomorrow we will think about Team New Zealand.

“We have a lot of new things to try and we can’t relax much, but it’s important not to lose the momentum. We will train and not let our guard down. What matters is to keep the pace up and then we’ll see. We will go there with our heads down and we will play it until the end.”

The bottom line for the America’s Cup is that the Hauraki Gulf is notorious for its complex weather, particularly during the summer months when the surrounding land mass creates a variety of local conditions and sea breezes that can cancel each other out as easily as they can combine forces to boost conditions. For all the tinkering ashore that may have taken place behind closed team doors, the route to overall victory could well depend more on keeping eyes out of the boat and reading the weather.

America’s Cup Event (ACE) Position On Continuation Of Racing

Just to show how acrimonious the relationship between ACE and the CoR is, the following memo follies show just how far the fruit has fallen from the trees. Read on….

“In these uncertain times, as the permitted Event Organizer 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, ACE remains committed to maintaining as many aspects as possible of the Event as originally planned.

The look on Gilles Scott and Sir Ben Ainslie’s faces couldn’t be any more obvious as they could barely hold back their disappointment. Photo courtesy of CoR36/Studio Borlenghi.

“This includes the ambition to maximize 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 events and broadcasting them into living rooms and devices around the world.”

This morning the CoR has made their position very clear in stating their desire to race from tomorrow despite COVID Alert level three to complete the Prada Cup final by the Feb. 24 in accordance with the existing Prada Cup conditions. They have also stated that if the racing program cannot be completed by Feb. 24, 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 the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team.

It wasn’t the Xmas Cup anymore for INEOS, as the Italians proved dominant in winning the Prada Cup seven to one. Photo courtesy of Gilles Martin-Raget/

“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 two or three, 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.”

CoR Calls For Resuming Racing As Soon As Possible

CoR had urged ACE to request an exemption to carry on the final of the Prada Cup in compliance with the racing calendar, and in order to meet the legitimate expectations of the competitors involved, of the international public and of the international television networks who have already programmed their broadcastings.

Unfortunately, this did not happen, not withstanding a protocol and a procedure which were put in place since months into the event such circumstances would occur. CoR 36 had offered its full support to ACE and to the local authorities to immediately implement the Level 3 Alert management plan provided for by the AC36 Event COVID-19 Management on Land and On Water Plans.

These plans provide that, in a Level 3 COVID-19 alert, the AC36 Village shall be closed and the regattas shall resume “behind closed doors,” without any public as it already happens for many international sporting events (Formula 1, Australian Open etc.)

This on water management plan has already been tested and can therefore be immediately activated with the approval of the authorities. Since teams are authorized to sail and practice under COVID-19 level three alert, it is hard to understand why racing “behind closed doors” could not be allowed, applying the same protocols.

In this context, and in compliance with the regulations, there is no reason to further delay the carrying on of the regattas as scheduled, giving both teams the opportunity to complete the number of races required by the series within the terms and deadlines imposed by the racing calendar.

Yannick Bestaven Maître CoQ IV Wins The 9th Vendée Globe

Yannick Bestaven, the 48-year-old French skipper of Maître Coq IV, is the overall winner of the 9th edition of the Vendée Globe. He took the gun for third place off Les Sables d’Olonne, France because he carried a time compensation of 10 hours and 15 minutes, awarded by an international jury for his role in the search and rescue of fellow competitor Kevin Escoffier.

The winning skipper, Yannick Bestaven (FRA) on Maitre Coq holding the victor’s trophy. Photo courtesy of Jean-Louis Carli/Alea.

Bestaven takes victory 2 hrs., 31 mins., 01 secs. ahead of Charlie Dalin and 6 hrs., 40 mins., 26 secs. of Louis Burton, who both finished ahead of him and took second and third respectively.

Dalin on Apivia was first to finish at 80 days, 6 hrs., 15 mins., 47 secs. He has been the most regular and consistent leader throughout the 24,300 nautical mile race, which follows the traditional three Capes route.

Although he was not tipped among the fancied possible winners of the race, Bestaven revealed himself as an outstanding performer on his first time in the southern oceans where he was at his best in the Indian Ocean, passing Australia’s Cape Leeuwin in third place, and then in the Pacific emerging first at Cape Horn with a 15-hour lead.

After then building the biggest margin of the race, 440 hard earned miles thanks to a smart climb up the South Atlantic, Bestaven must have thought his chances of winning this Vendée Globe were over when during three frustrating days all but becalmed south of Rio, he saw his margin evaporate like snow in the hot Brazilian sun. But the skipper from La Rochelle on the west coast of France, an engineer as well as professional skipper, proved his race winning credentials as he fought back into contention by the Azores. His final key move proved to be choosing to head north on the Bay of Biscay, which allowed him to arrive on the heels of a low-pressure system and accelerate faster on a long direct track into Les Sables d’Olonne over the last 24 hours, chasing Dalin and Burton across the line to hold his time to win outright.

The fireworks for the winner of the 2021 Vendee Globe as Bestaven is awarded victory on his accumulated time allowances. Photo courtesy of Olivier Blanchet/Alea.

The ninth edition of the race saw a record entry of 33 skippers and has been marked by complicated weather patterns for both the descent down and the ascent back up the South Atlantic, including regrouping of the leading pack in persistent periods of light winds early in the Pacific, and again off Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Difficult, short, crossed sea conditions in the Indian Ocean meant the newest, most powerful latest generation foilers could not sail to their full speed potential. And two of them, Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut and Charlie Dalin’s Apivia both suffered different damage to their foil systems, which compromised their speed potential on starboard tack.

The most dramatic moments of the race came on the 22nd day of racing, Nov. 30 when PRB, the IMOCA of third placed Kevin Escoffier broke up suddenly 640 miles SW of Cape Town.

Escoffier was forced to abandon into his life raft in minutes. Four skippers were requested to reroute help, locate and rescue Escoffier. Although 61-year-old veteran Jean Le Cam was first on the scene and got close to Escoffier, it was 11 and a half hours later when Le Cam was finally able to rescue the stricken skipper from his life raft.

The international jury announced their time compensations on Dec. 16 at six hours for Germany’s Boris Herrmann, 10 hours and 15 minutes and for Bestaven and 16 hours and 15 minutes for Le Cam. Little then did race watchers realize that this redress would ultimately decide the final winner after the closest, most competitive race finish in history, the first three skippers crossing the line in less than eight hours.

Herrmann was in contention for a podium position until he struck a fishing boat at 90 miles from the finish line. He is bringing his Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco to the finish at reduced speed.

“There are two winners on this Vendée Globe,” said Bestaven, referring to Apivia’s Charlie Dalin. “I feel like I’m living a dream, hallucinating. You go from total solitude to this, to this party, to these lights and these people who are there despite the complicated context, I don’t realize what’s going on. I’m still in my race. It’s a child’s dream.” “I knew I had a reliable boat and I was able to pull it off,” said Bestaven. “You have to look deep down inside yourself. These boats are stressful, noisy and life on board is difficult. There are also times you feel lonely.” “This result is beyond my expectations. I imagined living many things, and I have lived many others. After having fought as I have fought, bringing a victory to Maître CoQ IV is a dream!”

Clarisse Cremer Finishes 12th In The Vendée Globe

After a prudent, careful passage across a boisterous Bay of Biscay, negotiating one last stormy low pressure, a triumphant Clarisse Cremer crossed the finish line to take an excellent 12th place on Banque Populaire X.

Skipper Clarisse Cremer, Banque Populaire X, is pictured celebrating with flares during her arrival home to her native France. Photo courtesy of Vincent Curutchet/VG2020.

Finishing in late afternoon Vendée sunshine and a diminishing westerly wind of 20 kts. with 4-5m seas she is the first female skipper to finish from the field of 33 starters.

Her elapsed time of 87 days, 2 hrs., 24 mins., Cremer breaks Ellen MacArthur’s 21-year monohull solo nonstop record for a female skipper of 94 days, 4 hours, which she set when she took second in the 2000-2001 Vendée Globe.

But Cremer played down her ranking as first female to finish, “For me, yes we know that being a woman in ocean racing becomes a differentiator on land. But this is a mixed race and a mixed sport, and it’s about the breadth of ocean racing together. There is no female classification. At sea, I am a sailor and I don’t tell myself that the sailor in front is a man or a woman, I don’t think about that at all.

“I’m so happy to be here. It’s a big relief, we were stressed until the end. I’m happy to have succeeded and to be back with my team,” said Cremer. “I really learned during this race, it almost makes you want to take the boat away. Now that I’ve learned a lot about it, I’ll go and do it again. I realize that at the start, I didn’t know how to use the boat so well, and I discovered the beast as it went. It’s nice to be more comfortable on your machine. The preparation time was a bit short. I felt it the first week I was a little intimidated about everything there was to do.

“I think I had less problems in terms of technical issues. I’m lucky to have a great team and a very well-prepared boat. It was my real priority from the start to be very careful with my boat,” said Cremer. “There were times when I wished I had pushed harder on the machine, but the goal was to finish. So, I had a hard time, especially from the point of view of fatigue and the feeling of constantly having the sword of Damocles over my head.”

MacArthur sent a message of congratulations to Cremer; “Hi Clarisse, just a little message to say a big bravo for your race around the world. It’s great to see you at the finish line. It’s truly an exceptional lap. Well done for everything you have done!”

The Girls Are Alright!

A “fighting spirit” Alexia Barrier finished 24th in a hard-fought campaign on TSE-4myplanet as the 41-year-old Mediterranean skipper showed great stamina and tenacity for a passage time of 111 days, 17 hours, 03 minutes. Her race always reflected her great enthusiasm and her huge appetite for life. Her race achieves her ongoing objective of publicizing her wider concern for the environment, promoting better, sustainable practices, backed up by an extensive education program for young people.

Seaexplorer YC de Monaco, skipper, Boris Herrmann (GER) with his family and dog. Photo Bernard from Le Bars/VG2020.

Her IMOCA 60 was launched in 1998 and Barrier extended its storied around the world racing history as it completed the seventh lap of the planet for a boat nicknamed “the Penguin” which was originally designed by Marc Lombard for Catherine Chabaud’s Vendée Globe 2000.

After the start she is quickly into her rhythm and regardless of the tough conditions of the first few days Barrier is always pushing hard and usually smiling and in harmony with her older boat. “It requires a lot of attention, trimming and adjustments and is very physical but dependable, but I love my Penguin!” Barrier said.

During the race Alexia turned 41. “There is no better way to spend a birthday than at sea,” but on Feb. 15, a little over a week before the arrival at the finish she had a bad fall while dressing and hurt her back.

Unfortunately, Barrier was immobilized by the intense pain to the end, but true to herself she pushes her injured body until she achieves her goal, completing the race wearing her big smile and her head held high. “I am not fed up about my back. I will soon have completed my Vendée Globe and that’s all that matters,” Barrier said.

After being forced to abandon her race on Dec. 5 following a violent collision with a floating object south of Cape Town two days earlier, British Skipper Sam Davies sailed to the finish to beautiful spring sunshine to complete an inspirational round the world passage and fulfill her pledge to complete the Vendée Globe.

By continuing and completing the out-of-the race circumnavigation Davies maintained the huge public support for the Initiatives-Coeur project. Her efforts across the whole Vendée Globe circumnavigation project has raised enough money to fund over 100 surgeries for people in need.

Pip Hare on Medallia has been challenged more than most as she has had to change out a broken rudder in the middle of the Southern Ocean miles away from any port of call. Photo courtesy of Pip Hare/VG2020.

Considered by many race experts to have had the potential to finish on the podium, the hugely experienced 46-year-old Davies was in great shape among the leading peloton, sailing at over 20 knots on the night when the collision occurred. Her IMOCA 60 Initiatives-Coeur was stopped instantly by the sudden impact which threw her across the inside of her boat, injuring her ribs.

Davies dealt with the huge disappointment as best she could, her perfectly planned and executed four-year campaign having been halted in an instant. But 36 hours later when speaking in the sunshine in the shadow of Cape Town’s Table Mountain, she pledged to return to sea and complete her solo voyage if her boat could be repaired and made safe.

“In my head the race was dead. I had stopped sailing, I had retired, I already could picture myself at home getting ready to pick up our 9-year-old son, Ruben, from school and being back to making food at home,” said Davies. “And then after 24 hours had passed in this decompression chamber where I needed to be saying to myself; “I’m quitting, I’m retiring, and well instead of that I changed my mind. I came to my senses.

“I will remember that nothing is impossible,”said Alexis Barrier skipper of TSE – 4myPlanet. Photo courtesy of Vincent Curutchet/Alea.

“Every trip around the world is different. You can never know what will happen to you. In my Vendée Globes I have had three totally different experiences, all incredible,” said Davies. “I think it was during this edition that I went through the most emotions. After the collision it turned into an adventure, a real human challenge. It was no small feat to rebuild stuff, to fix the keel in such a short time, in an unfamiliar place.

“It is obvious,” said Davies. “Finishing the course out of the race makes sense. Initiatives-Coeur is a solidarity project. And that’s what gives me the strength and the energy to start again.”

Her technical team worked around the clock to effect repairs, and were supported by a posse of local Cape Town ocean racers who worked tirelessly as she was on her way about a week and a half later.

“It is a new adventure. I am not used to sailing solo like this. I am super happy to be able to restart like this,” said Davies. “The main objective is to continue for Initiatives-Coeur and I can see where the others are, but it is not my objective to catch them. I am not putting myself under pressure to catch anyone.”

British solo Skipper Pip Hare, 47, fulfilled the dream that she has held since she was a teenage sailor in her native East Anglia, England when she crossed the finish line to take an excellent 19th place.

After 95 days, 11 hours, 37 minutes and 30 seconds of racing, Hare is the first British skipper to finish the 2020-21 race, and only the eighth woman ever to finish the Vendée Globe in its history. Her performance was on a 21-year-old IMOCA, the oldest boat yet to finish.

“She is a ray of sunshine, what she is doing in incredible,” is how veteran French ocean racer Jean Le Cam, who finished fourth in this race, described Hare, while Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm, who built Hare’s boat over 20 years ago, described her as “my hero.”

Her race was not without drama, and she overcame a significant technical problem in the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Replacing one of her rudders in big seas and 25 knots of wind allowed her to stay in the race and remain close to a group of four faster rivals, all sailing a newer generation of foiling boats, which she had worked hard to pass.

She lost one of her hydrogenators early on, and that meant keeping all her diesel reserves for power generation which meant no heating. So, she had to ride out the discomfort of being wet, cold and damp in the south.

Her most annoying performance setback came in early January when her wind sensor failed. The cups stopped rotating and the boat crash gybed as the information being sent to the autopilot stopped. Having lost her second wand during the first big front a few days after the start, this became a major issue as she could no longer have the pilot steer on wind mode and had no accurate wind information.

Indeed, in the big winds that followed, she compared notes with Alan Roura and with Boissieres. This situation left her almost always on a high state of alert. From there on, the sharpness of her attack was definitely dulled.

“But I put my big girl pants on and went looking for a solution,” said Hare. “This race and solo sailing forces me to be the best version of myself. Storms pass, the weather changes.

“There’s always a chance to get things better and do things better. I try to stay positive when things seem really difficult,” recounted Hare. “There’s a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely. I’ve chosen to be here and have messages of support every day. I feel so privileged to be able to compete in this race when other athletes had their events cancelled.”

Thanks to all at Vendée Globe and America’s Cup Event media teams for their contributions to this column! Write or wrong I’m at