The squabble over wind limits for the 36th America's Cup in Auckland next year raises an intriguing question - is Luna Rossa building a boat that will perform better only in lighter airs or are they trying to restrain Emirates Team New Zealand's capabilities? Or both?
That's one piece of speculation arising from the headbutting between Luna Rossa, the Challenger of Record and long-time ally of Team New Zealand, who will defend the Cup in March 2021.
The Italian syndicate want upper wind limits set at 20 knots for the challenger series (where the winning challenger earns the right to take on Team NZ in the Cup match) and 22 knots for that Cup match. Team NZ want the upper limits set at 24 knots.
The Italians' stance and observations of their first boat suggests they may field an AC75 with smaller foils, potentially making it quick but also more difficult to control, especially in stronger winds.
The conclusion which might be drawn is that the Italians are setting their sights on winning the challenger series (which could see lighter airs in January 2021) and hope for suitably light winds for the Cup match. Or, if they suspect Team NZ are fashioning a boat more adept in more robust conditions, they could be seeking to curb the Kiwis' advantage.
The downside of seeking lower wind limits is that more races are postponed. In the San Francisco America's Cup in 2013, downscaled wind limits saw only 11 challenger races completed in the first six weeks. That's not counting the "races" where only one boat competed. That, too, was a challenger series with three challengers (including Luna Rossa).
When multi-million dollar racing yachts sit idle because there is "too much wind", sailors grate their teeth, even with safety considerations, and television audiences reach for the remote control.
A boat geared for lighter airs may also be a bit of a gamble. The last time the America's Cup was in Auckland — in 2003 — there were many more challengers (nine, including Luna Rossa) and the challenger series had to start in October when winds were obviously liable to be stronger.
In late February 2003, Team NZ's ill-fated boat, NZL 82, broke its mast in strong winds and rough sea conditions in a campaign which saw them defeated 5-0 by Alinghi in the Cup match, with the Cup lost to New Zealand until Team NZ won it back in Bermuda.
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This time, the challenger series will be from January to February 2021. In theory, lighter winds will apply but anything can happen in Auckland's unpredictable weather. That's why five different courses have been earmarked, so racing can proceed as much as possible.
Also, in Bermuda, teams could change their foils on the day of a race after checking out the weather and sea conditions. In Auckland next year, however, the foils will have to be declared five days ahead of racing.
The impasse has now been referred to the Cup's arbitration panel who will oversee a mediation process.
As soon as the panel are involved, America's Cup teams go into communications lockdown - but it will be intriguing to see if anything emerges to show if Luna Rossa are acting in self-interest. The Challenger of Record is supposed to act on behalf of all challengers but recent media reports have made it seem the two other confirmed challengers, American Magic and Ineos Team UK, were not involved in Luna Rossa's championing of the proposed 20-knot limit.
American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson (who called the wind limits "soft") said the team was unhappy to read various reports that said it and Ineos had any say in the matter: "These decisions are between the Challenger of Record and defender, and we have zero say in it."