America’s Cup 2021: Ineos Team UK happy to defend America’s Cup in Auckland if they beat Team New Zealand in reported deed of gift regatta

Ineos Team UK owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe says no decisions have been made about the next host of the America’s Cup, but is open to returning to Auckland if his team won a reported Deed of Gift race on home waters.

Despite strong speculation suggesting the next regatta could take place in the Isle of Wight,Ratcliffe has told the Telegraph nothing has been signed off.

“I’d love to see it happen,” he told the Telegraph.

“I think it would be quite magical to have it in the UK after all this time, particularly after Covid. It would be a big thing for the UK, I think. But ultimately it’s up to the Kiwis.”

“I honestly think it would be a great success. You have to remember, due to Covid last year, which forced the cancellation of two planned events [in Cagliari and Portsmouth] nobody in the northern hemisphere has yet seen these boats in action live. They are absolutely incredible, believe me. I think people would be blown away, sailors and non-sailors alike.

“I think if there was effectively a duel between ourselves and the world’s dominant sailing force… I mean, the Kiwis are to sailingwhat the All Blacks are to rugby really… to take on the best in the world, on our home waters, 171 years after the America’s Cup was first raced there, would be quite something.”

Ratcliffe said if Ineos Team UK did take the Auld Mug off Team New Zealand, he’d be happy to defend it in New Zealand in 2024.

“I mean, it’s a bit quirky,” he admits. “But the Cup has always been a bit quirky. It wouldn’t be the first time there had been a duel. The first 100 years were typically duels. And we do genuinely want to level the playing field up, to reduce costs, to make it fairer on other entrants. Nothing would change as far as that’s concerned. I’m on record as saying I’d be keen to look at an independent governing body, to make it as fair as possible, although I accept I’m new to this and others with far more history in the Cup enjoy its quirkiness and history.”

With Ineos Team UK confirmed as the Challenger of Record for the 37th America’s Cup, the wheels are now in motion with preparations for the event, but in an exclusive interview, Ratcliffe told Newstalk ZB’s Matt Brown last week that there is still plenty to be decided.

“Where we’ll finish up and when we’ll finish up is still being debated. There are different potential scenarios. Whatever it will be, it will be a good Cup because I think these AC75s are so exciting and it’s a close competition.

“Everybody’s read the rumours in the press, and they’re things I’m not really at liberty to comment on,” Ratcliffe said. “All I can say is we’ll engage in discussions with Grant Dalton and his guys and hopefully we’ll come up with a good answer.”

Ratcliffe paid tribute to Team New Zealand for their victory over Luna Rossa in the America’s Cup match, and noted how difficult it is to topple the four-time Cup winners.

“It’s not just about money – money helps if you’re a well-funded team, but you guys really are the best sailing team in the world because you’ve got the best sailors and you produce the quickest boats in the world. You’ve got so much great sailing technology here and that’s quite difficult for us to replicate. It’s a challenge.”

The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron accepted the challenge from the Isle of Wight’s Royal Yacht Squadron last Wednesday when Team New Zealand crossed the finish line to win the 36th America’s Cup. The challenge was laid and accepted out on the water between the commodores of the clubs.

That challenge may take place overseas next year in a Deed of Gift match, with Dalton, Team NZ’s chief executive, telling TVNZ that taking the Cup to the Isle of Wight was on the cards.

“Certainly the Isle of Wight is an option,” Dalton said. “We want to come back, but we also have to think of the team and ultimately my responsibility is primarily to the welfare and the strength and the ability to defend the Cup.”

The groups will now work together to sort through the finer details of how the defence will look, with a location expected to be decided upon within the next six months, and the protocol for the 37th America’s Cup schedule to be revealed within the next eight months.

Some rules have already been established. The event will again be sailed on the AC75 class, with teams only allowed to build one new vessel. The class will be used for the next two America’s Cup regattas, and it is a condition of entry for teams to agree to this.

The defender and the Challenger of Record will also set out to investigate and establish a meaningful package of campaign cost reduction measures including measures to attract a higher number of challengers and to assist with the establishment of new teams.

This was a point of criticism on the 36th edition of the Cup, as only three challengers were able to fund their campaign to the point where they were able to make it onto the starting line in Auckland.

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