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Having started out as straightforward enough, the year 2020 has obviously been completely turned on its head for everyone globally thanks to COVID-19. It has certainly done its best to disrupt Emirates Team New Zealand’s preparations for its 36th America’s Cup campaign.
In a parallel world, by now the team would have competed in two America’s Cup World Series events in Cagliari, Sardinia and Portsmouth, England, and subsequently had a valuable idea of where they stood in relation to all the challengers on the race course in their first generation of boat, as attention turns to the main event in Auckland this summer.
Instead, the first AC75 ‘Te Aihe’ has been in transit and on ships all the way to Italy and back since January, and is just about to hit the Waitematā Harbour once again, finally.
As it was for all New Zealand, the team spent four weeks in Alert Level 4 lockdown. The build and production of the second AC75 stopped for five weeks, losing more than 8,000 man hours on its construction that now have to be made up to keep to the team’s critical timelines.
After a six-week hibernation, ‘Te Kahu’ (the half-size test boat) got back on the water and resumed its vital role in the overall development programme, testing a number of new ideas and developments in systems and appendages.
If there is one thing that is guaranteed in the America’s Cup, it is to expect the unexpected, and COVID-19 has certainly thrown the biggest cat amongst the pigeons that the event has seen in a long, long time. On the face of it the pandemic has contributed to a significant raft of unforeseen challenges for all the teams that are both in and out of their control. A more optimistic approach might be to consider the opportunities it could bring in the way the teams react and adapt and the decisions they make in design, testing, logistics and planning day by day.
The team best able to deal with the unpredictable will probably be the team with the America’s Cup held high above their heads in March 2021.
In that respect this America’s Cup almost seems normal – just with the more immediate challenge of navigating the global battle with COVID-19.