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36th America’s Cup: First weekend of racing postponed due to Auckland COVID-19 lockdown

Auckland has moved back into a COVID-19 Level 3 lockdown; the first and second race days of the America’s Cup Match, which were due to take place on March 6 and 7, have been postponed. The event organisers are working with the authorities to create an updated racing schedule

By Emma Thurston

The first weekend of the 36th America’s Cup Match between Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli has been postponed, the competition organisers announced on Sunday.

The first-to-seven-points series between the New Zealand and Italian teams was set to begin on March 6 and 7, live on Sky Sports.

However, due to the host city Auckland moving into a seven-day COVID-19 Level 3 lockdown from 6am on Sunday, February 28, the organisers decided to take early action regarding the schedule of races.

In a statement, America’s Cup Event Ltd (ACE) said that the reason for their early decision was to ‘provide at least some certainty, in planning for all event stakeholders with regard to next weekend initially’.

The competition organisers will continue to work closely with the authorities to understand the next steps for the city, with regard to COVID-19 regulations, and how this might impact the rest of the schedule for the America’s Cup Match.

In New Zealand, under Alert Level 3, individuals must stay at home and work from home if they can. There are regulations around social distancing and face coverings. Gatherings are not permitted, meaning that crowds would not have been able to attend the opening days of the America’s Cup Match.

Back at Alert Level 1, New Zealanders ‘need to be ready in case COVID-19 reappears in the community’. Face coverings must be worn on public transport and domestic flights, but there aren’t restrictions in place regarding gatherings of people.

“ACE has always said that it wishes to hold as much of the racing under Level 1 restrictions as possible,” Symmans said.

“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, Wednesday, March 10.

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

This is the second time the America’s Cup schedule has had to be adaptable due to COVID-19. The first time was during the PRADA Cup Final between Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and INEOS TEAM UK.

On that occasion, conversations regarding the new schedule were intense, after different positions were taken by the Challenger of Record versus INEOS TEAM UK and the America’s Cup Event Ltd.

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