America’s Cup 2021: Officials introduce rule changes following capsize of American Magic

Racing a new class of yacht in the hope of taking the America’s Cup out of Team New Zealand’s hands, the challenging fleet will take every chance to practice they can get.

Luna Rossa and Ineos Team UK will get an unexpected opportunity to do so this weekend as they line up for ‘ghost races’ during the Prada Cup.

The ‘ghost races’ have been implemented as a result of American Magic’s withdrawal from the weekend’s racing as they work to repair their damaged AC75 before the semifinals next week. Despite the American being unable to sail, the opposing teams cannot be awarded a point unless they show up to the starting line.

Once the race is started, it will be quickly terminated due to the absence of the Americans and the win given to the other team.

As Luna Rossa helmsman Francesco Bruni explains, the races are a welcome, if unexpected, opportunity for themselves and Ineos Team UK.

“It’s always good to have a little bit more practice without a lot of pressure. We will be checking all the systems, racing software and stuff.

“It’s always good to have a little bit more time in the water, so we’ve got no problems with it.”

Race director Iain Murray said while the ‘ghost races’ won’t officially last long, there’s no reason the teams can’t sail some laps of the course, but it was ultimately up to the teams to decide how they wanted to approach it.

Bruni said Luna Rossa planned to sail laps of the course while they have it to themselves.

“We probably won’t be pushing the boat to 100 per cent, but we’ll be trying to learn what we can learn. So, it’s going to be good, that part.”

The unopposed races are one of several changes to the regatta made by the race management team in the wake of American Magic’s capsize on Sunday which saw their AC75 ‘Patriot’ sustain a large hole in the hull.

A new, safety-focused rule will see a race abandoned the moment a boat capsizes in order to ensure all members on board are safe and accounted for.

Previously the rule said a boat would only be disqualified when it received outside assistance, so American Magic couldn’t be disqualified until five minutes after Patriot went over on its side on Sunday.

Murray said a review into the capsize suggested a number of safety opportunities could have been saved if the new capsize rule had been in place.

“It has become very clear to everyone that when a boat capsizes, it’s 99 per cent out of the race. We are trying to bring the safety forward to make it as efficient as we can,” Murray said on Friday.

“After reviewing what happened last weekend when they took nearly five minutes for that assistance to be given, we felt there was a four-minute window of opportunity that that help could have been directed straight at the yacht.

“We want to get there; we want to get a head count and make sure everything is alright. Our target is to do that within a minute, and we want to render assistance straight away.

“It’s a small change to the rule but automatically it allows people to get on the job.”

Meanwhile, changes have been made to the course area, with Course C off the coast of North Head altered to maximise viewing opportunities for fans on land.

The course has now been modified to allow it to include parts of Course B along the Takapuna and Milford area and Course D that runs along the eastern bays and out to Browns Island.

“It became obvious to me being here and looking at the winds and reviewing this on a daily basis that there’s a very good area in Course C and the priority for the regatta was to make it work in Course C,” Murray said.

Heading into the Cup racing?

• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the Cup.

• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It’s the best way to ride.

• Don’t forget to scan QR codes with the NZ COVID Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America’s Cup Village.

• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit

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