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Tuesday, January 03, 2017
Emirates Team NZ Win 28 Day Sailing Blackout

In a deal, apparently brokered by the anonymous Arbitration Panel, the Protocol for the 35th America's Cup has been modified to institute a 28 day blackout sailing period, beginning January 9, 2017.

The move follows a Hearing by the as yet unnamed Arbitration Panel for the 35th America's Cup, over the removal of the sailing of the America's Cup Qualifiers from New Zealand. Australian Sailing President Matt Allen is believed to be a member of the Panel, the chairman has to be an Arbitrator with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Decision by the Arbitration Panel has yet to be formally announced but has come down heavily on the side of Emirates Team New Zealand.

There has been no word on the decision on the remedies to be imposed by the Arbitration Panel to redress the losses suffered by Emirates Team New Zealand and others involved in the reallocation of the Qualifier regatta to Bermuda because of the team's support for the stand taken by former Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa, over the changes of the America's Cup class from an AC62 to an AC50 in late March 2015.

Then America's Cup Commissioner General Harvey Schiller took the action to remove the Qualifier Series previously allocated to Auckland, causing Emirates Team New Zealand to lose NZ Government financial support for the team and the Qualifier Series. The team, who have twice won and have competed in eight America's Cup campaigns also suffered sustained substantial damage to their credibility as a result of the moves, affecting their opportunities to raise sponsorship and investment funding.

Emirates Team New Zealand announced their intention to take the issue to then yet to be empanelled Arbitration Panel soon after the removal of the Qualifiers. Emirates Team NZ CEO, Grant Dalton claimed at the time that the move to change the America's Cup class to the smaller AC50 was linked to a deal to move the Qualifiers to Bermuda. Three of the five Challengers voted for the change to the AC50, with Emirates Team NZ and Luna Rossa being against. Defender Oracle Team USA approved of the change.

Before the Arbitration Panel Hearing, a year later, a draconian change was made the Protocol prohibiting the discussion of any matter before the Arbitration Panel - or even that a team was referring a matter to the three man Panel.

That loss of a major sponsor triggered a substantial financial and organisational restructuring of the New Zealand team, as well as disrupting plans to launch and build up in New Zealand for the Qualifier Series before four Challenger teams shipped to Bermuda for the Pay-offs and remainder of the America's Cup Regatta.

The financial cost to the team has never been spelled out - but is believed to be in the vicinity of $25million. The NZ Government invested $37million in the NZ team for the 34th America's Cup in San Francisco.

Due to an omission in the announcement of training dates between teams sailing in the Qualifier Venue in Bermuda, in addition to the 28 day Blackout, the teams will not be able to compete against each other at all in the build up to the America's Cup Qualifiers starting on May 27, 2017. The wording of the Protocol on this issue would tend to indicate that Oracle Team USA and Softbank Team Japan, or any other team, could no longer collaborate on their development and design programs either on top of the new Blackout provisions.
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