America's Cup challengers frustrated with NZ Govt as Covid-19 holds up entering country

America’s Cup challengers are getting concerned about the lack of clarity from the New Zealand Government over whether they’ll be able to enter the country in order to prepare for upcoming regattas later this year.

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Lester said there are challenges in place for the lead-in regattas but he believes the big event in March should be okay. Source: Breakfast

Despite the America’s Cup not taking place until next year, the Covid-19 pandemic has still managed to affect the prestigious event.

The calendar now sees teams squeezing in warmup races in Auckland in December ahead of the Prada Cup challenger series in January and February 2021. If everything stays on schedule, the winner of that will then go on to meet Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup match in March.

But before racing can begin, the teams need to get into New Zealand and British challenger INEOS Team UK is concerned over the lack of certainty they have to enter the country to begin preparations.

Those preparations include transporting their two boats to Auckland and building their team base – things INEOS Team UK CEO Grant Simmer said will take time.

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Grant Simmer is a fan of the AC75s to be raced in the 2021 America's Cup. Source: Supplied

“Already we need to get a forward party of people there to get the base set up and to start things happening,” Simmer said in a Zoom interview with yachting commentator Peter Shipway at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.

"Dalts [Grant Dalton] and his team [at Team New Zealand] have consistently said, ‘we want to hold the cup on schedule’. The New Zealand Government have been quite silent on that which is frustrating to ourselves, the Americans and the Italians. They haven't come out and said that it is definitely on,” Simmer said.

“The Australians in the teams don't need a work visa to work in New Zealand, but they [the NZ Government] haven't told us they are going to give us [non-Australian team members] work visas. So we don't know when we can enter New Zealand.

"All governments have got more important things on their plate than the America's Cup. But we are hoping they could spend a moment to give us an indication that tells us when our work visas can be processed, and when we can get into New Zealand. It is hard for us to plan without that advice."

British America's Cup syndicate INEOS Team UK test their AC75. Source: Supplied

The Government’s current restrictions mean only New Zealand residents are allowed into the country, meaning America’s Cup teams will need dispensation if those rules aren’t relaxed.

US challenger American Magic, who is backed by the New York Yacht Club, echoed Team UK’s concerns, Simmer said.

"They [the US team] are getting a bit sh***y with the Kiwis. But we're playing a competitive game, and I don't think the Kiwis are in any hurry to tell us when those visas are going to be issued and when in fact we can go to New Zealand.

"There is no question that when we get there, we're going to have to quarantine for 14 days.”

Simmer said he had no issue with the protocols in place – he just wanted to know more about them.

"I would stress that the New Zealand Government have done a good job in locking the place down. They have got to protect the population first and foremost, and our event may not be high on their priorities. But it would be nice to get a little bit of news so that we can plan with some surety."

Italian Challenger of Record Luna Rossa have indicated they will continue training in Sardinia with an eye on an October arrival in Auckland.