Coronavirus outbreak postpones America’s Cup racing

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Racing in the America’s Cup challenger series will be delayed by at least a day after a community outbreak of COVID-19 Sunday forced Auckland city into limited lockdown.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Auckland will move into Level 3 lockdown after three community cases were detected in a southern suburb, the first since August in New Zealand’s largest city.

The lockdown means schools and public venues including the America’s Cup village will be closed and residents are advised to work from home and “act with a high degree of caution.”

Crowds at sports events will not be allowed, at least for 72 hours. Ardern said of planned public gatherings “if you can, postponement is the best thing at this point.”

Italy’s Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli leads Britain’s INEOS Team UK 4-0 in the first-to-seven-win Prada Cup final series, after winning both races on the second day of the series Sunday. Racing was due to continue on Wednesday but America’s Cup organizers have announced a postponement will be necessary.

In a statement Sunday organizers said because of the lockdown announcement “initially for 72 hours, the next scheduled race day has been postponed and the event will not be open to the public during this time.”

Organizers said they will work with “authorities and relevant agencies over the next few days to work through the necessary ramifications.”

New Zealand has been only lightly touched by the coronavirus pandemic and until Sunday life went on as normal with no restrictions on gatherings and unlimited crowds at sports events. New Zealand has had only 26 deaths as a result of COVID-19.

Races in the challenger series so far have been watched by a large flotilla of spectator boats on the water and by substantial crowds at viewing areas on shore.

Team UK skipper Ben Ainslie said the teams had enjoyed the freedom afforded by recent New Zealand’s COVID-free status.

“We’re very fortunate to be out here and doing a yacht race which we all love,” he said. “It’s a difficult situation.

“To be perfectly honest I don’t know what the restrictions are, I’ve just picked up the news. But obviously we’ll do whatever the authorities advise us to do. Of course it’s more important that people are safe and healthy.”

Racing in 36th America’s Cup cleared to begin next week

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Racing in the 36th match for sailing’s America Cup between defender Team New Zealand and Italian challenger Luna Rossa will begin next Wednesday after the relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown regulations in host city Auckland.

The Cup Match was due to begin Saturday but was pushed back to Wednesday when Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, moved to alert level 3 after a small community outbreak.

The outbreak is now thought contained and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced Auckland will move to alert level 2 from Sunday. That will allow racing to take place in the best-of-13 race Match, albeit without crowds at the Cup village or fan zones ashore.

Two races will be sailed on Wednesday with an off-day Thursday. Racing will continue on the next four days — March 12 to 15 — and continue each day afterwards until one team has won seven races.

Auckland COVID outbreak forces America’s Cup postponement

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The first weekend of sailing in the America’s Cup has been postponed after new COVID-19 cases were reported in Auckland. It is now not likely to begin until March 10.

Auckland was placed in limited lockdown for seven days from 6 a.m. Sunday with travel restrictions into and out of New Zealand’s largest city, strict limits on public gatherings, and a ban on sports events.

The 36th match for the America’s Cup between Team New Zealand and Italy’s Luna Rossa was due to begin next Saturday. America’s Cup Events chairwoman Tina Symmans said Sunday the decision had been made early to give participants “some certainty in planning.

The alert level changes were announced late Saturday after two new coronavirus cases were located in the community which could not directly be linked to earlier cases. Auckland recently returned to level 1 after a small community cluster of infections.

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

Races in the America’s Cup challenger series took place this month without crowds when Auckland was at level 2. A government exemption would be needed and strict protocols would have to be in place for racing to take place at level 3.