Racing in the Prada Cup final on Wednesday has been cancelled as Auckland moves back into level three lockdown for at least three days.
Just before the post race press conference was about to begin on Sunday, with Luna Rossa leading over INEOS Team UK 4-0, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Auckland would go into a level three lockdown at 11.59pm Sunday.
That lockdown period will come to an end at 11.59pm on Wednesday night and under those strict restrictions, it is not possible for the Prada Cup final to continue.
Raceboats will not be able to go on the water on Monday, while the details of onwater health protocols are clarified, but teams will be able to continue to operate within their own bases under Covid-19 guidelines.
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Depending on how the impact of the three latest cases evolves over the next days, the Prada Cup contest could resume on Thursday, a reserve day provided for in the schedule.
Event officials on Sunday night were working with the two challenger teams INEOS Team UK and Luna Rossa about how they can work over the next days.
INEOS Team UK skipper Sir Ben Ainslie said he had been told about the lockdown, on the way to the press conference.
“It’s bad news,” Ainslie said.
“It’s a timely reminder of just what the world is going through. We’re very fortunate to be out here and doing a yacht race, which we all love.
“It’s a difficult situation and to be perfectly honest I’m not entirely sure what the restrictions are.
“I just picked up the news coming across, but obviously, we’ll do whatever the authorities advise us to do. Of course, it’s more important the people are safe and healthy.”
In a statement put out from America’s Cup event chair Tina Symmans, the suspension of the Prada Cup final was confirmed.
“As a result of the government announcement of a level 3 lockdown in Auckland, 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,” the statement said.
“America’s Cup Event will be working with the authorities and relevant agencies over the next few days to work through the ongoing ramifications.”
Luna Rossa Helmsman Francesco Bruni did not think being restricted for the next days would affect the sporting side of the team.
“The weather is not good for the next days so I don’t think we would be able to race anyway, so we’d be into boat modification, and try to squeeze what we can from the boat,” Bruni said.
His co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill did not think a pause due to Covid-19 would favour one of the two teams more than the other.
“It’s the same for both teams, we’ll capitalise on the time to make some modifications to the boat – the rules are the same for both teams and either way we will be ready,” said Spithill.
When Auckland was in a level 3 lockdown last year, the teams were allowed to train, as long as they followed health and safety guidelines, with Team NZ using specially made social-distancing alarm devices.
In August, Team NZ said its talks with government department MBIE in April outlined that it was a commercial business and that its on-water operations were a vital activity of the business.
This would have been the same situation with Luna Rossa, INEOS Team UK and American Magic.
During the last level 3 lockdown, Team NZ reduced staff numbers on its support boats
Rugby’s Blues are meant to play against the Crusaders at Eden Park on Saturday, in a Super Rugby preseason fixture, which also doubled as a rescheduling of the Super Rugby Aotearoa game cancelled last season, when Auckland was also in lockdown.
Whether this game goes ahead, in front of spectators, or behind closed doors will be determined over the next few days.