Teams were allowed to launch their AC Class race boats almost two weeks ago, but no one did. Why not? It’s not only the holiday schedule. The rules changed. Again. All teams must pick 28 consecutive days when they do not sail their AC Class yachts. If they take their blackout days after launching, they may not work on their boat during the blackout period. So the only logical thing to do is to take your blackout period before launching. A quick look at a calendar lets us figure that the four teams already in Bermuda – Oracle, Japan, Artemis and BAR – should launch on Monday 6 February. This will leave them 109 days to develop and learn to sail their race boat before the first day of racing on Friday 26 May.
Why the rule change? It is probably part of making amends to Team New Zealand for ACEA pulling the round robin AC Qualifiers out of Auckland back in March 2015. Read about that dispute here. Confidentiality rules prevent the teams from confirming that the Arbitration Panel awarded damages to ETNZ. ETNZ will use the blackout period to ship their boat to Bermuda. Groupama Team France will do the same. Rules geeks who want all the details can download the most recent Protocol here and read Article 35.5.