America’s Cup: American Magic boss Terry Hutchinson on why Team New Zealand will struggle with Cup ‘challenges’

American Magic skipper and CEO Terry Hutchinson thinks a Deed of Gift challenge in the United Kingdom next year for the 37th America’s Cup would be a “massive step backwards” for the competition.

It’s understood IneosTeam UK owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton are entertaining the idea of a Deed of Gift challenge on the Isle of Wight in 18 months with a guarantee that whoever wins would then defend the Cup in Auckland in 2024.

That would generate European time zone exposure for the AC75s and it’s also thought financial security for Team New Zealand, by effectively selling the Cup venue to the UK billionaire.

On the eve of his departure to his home in Annapolis, Maryland, after nine months in Auckland, Hutchinson has raised concerns about the idea.

“From a sporting perspective [a Deed of Gift match] would be disappointing and a regatta in England in 18 months is a logistical challenge,” Hutchinson told the Herald.

Hutchinson felt the New York Yacht Club would be keen to continue with the American Magic programme even if the Cup went in the direction of a match between the Challenger of Record and the defender in the UK next year.

“If the competition goes that way then it’s disappointing, but that’s out of our control and that’s the America’s Cup – you have to look at it with all the optics of it. If it went in that direction you have to see what the landscape is for what is being proposed [in Auckland] in 2024 and make a decision on the viability to win the regatta.”

However Hutchinson is sceptical about the viability of such a regatta, saying it would be “fraught with logistical challenges”.

“You are talking about a boat that is 80,000 man hours to build,” Hutchinson said. “Both teams have to go back to England and set up the infrastructure they have to build the boats, they have to sea-trial the boats and go through all that. We know that if its 18 months from today you have three more months of fluff because there is still negotiations going on between Team NZ and the Government here, nothing is set in stone and the only thing that is happening is the time gets shortened.”

Hutchinson leaves New Zealand with mixed feelings. The pain of American Magic’s catastrophic capsize still burns and there is a genuine feeling of ‘what if?’ Hutchinson firmly believes Patriot was the best boat among the challengers, but the fact the boat only raced eight times has left Hutchinson with a sense of unfinished business.

“Given the opportunity we would definitely want to come back. It’s one of those situations where if it doesn’t kill you it’s only going to make you stronger.”

One of the three team principals, Doug DeVos is still holidaying in New Zealand with his family and is thought to be blown away by the AC75s and Hutchinson is optimistic DeVos, and fellow team principals Hap Fauth and Roger Penske, will be keen for another crack.

“I’m really confident they want to be involved. When we went into the 36th America’s Cup our eyes were open, but now they are more open to the whole picture. As a team we did a really good job navigating through the challenges we had. The mistake would be not to build on those things we did well and at the same thing not to learn from the things we did poorly, so it’s definitely unfinished business.”

Hutchinson, who was the public face of American Magic for weeks after their on-water disaster, looks back on his time in Auckland with tremendous gratitude.

“Our time in New Zealand has been phenomenal when you think about what has been going on in the world. We have been incredibly fortunate to be here. Obviously the regatta did not go anywhere near how we planned, and I think in retrospect we had planned for a lot of things to happen but the one thing we didn’t plan for is capsizing and putting a hole in the boat. In saying that I think the way our team responded to the situation was phenomenal and spoke volumes about the people inside and spoke volumes about our competitors and how they helped us out to get back on the water.”

For the most part Hutchinson is in favour of the new class rules that have been drawn up between Team New Zealand and Ineos Team UK. He says the move to make 100 per cent of the sailing team passport holders of the country they represent or having been resident there for the past three years is “a logical progression for the competition”.

“The original guiding principle of the Deed of Gift was this competition amongst nations and what has happened there is they’ve turned the sporting side back to a competition between nations. It’s hard not to favour that. That’s a great opportunity from a US sailing perspective to develop talent and continue to showcase our sailors.”

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