Covid 19 coronavirus: America’s Cup: what fans need to know about watching racing under level 2

New Zealand pride goes on the line today when America’s Cup racing begins yet fans wanting to catch a glimpse of the action from the shore are likely better off heading to a TV screen.

That’s the message from organisers due to Auckland’s Covid-19 alert level 2 restrictions.

Today’s racing between defender Team New Zealand and Italian challenger Luna Rossa will begin from 4.15pm on either race course A, offshore from Takapuna in Auckland’s North Shore, or race course E,east of the city near Maraetai.

Those courses were chosen because they were “least likely to attract crowds on-land”, being further from shore or further from Auckland, officials said.

Events at the America’s Cup Race Village had also been cancelled, with big screen TVs no longer broadcasting live action from the harbour to prevent gatherings of more than 100 people and keep spectators 2m apart.

Despite that, sailing fans watching the action from out on the water were expected to flood the harbour with recreational boats, while the city’s pubs and restaurants would also be flinging their doors open.

“Covid-19 has showed us the importance of supporting local, so if you’re looking for a way to watch this week, why not head to your favourite bar, restaurant or cafe screening the action,” Auckland Unlimited’s general manager – destinations Steve Armitage said.

The dour Covid restrictions are far from the way most people envisaged Team New Zealand’s defence of the Auld Mug taking place when it was first announced Auckland would host.

Most expected the city to be awash in Cup parties and its marinas inundated with the super yachts of the rich and famous.

Auckland Unlimited’s Armitage hoped the city would be back to alert level 1 settings by the weekend when racing is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday and that live Cup events could return.

“We have a big weekend of action planned, including the resumption of many of our Summernova events if we shift to alert level 1,” he said.

“Plus of course a very special virtual performance from Sir Rod Stewart in the lead-up to Saturday’s racing.”

In the meantime, today’s two races between 4pm-6pm as well as Friday’s two races would take place under level 2 restrictions.

And while activities were cancelled at the Cup Village, it would still be open as “a public space and public thoroughfare”, a spokesman for America’s Cup Events, which holds the licence to operate the race, said.

“Areas within the village are zoned for maximum capacity reasons at any given time irrespective of and under Covid level conditions,” he said.

“If capacity in a particular zone is reached, full house arrangements will be in place and access restricted.”

There would not be any cordoned off areas to ensure people were restricted to gathering of no more than 100 people, he said.

“The America’s Cup Events security team will be monitoring congregations of the public and encouraging social distancing,” the spokesman said.

The security team would report any issues back to a control room, who would then contact the police if and when required.

“The ACE Security team will be managing overall security at the village but ultimate responsibility will rest with police.”

Police would also be present at the village.

Nearby pubs and restaurants would be open but required to operate under level 2 restrictions, including having tables kept 1m apart.

While Auckland Unlimited wasn’t encouraging people to gather on-shore to watch today’s racing, it would monitor Kennedy Park in Castor Bay where it had earlier roped off stairs as a health and safety measure if race course A was chosen.

A planned fanzone at Takaparawhau, or Bastion Pt, below the Ōrākei Marae would also only operate if Auckland returned to a level 1 setting.

The spectator fleet, meanwhile, would be able to operate safely on the water with individual captains responsible for ensuring physical distancing and contact tracing takes place on-board, officials said.

That included charter boats taking guests out to watch the racing.

Maritime NZ northern compliance manager Neil Rowarth also reminded boaties it was crucial to wear lifejackets and keep a safe speed.

“If you’re the skipper, you’re legally responsible for the safety of the boat and everyone on board,” he said.

“The maximum speed permitted for all boats is 5 knots – about 9 kilometres an hour – within 200 metres of shore and within 50 metres of any other boat or swimmer.”

“There is also a 5 knot speed restriction within the harbour and in the vicinity of the race course.”

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