Revamped America’s Cup proposed to usher new era
America’s Cup racing could be back in Bermuda as early as October after preliminary agreement was reached yesterday to amend regulations so that the “Auld Mug” can be put up for grabs every two years.
The move, which at this stage would affect the 36th and 37th editions of the America’s Cup in 2019 and 2021, is aimed at reducing the downtime between cycles and providing an appeal to rival that of the glitzy world of Formula One grand-prix motor racing.
While the agreement hinges on approval from Emirates Team New Zealand, the only team not represented at the launch in London’s House of Garrard, the America’s Cup Event Authority will be busy over the next six months forming partnerships with venues, sponsors and media partners to secure up to 12 World Series events by the time AC36 swings fully into gear.
“This is a hugely significant moment for the America’s Cup,” said Sir Russell Coutts, chief executive officer of the ACEA and a five-times winner of the Cup.
“For the first time in more than 165 years, the teams have got together for the benefit of not only themselves but for the America’s Cup.”
With a nod to the controversy that led to the withdrawal of Italian team Luna Rossa, the framework agreement makes clear that the America’s Cup Class boat will be fixed as the racing craft of the future — but not before a phasing-out of the existing AC45F foiling catamaran halfway through the next cycle.
The rarely quoted Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle Team USA and the man behind the vision to move the sport to foiling multihulls, said: “People who want to enter this race now know how much it will cost, what kind of boat they need to build and that the rules can’t change on them.
“They are now able to plan ahead, build a boat, build a team and come out and compete for their country.”
Also ditched will be the Qualifiers, with the top four teams from the World Series — the final event of which would be held at the host venue for the America’s Cup Match — going straight into the Challengers Play-offs.
With several more teams expected than the existing six, after the early withdrawal of Australia and the later more controversial departure of Italy, an elongated qualifying period runs counter to the cost-saving approach that the America’s Cup family seek.
“The target cost to field a competitive new team is in the $30 million to $40 million range, a significant reduction from current team budgets,” Martin Whitmarsh, the Land Rover BAR chief executive, said.
“Emirates Team New Zealand is not here today, but they have been kept updated on all developments throughout the creation of the framework agreement,” Whitmarsh said.
“We remain optimistic that they will come on board in the future. It is clear that co-operation is better for all of the stakeholders in the America’s Cup.”
Jimmy Spithill, the Oracle skipper who masterminded a sensational comeback in 2013 that at a stroke reignited the global appeal of the America’s Cup, said: “This announcement will go down as one of the defining moments in America’s Cup history. It’s great for fans, athletes and commercially — a win-win for everyone. This is a huge step forward, with the sky the limit.”
Sir Ben Ainslie, team principal and skipper of Land Rover BAR, believes the agreement is pivotal to the event’s future.
“The cup has an incredible history over more than 165 years, but now the teams and the America’s Cup Event Authority can actually start planning for the future,” Ainslie said.