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America’s Cup~Majority Rules in Protocol and Class changes

The America’s Cup Events Authority has announced that the majority of the America’s Cup teams have agreed to make changes aimed at significantly reducing costs for the 2017 America’s Cup.

Central to these changes is the introduction of an exciting new America’s Cup Class – a wing-sailed, foiling catamaran between 45 and 50 feet, says a statement issued by ACEA.

The statement is notable for the absence of comment by the two most senior Challengers in the competition, Luna Rossa (Italy) and Emirates Team New Zealand.That would tend to indicate that the Challengers had voted by a 3-2 majority in favour of the move.Rules experts spoken to by Sail-World today doubted whether the Protocol could be changed in the way announced for the 35th America’s Cup. However given that there is no Arbitration body established under the Protocol which has been in existence for nine months, the teams would only have the option of resort to the New York Supreme Court. Of which the Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa had the strongest case to be heard. The other options for disaffected teams would be to withdraw from the regatta, or get on with the revised event.

There was no comment immediately available from Emirates Team NZ or Luna Rossa. No reaction is expected from the two teams until later in the day in Europe.

Auckland would appear to be set to lose the Qualifier given that the majority of the teams had voted for a single venue. A final announcement on that is expected later.

Later Team New Zealand advised by social media that they had filed for Arbitration on the Qualifier issue and would be continuing to work with ACEA and the competitors to bring the Qualifier to Auckland.

It is not known with which body the team has filed for Arbitration as no adjudication arrangements have been announced for the 35th America’s Cup. Article 11 of the Protocol establish an Arbitration Panel however its authority to consider issues is constricted by the Protocol and all decisions of the Commercial Commissioner are excluded from the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Panel.

America's Cup~Majority Rules in Protocol and Class changes

Commercial Commissioner Harvey Schiller – © ACEA /Gilles Martin-Raget

“The move to the new America’s Cup Class is a major step forward for the America’s Cup,” said Commercial Commissioner Harvey Schiller, following the vote. 

“Collectively, the teams have agreed current costs are neither justified, nor sustainable, and a majority have together taken a sensible course of action to cut costs. I believe this puts the America’s Cup on a firm foundation for today and for the future.” 

Crucially, the new class will cost much less over the life of a campaign, with potential savings across design, build and operations, making it a revolutionary cost-saving measure for the sport in both the short and long term. 

“The changes being made are to reduce the current costs and complexity which are barriers to new teams wishing to enter the America’s Cup,” said Iain Percy, the team manager for Artemis Racing. 

A majority of the current teams favored the new class, with the expectation it will be used in the next edition of the America’s Cup as well, in order to lower the barrier to entry – both technological and financial – to new teams. 

Looking towards the future, the new America’s Cup Class will put the event on a path towards economic sustainability. Numerous one-design components will focus the design effort on areas that have an impact on performance, cutting costs significantly, but not diminishing the design challenge. 

“The America’s Cup – like Formula One – has to be a design race as well as a race on the water,” noted Ben Ainslie, the team principal at Ben Ainslie Racing. “That has always been part of the Cup’s appeal. That is what attracts some of the world’s best engineers – people like Adrian Newey, who has shown a real passion for the design challenge of the America’s Cup.” 

“This wasn’t an easy process,” admitted ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill. “The established teams, ourselves included, were well down the path of designing an AC62. But there is a bigger picture to consider. We needed to bring the costs down, but we had to respect the design component of the event as that’s always been one of the biggest challenges in winning the America’s Cup.” 

The savings the competitors will realize in this edition of the Cup may spark additional entries, with at least one potential team from Asia expected to challenge and other international teams considering their options. 

“To be a global success, the America’s Cup needs to be accessible to the best teams, not just the biggest and wealthiest ones,” said Franck Cammas, the skipper of Team France. “So we must change in this way.” 

“While it’s true there are a few critics of this move, we have to adjust to the time. This is a rule that provides the essential of the America’s Cup – the design challenge, the sport, the athletic spectacle – without such a prohibitive cost,” said Olympic medalist Roland Gaebler who has been working to establish a German Challenge. “My focus had been on the next America’s Cup but with these changes we may be able to accelerate that.” 

The rule changes were passed by a majority vote of the Competitor Forum, comprising the six teams currently entered in the America’s Cup. An updated Protocol and a new Class Rule will be published this week. 

A majority of the teams has also now indicated a preference that all of the racing in 2017 be conducted at a single venue, Bermuda. The America’s Cup Event Authority will consider this in nominating a venue for the America’s Cup Qualifiers.


by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com NZL

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