In a significant move, organisers of the America’s Cup have announced that the proposed AC62 race boat may be ditched in favour of smaller, cheaper AC45s, opening up the 2017 competition to new teams.
If confirmed, the change would dramatically reduce the budget required to compete in the America’s Cup. The original vision for the 2013 Cup was for a far deeper field – and hence more exciting racing – than ever before, and one of the few disappointments in a successful competition was how few teams made the start line – generally for commercial reasons.
“After reviewing prototypes of the new AC45 sports boats being tested on the water over the past several months, it is clear that if we raced smaller boats in 2017, we could dramatically reduce costs without sacrificing any of the spectacle or the design, engineering and athletic challenge fundamental to the America’s Cup,” said Commercial Commissioner Harvey Schiller.
Frank Cammas, skipper of Team France, said the proposals were a game changer: “We will be able to have a very competitive team for about half the budget. With the smaller boat we can imagine that a budget between €15-20 million would be enough to win the America’s Cup.”
In the official statement, Sir Ben Ainslie, skipper and team principal of Ben Ainslie Racing and a Boat International columnist, also expressed his support for the move, labelling it a “necessary” move that will still provide a real challenge for sailors and designers.
Iain Percy, team manager of Artemis Racing, added: “By making a commitment now to using the smaller boat next time, it will be that much easier for new teams to join as they’ll have access to existing boats and technology. So this has required us to look a little bit beyond the scope of ‘what’s in it for us?’”
The proposals were initially put forward to competitors early last year, but just two teams – ORACLE TEAM USA and Emirates Team New Zealand – gave their support. Now it seems that the majority of competitors have been won over after watching how the prototype AC45s perform.
The rule changes are being drafted and will be put to the teams for a vote before the end of March.