America’s Cup teams vote in favour of racing in smaller yachts
by Risa Merl
The majority of teams competing in the 35th America’s Cup have voted in favour of switching to smaller, wing-sailed, foiling catamarans.
The move is aimed at reducing costs and attracting more teams to participate in the America’s Cup 2017 and future installments of the event.
An official statement from the organisers of the America’s Cup reveals that the new yachts to be raced in will be between 45 and 50 feet. This is closer to the size of the AC45 boats the teams have been currently practicing in rather than the larger AC62 boats that were previously laid out in the protocol. An updated Protocol and Class Rule will be released this week.
The dramatic rule change could mean many more teams for America’s Cup 2017 as the new class of racing yachts will cost much less over the life of a Cup campaign, both short and long-term by saving money in design, build and operations.
“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.
Meanwhile, Oracle Team USA Skipper Jimmy Spithill admits it wasn't an easy decision to make this far into the campaign for the next Cup, “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 team principal at Ben Ainslie Racing and Boat International contributor Ben Ainslie backs up Spithill's design argument, commenting, “The America's Cup - like Formula One - has to be a design race as well as a race on the water. That has always been part of the Cup’s appeal. That is what attracts some of the world’s best engineers.”
The vote was passed with a majority vote from six current teams in a Competitor Forum. A majority of teams also voted that there was a preference that all racing take place in Bermuda for the 2017 event, which the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) will consider when choosing venues for the America’s Cup Qualifiers.
The move to the smaller America’s Cup yachts was opposed by Luna Rossa and Team Emirates New Zealand, with the Italian America's Cup team threatening to drop out unless the vote was unanimous.
New Zealand, however, opposed the change as it also called for Auckland to lose its America’s Cup Qualifier event. Under the original protocol, Auckland was to be announced as a Qualifier venue 15 February, 2015. The new vote calls to push this date back to April and nullify the agreement to host a Qualifier event in the City of Sails. Emirates Team New Zealand has now filed an application to have Auckland re-instated, “in the belief that ACEA has breached their signed agreement and protocol obligations by discarding Auckland,” says team CEO Grant Dalton.
Cup organisers are optimistic about the new rule change, with America’s Cup Commercial Commissioner Harvey Schiller commenting, “The move to the new America's Cup Class is a major step forward for the America’s Cup. 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.”