New-look America's Cup set for 2013 on catamarans link
In a revamp of the world's oldest international sporting competition, the next America's Cup regatta, in 2013, will use "cutting-edge" catamarans instead of the traditional monohulls.
The new "action-packed" format for the event is designed to appeal to "the Facebook generation, not the Flintstone generation," Russell Coutts, the CEO of America's Cup defenders Oracle, told a news conference here on Monday.
The 72-foot (22-metre) wing-sail catamarans will be "pretty special, very powerful and very demanding," the four-time America's Cup winning New Zealander added.
America's Cup regattas traditionally use the much larger monohulls.
But the last edition, held in the Spanish Mediterranean port of Valencia in February, was a best-of-three multihull duel between the US syndicate Oracle and Switzerland's defending champion Alinghi.
That match, won by Oracle, was the result of more than two years of legal wrangling between the two teams -- owned respectively by US software tycoon Larry Ellison and Swiss biotech billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli -- which many felt had tarnished the sport's image.
Coutts said in planning the new-look 34th edition of the Cup, the organisers "looked beyond sailing" and talked to leaders of NBA basketball, Nascar and Formula One auto racing and European Champions League football.
In June, organisers carried out tests off the coast of Valencia involving multihulls and monohulls to see what works best for television audiences.
Coutts said the AC72 catamarans, which can zip round the racecourse with one hull in the air, will "produce great match-racing" and "open the door to other teams from elsewhere in sailing who have never contemplated the America's Cup before".
They will "reconnect the America's Cup with young sailors and encourage a new larger audience to turn on and tune in," he said, adding that many of the potential challengers "see it as a chance to level the playing field".
Pete Melvin, a champion multihull sailor, said the new catamarans will produce "competitive, fast high-adrenaline racing, creating a more exciting competition".
As part of the overhaul of yachting's premier event, which dates back to 1851, Coutts also announced that a "new annual America's Cup World Series.., featuring the cutting-edge catamaran, will deliver exciting racing to new audiences" from 2011.
He also said a new "Youth America's Cup" will take place from 2012 and "media output will be revolutionised" with "on-board cameramen".
The regatta itself will feature a "shorter action-packed race format" and 11 crewmen per yacht, six fewer than in the monohulls.
"We need to capture and communicate the excitement that our sport can produce," Coutts said.
"We could have pressed the repeat button and organised the 34th America's Cup much the same" as the 32rd America's Cup, held in Valencia in 2007, the last edition of the event to follow the traditional, multichallenger format.
"Then, the boats were relatively even and some of the racing was great. Even so, when we looked into it deeply, the commercial and media returns fell well short of a coherent and cohesive model that would create sustainable teams and encourage sponsors to plan for the long term."
He said limits on the numbers of boats, sails and equipment will also bring down costs for the competitors.
Coutts, one of the world's most successful sailors, said Oracle would announce the host city for the 34th edition by the end of the year.
San Francisco, where Oracle is based, is widely seen as the preferred venue, but Valencia and a port near Rome as well as a site in the Middle East have also been cited in press reports as possibilities.
He also confirmed that the protocol for the next edition envisages an "independent body that will run the competition", the America's Cup Race Management.
This "international jury" will have "wide-ranging powers" and "will quickly end any of the show-stopping disputes that we have seen in the past," he said, referring to Oracle's legal battle with Alinghi.
The official race protocol for the 34th America's Cup was signed Monday by Oracle and Italian syndicate Mascalzone Latino, the official "challenger of record", which has the right to help organise the event.
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