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America's Cup- Competitors Forum breaks up on a promise

by Richard Gladwell on 31 May 2011
Oracle Racing and Artemis Racing, as Defender and Challenger of Record have the final say on the rules and conduct for the 34th America’s Cup ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget © http://photo.americascup.com/

The competitors in the 2013 America's Cup met by teleconference today. Sail-World is informed that the meeting broke up without any decisions being reached - partially explained by the fact that the international group was working across various time zones - and for some it was the early hours of the morning.

The meeting is understood to have lasted a couple of hours and was not acrimonious.

Given that there is currently a Protocol in place for the event, a number of teams have purchased AC45's and have active design teams for the AC72 program, and a regatta management and media test event has just been concluded in Auckland, it would seem to most observers that the cornerstones were in place for the 34th match due to be staged in San Francisco in September 2013.

But against that backdrop is the fact the the current Challenger of Record, Club Nautico di Roma recently withdrew, and was replaced by a Swedish club. That decision is believed to be the subject of a yet to be heard complaint to the International Jury, along with some other issues.

At least one of the unannounced/confidential entries has is believed to have dropped out ahead of the time required to pay the first of the Performance Bonds. Others are believed not to have paid the $200,000 bind on the due date at the end of April. That matter too has apparently be sent off to the International Jury. The total teams now to remain in the event stand at 12, with a comment that 10 will participate in the first AC45 event. 15 teams were announced as being entered/filed notices of challenge when entries closed at the end of March. One of those was subsequently not accepted as it did not comply with the 19th century Deed of Gift which governs the conduct of the America's Cup.

As yet there is no announcement made on the television package for either the America's Cup World Series, due to start in Cascais, Portugal from 6-14 August, or the other events in the preliminary series to be sailed this year.

A total of 13 events were programmed for the World Series, which is to be an annual series, usually with seven regattas in a non-America's Cup year. The series is set down to start in the AC45 one design catamarans which have been built in New Zealand, before switching to the AC72's.


Today's meeting was expected to confirm the way forward for the event, but instead broke up with no decisions taken, plenty of solutions on the table, no report of the meeting and no comment on the problems for which the solutions were on offer.

One had it that the AC Regatta and Media Trials in Auckland were such a resounding success that there were several new options for the event which needed to be considered by the Competitors.

Even so, at the heart of the matter seems to be the disparity between the financial state and preparedness of the teams.

On one hand there are the established teams - Oracle Racing, Artemis Racing and Emirates Team NZ. The first two are billionaire backed - without the same sponsor delivery requirement to sponsors as the twice America's Cup winner, Emirates Team NZ. Little is known of the design effort of the first two teams, however Emirates Team NZ has announced a team of 30 designers, who have been on the task since October 2010.

A team that size and having started almost eight months ago, are generally reckoned to be what is necessary to win an America's Cup in 2013.

The other seven to nine teams are believed to be towards the other end of the spectrum, playing catch up in terms of time, and still to put together their funding arrangements - a task made no easier by the lack of announcement on a television package for the America's Cup World Series or the Louis Vuitton Cup and America's Cup itself.

Certainty on the television package would give the teams something definitive to put in front of potential sponsors, and attract vital funding necessary to sign design and sailing teams.

The larger group of teams is believed to be looking to extend time and reduce costs.

Emirates Team NZ is programmed for an event specified in the Protocol without any changes which affect the game materially and leading to a Match in September 2013.

The Challenger of Record, KSSS/Artemis Racing and the Defender Golden Gate Yacht Club/Oracle Racing have the right to decide any changes to the Protocol with out reference to the other parties. Or, if reference was made they could go along with a majority vote, in which Emirates Team NZ could be expected to be in the minority, on anything that represents a material change in the conduct of then event.

From the New Zealander's perspective it seems to be a case of 'heads you win, tails we lose'.

At this stage of the America's Cup, for a team serious about winning, the game should be locked and loaded in terms of finances and resources. For many it's not - and any wriggle room they can get on the Protocol will be grabbed with both hands.

Currently, it is understood that no date has been set for the Competitors' Forum to reconvene.

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