Probably the biggest surprise of the first competitors meeting for the 34th America's Cup was the number of participants - 45 representatives from 24 teams, and with the major regions of the world being covered as well.
With the Regatta Management and Event Management sides of the 34th America's Cup briefing the Challengers group, Regatta Director, Iain Murray (AUS), interviewed on a train leaving Paris, believes most would have come away well informed. 'It was the start of the Event. I think they got more than they were expecting and they were appreciative of our candor and being up front, and our desire to tell them what we know', he told Sail-World.
'Essentially they were briefed with everything that we know. Where we were with the AC45’s; the delivery dates for those boats; the costings; how it is all going to work; and how we are going to sea trial those boats.
'We also talked about how we want to have a working interaction with the teams over the construction and delivery of the AC45's. That includes working up the boats in New Zealand, the shipping, what we think the events are looking like will be like for the World Series.
'We also discussed the new AC 72 rule; the appointment of the directors to Americas Cup Regatta Management (ACRM) and where we are up to in organising the corporate structure.
Then it was the turn of the America's Cup Event Authority to brief the interested parties.
'From ACEA there was an overview of television, where it was last time, what the desire is to get to this time and the best way of doing it,' explained Murray. 'There was discussion of projection of numbers, including potential viewers, dollars, an outline of sponsors, and how they were looking to raise the funds and the sponsorship needed . There was also an outline of how the events would run - the hospitality side of it – and the use of common shared facilities. We also talked about courses', he added.
In short there seems to have been a lot of ground covered quickly.
This America's Cup cycle is more complicated than most, as there are two classes of yacht being introduced, the AC45 - a 45 ft wingsailed catamaran. It is a one design, being produced at the Core Composites facility in Warkworth, 40 minutes north of Auckland.
Those boats will be used to bring the crews up to speed with wingsailed catamarans, and will be sailed in the opening stanzas of the new America's Cup World Championship series, by America's Cup crews.
Further into the 34th America's Cup cycle the new AC72, the 72ft catamaran, again with a wingsail will be used. Teams will be free to design those boats subject only to the restriction of the AC72 rule, which is already in its second version.
The first AC72 yachts are expected to be launched after December 2011. They will be allowed to sail one AC72 yacht only until November 2012 when a second AC72 can be launched.
From March 2012 the new AC72 yachts will be used by America's Cup teams in the America's Cup World Championship series, and the AC45's will switch to being a Youth boat, also run by the teams as a preliminary to each of the seven World Championship regattas to be sailed in 2012, and three in 2013.
Clearly the first step down the path for the 34th America's Cup will be the team entry, and once that is made, then acquisition of one or two AC45 yachts by each team.
Various dates have been discussed for the first AC45 to be sailing. Iain Murray says 'the first boat may or may not get in the water before Christmas.
'The target for Tim (Smythe) and Mark (Turner, who head up Core Composites) is to deliver and get a boat in the water before Christmas. We are undertaking sea trials from January 1st to 15th.
'The next four boats will be delivered simultaneously and the target date for handover is the first of March2011. Then the rest will follow thereafter.'
When questioned as to whether the teams would buy one AC45 (to save budget)or two (to increase opportunities for two-boat testing) Murray was very non-committal.
'You can probably guess who they are big teams who will have two of each (AC45 and AC72) and there are other teams who will have one big boat (AC72) and one little boat (AC45).'
And of the big teams, there were at least three who were not represented - Alinghi, winner of the 31st and 32nd America's Cups. TeamOrigin (UK) and Team Internet Germany both of whom recently announced they would not be competing.
However from the numbers, and confirmed by Murray, several of the significant teams previously thought to have been disinterested in the 34th America's Cup were represented at the meeting - which can be interpreted two ways - either they are more interested than they have led others to believe; or they wanted to get information first hand about the arrangements for the 34th America's Cup.
While Murray would not give the specific names of teams who were represented he did confirm that the teams were 'predominately European based. We had representation from Asia, as well.'
And from his homeland, Australia? 'No there was no representation from Australia. We have had communication with a few groups in Australia but that was it.'
Moving onto the issues of sponsorship and television, those associated with the 34th America's Cup have long maintained that the existing models would not hold up and were unsustainable - giving rise to the America's Cup World Championship series, as an ongoing series of events and generating sponsorship exposure and revenue streams outside of the actual America's cup itself.
'The America’s Cup itself and the World Series are all part of the same family,' explains Murray. ' There is a bid process which determines which city is going to have America’s Cup, and the options for that have different sponsorship and venue arrangements. I am not involved with that so it would probably be improper to comment. The World Series is being driven by venue participation and sponsorship more than sponsor’s from what I know. But again, that is the Event's responsibility. '
That response gives rise to a question as to whether from a team perspective the sponsorship models will be any different - in that a substantial payment could be made from Event organisers to participating teams, off the proceeds of the America's Cup World Championship series, and ahead of the America's Cup regatta itself.
Murray confirmed that there will be no change to the previous practice. 'The teams are going to have to be self-sufficient. There will be significant money going to the Syndicates. That is probably not going to happen on Day 1. Back when I was involved, if you saw a payment before the end, you were doing well. Generally the main part of the money that you did receive come in the back of the event.'
Venues and dates are yet to be announced for the 13 round America's Cup World Championship series. This announcement is vital for team chasing sponsors ahead of the 31 March 2011, when entries close for the 34th America's Cup.
Murray says that the announcements will have to come before Christmas 2010, 'but there certainly is the intention to be ahead of that date, as it is with the Host City for the America’s Cup.'
'Our target date, for the first event, is either going to be late June or early July 2011, depending on what is going to be the first City. We have are cognisant that July will clash with a lot of other events, like Formula 1 and Wimbledon, so we do have to factor that into the timing.
Surprisingly the other thought to be vexed issue - that of the substantial entry fee (1m Euros, payable by April 2012) and performance bonds (two of $1.5million, payable on April and July 2011) was not even discussed. 'It wasn’t even asked', was Murray's response.
Nevertheless, the Regatta Director and three time Cup competitor says there are some big challenges ahead for teams. 'I think it is fair to say that there is a very definite time period here and there are some big challenges and commitments to feel comfortable with, if they are going to commit to the first phase of entry fee and performance bond. '
And the final entry figures for the 34th America's Cup, given the big turnout of 24 teams and 13 countries for the first meeting?
'I am very appreciative of what these people are going through and the time scale – to make it happen or not make it happen,' Murray replies.
'I think you have to listen to what Russell (Coutts, CEO of BMW Oracle Racing) is saying, as he has been the person as a point of contact and the originator of a lot of this. He thinks there is a minimum result is eight competitors and a good result is probably 12. I would like to think that we are going to have eight competitors. I can certainly see five reasonably clearly, there are a lot of other people talking and it just depends what their expectations are', he adds.