America's Cup organisers have announced a reduced line up of eight teams for the 34th America's Cup in San Francisco.
The numbers are well down on the 15 teams who initially entered by the entry close date of the 31st March 2011, but are in line with the organisers expectations of the filtered entries.
In early April organisers announced that there were 15 teams, two of which were subject to 'vetting' meaning their Notice of Challenge and club credentials had to comply with the requirements of the America's Cup Protocol, and Deed of Gift. One of these failed on the latter count.
Then Challenger of Record Mascalzone Latino (ITA) announced they were withdrawing due to being unable to find sufficient finance and sponsorship to mount a credible challenge. The reduced the field to 13 (in this cycle Cup organisers have included the Challenger and Defender numbers in the one entry fleet, where in previous America's Cups they have always been separately counted).
Canada are believed to be the next to drop out, again believed to be for similar reasons to Mascalzone Latino. That dropped it back to 12 entries. Canada were one of the 'confidential' entries.
Team Australia were a surprise not to have been announced today. More of that later. But the point is that ahead of today's announcement of say nine teams, a couple have gone missing in action.
Whether the team said to be announced next week in Europe, was one who had a Notice of Challenge lodged before the end of March, or is one the Cup organisers have pulled out of the hat, remains to be seen. Normally well informed yachting correspondent, Stuart Alexander of The Independent, writes that the new team is from Italy.
The teams announced today are:
- China Team - China - Energy Team - France - Aleph - France - Emirates Team NZ - New Zealand - Venezia Challenge - Italy - Team Korea - Korea - Artemis Racing - Sweden - Oracle Racing - USA (Defender)
Of the eight teams announced, only two have won the America's Cup previously , and only one of those, Emirates Team New Zealand have made a multi-challenger Final of the Louis Vuitton Cup. Official sources report that a ninth team will be announced later this month, in Europe.
Oracle Racing are also the Defender, meaning that there are just seven Challengers announced for the Louis Vuitton Cup, which is the Challenger Selection Series, for the America's Cup which will be sailed in September 2013. Late entries can still be accepted, however a serious team would have a full design team up an running from October-November 2010.
The usual number of challengers for an America's Cup, since 1987, has been between 14-17 teams from 10-12 countries.
The numbers announced in San Francisco are well down on that figure, despite a change to a new class, a 72ft catamaran, and claims by organisers of cost reductions in a campaign - disputed by experienced Challengers who off the record say that the costs are really unchanged from previous America's Cup campaigns put at USD100million.
Absent from the announced lineup is an Australian team, however they were believed to have had representatives in San Francisco for today's function. The team, Team Australia came to Auckland in March and sailed the prototype AC45 yachts - at that stage available only to entered teams. Also missing is a Canadian team, who were believed to have pulled out soon after the Competitors Meeting in Auckland, when at that stage a USD200,000 performance bond was due on 30 April 2011.
Due to the organiser's policy of not announcing entries, given the teams were unusually given the option of being recorded as an entry (in terms of numbers) but remaining confidential, it is not possible to track, with any degree of accuracy, which teams have dropped out from the original 15 announced at the end of March.
All might not be over for Team Australia, which was believed to be a definite starter.
Sail-World Australia spoke to team principal, Peter Baker: 'We have had a delay in financing but we expect to secure boat 11. We are down but we are not out.'
Yachting Australia CEO Phil Jones says 'we received documentation very late from the Team Australia syndicate, however we have forwarded the supporting letters they sought. We are very keen to see an Australian America's Cup challenge and ahead of that believe the sight of AC45's racing on Sydney Harbour will bring a lot of corporate support to the Australian challenger. '
The Australian approach is a two pronged one - to both mount a full America's Cup Challenge, and to host a round of the America's Cup World Series on Sydney Harbour.
The announcement held in San Francisco's Ferry Building advised that the third round of the America's Cup World Series would be staged in San Diego from 12-20 November 2011. Previously the dates for that round were indeterminate. There was no announcement of further venues for the proposed 13 event series.
Richard Worth, head of the America's Cup Event Authority, advised what was previously known, that there was a tender process underway and that further announcements as to the ACWS venues would be made in the near future.
The fact that the Challenger numbers have almost halved from the original group is surprising given the relaxations that have occurred in the financial requirements for entry, where an original USD3million of performance bonds required to be posted in two stages, was first reduced and then eliminated completely.
Under the new requirements for the America's Cup, all teams will have placed orders for the new AC45 prototype yachts, by last Friday 10 June 2011, and confirmed that with a 50% deposit on the EUR650,000 price-tag.
The initial run of AC45's produced by Core Composites Builders, and others, in Auckland, New Zealand was for a run of ten AC45s, some of which were delivered in Auckland, and the rest will be shipped to Cascais.
Oracle Racing have taken two of the AC45's, after 'chartering' one from Mascalzone Latino (ITA) the original Challenger of Record for the 34th America's Cup. Given that the unannounced team does, in fact, eventuate then it would seem that with Oracle's two boats, the full build quota of ten AC45's will be taken up.
Mascalzone Latino, representing the Club Nautico di Roma, dropped out of the 34th America's Cup last month, and were replaced by Artemis Racing representing KSSS of Sweden. A complaint relating to that succession has been lodged by a two-time America's Cup winner, Emirates Team NZ, and is unresolved. It will be considered by the International Jury appointed for the event.
Earlier this week, four times America's Cup winner, Russell Coutts, now with Oracle Racing cartwheeled one of the team's two AC45's while training on San Francisco Bay. The incident underlined the fact that for the first time ever, the America's Cup will be sailed in boats which are capable of being 'red-lined', and while time and finance will still be usual bogey-men of the America's Cup, so too will be boat handling capabilities of the teams.
Absent from much of the information put out by teams and organisers are specifics of sailing team members and design team. Some, such as China Team, have announced that established sailors of the standing in the multihull world of Mitch Booth (Australia), will be involved. Energy Team, have the redoubtable Peyron brothers leading their challenge. Others, such as Emirates Team NZ and Artemis are re-training their soft sailed, monohull sailors into wingsailed multihull crew.
However other newer teams were notable for announcing art directors ahead of skipper, sailor and design teams.
It is not clear if the reduced entry size, which is consistent with earlier statements made by Oracle Racing CEO, Russell Coutts and America's Cup Regatta Director, Iain Murray of about eight teams, will reduce the economic impact benefit to San Francisco of $1.4billion from the 34th America's Cup.
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