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America's Cup- Majority Rules in Protocol and Class changes

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com on 1 Apr 2015
Oracle Team USA completes a tack in the development AC45 on San Francisco Bay in one of the team's four AC45's John Navas
The America's Cup Events Authority has announced that the majority of the America’s Cup teams have agreed to make changes aimed at significantly reducing costs for the 2017 America’s Cup.

Central to these changes is the introduction of an exciting new America’s Cup Class - a wing-sailed, foiling catamaran between 45 and 50 feet, says a statement issued by ACEA.

The statement is notable for the absence of comment by the two most senior Challengers in the competition, Luna Rossa (Italy) and Emirates Team New Zealand.

That would tend to indicate that the Challengers had voted by a 3-2 majority in favour of the move.

Rules experts spoken to by Sail-World today doubted whether the Protocol could legally be changed in the way announced for the 35th America's Cup. No members have been announced of the Arbitration body established under the Protocol which has been in existence since June 2014. The matter is not expected to be heard quickly, if it goes to a Hearing.

Any aggrieved teams have the option of resort to the New York Supreme Court, on matters relating to the Deed of Gift where the Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa has the strongest case to be heard. The other options for disaffected teams would be to withdraw from the regatta, or get on with the revised event.

Auckland would appear to be set to lose the Qualifier given that the majority of the teams had voted for a single venue. A final announcement on that is expected later.

Team New Zealand advised by social media that they had filed for Arbitration on the Qualifier issue and would be continuing to work with ACEA and the competitors to bring the Qualifier to Auckland. The statement referred only to the Qualifier venue issue and did not mention the change of boat/rule for the event.

The statement issued by the Team read:

By the deadline of the 31st March the America’s Cup teams voted by a majority in favour of changes to the 35th America’s Cup Protocol, which included a reduction in boat size to between a 45 and 50 foot foiling catamaran and as a consequence the withdrawal of Auckland as America’s Cup Qualifier host city.

Under the original Protocol, the Qualifier venue was to be announced by the 15th February 2015. This requirement was fulfilled on this date with the announcement to the teams that Auckland would be the location of the Qualifiers.

Among the changes to the Protocol voted on, ACEA sought to retrospectively change this date to April and disregard the agreement for Auckland to be the location for the America’s Cup qualifier.

As a result, Emirates Team New Zealand has now reluctantly filed an application to the America’s Cup Arbitration Panel to reinstate Auckland as the qualifier venue based on a signed and accepted bid, notified to the teams in accordance with the Protocol. This needs to be done to satisfy the requirement that all complaints must be filed within 7 days of knowing the facts justifying the complaint.

CEO Grant Dalton said, “Emirates Team New Zealand have filed an application to the America’s Cup Arbitration Panel in the belief that ACEA has breached their signed agreement and protocol obligations by discarding Auckland.”

“However prior to any hearing Emirates Team New Zealand will continue discussions with all teams and ACEA on the prospect of continuing to bring America’s Cup racing to Auckland.”

Until the outcome of this is known Emirates Team New Zealand continues its work in preparing for the next America’s Cup in 2017.

“We are fighting to keep Auckland as a qualifier. This isn’t about government funding, this is not the end of Emirates Team New Zealand, it’s about enforcing a contract and bringing America’s Cup racing to New Zealand as agreed by ACEA.” concluded Dalton.


For Associated Press America's cup correspondent, Bernie Wilson's take on the latest development click here



The statement from ACEA read:

The America’s Cup teams have agreed to make changes aimed at significantly reducing costs for the 2017 America’s Cup.

Central to these changes is the introduction of an exciting new America’s Cup Class - a wing-sailed, foiling catamaran between 45 and 50 feet.

“The move to the new America's Cup Class is a major step forward for the America’s Cup,” said Commercial Commissioner Harvey Schiller, following the vote.

“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.”

Crucially, the new class will cost much less over the life of a campaign, with potential savings across design, build and operations, making it a revolutionary cost-saving measure for the sport in both the short and long term.

“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.

A majority of the current teams favored the new class, with the expectation it will be used in the next edition of the America’s Cup as well, in order to lower the barrier to entry - both technological and financial - to new teams.

Looking towards the future, the new America’s Cup Class will put the event on a path towards economic sustainability. Numerous one-design components will focus the design effort on areas that have an impact on performance, cutting costs significantly, but not diminishing the design challenge.

“The America's Cup - like Formula One - has to be a design race as well as a race on the water,” noted Ben Ainslie, the team principal at Ben Ainslie Racing. “That has always been part of the Cup’s appeal. That is what attracts some of the world’s best engineers - people like Adrian Newey, who has shown a real passion for the design challenge of the America’s Cup.”

“This wasn’t an easy process,” admitted Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill. “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 savings the competitors will realize in this edition of the Cup may spark additional entries, with at least one potential team from Asia expected to challenge and other international teams considering their options.

“To be a global success, the America’s Cup needs to be accessible to the best teams, not just the biggest and wealthiest ones,” said Franck Cammas, the skipper of Team France. “So we must change in this way.”

“While it’s true there are a few critics of this move, we have to adjust to the time. This is a rule that provides the essential of the America’s Cup - the design challenge, the sport, the athletic spectacle - without such a prohibitive cost,” said Olympic medalist Roland Gaebler who has been working to establish a German Challenge. “My focus had been on the next America’s Cup but with these changes we may be able to accelerate that.”

The rule changes were passed by a majority vote of the Competitor Forum, comprising the six teams currently entered in the America’s Cup. An updated Protocol and a new Class Rule will be published this week.

A majority of the teams has also now indicated a preference that all of the racing in 2017 be conducted at a single venue, Bermuda. The America’s Cup Event Authority will consider this in nominating a venue for the America’s Cup Qualifiers.

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