Millions of euros spent on research by the challengers in waiting for the America's Cup have been put in doubt by the CEO and skipper of the cup holder syndicate, Brad Butterworth of Alinghi.
Announcing that his team had finally taken the decision to build a boat for their upcoming defence against Larry Ellison's multihull challenge from San Francisco - the 90-foot monster is expected to be named USA, not BMW Oracle - Butterworth went on to ask why, after such spectacular boats had been used, anyone would go back to much slower monohulls.
It was his team that proposed the introduction of the AC90, a 90-foot monohull, and had shared design proposals with all the registered challengers, many of whom have spent time, effort and money researching a design on which Alinghi had a head start.
Butterworth later added that his team had given up on AC90 work. It had become, he said, just a dream.
Across town in central Valencia, the sailing director of Britain's Origin challenge, Mike Sanderson, estimated that all the teams so far could have spent between €5m and €6m on research into the AC90 and were continuing to spend.
Expensive time and capacity for studying computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is often bought in packages of 12 months. Britain's team bought its first package as soon as the last cup, won 5-2 by Alinghi over Team New Zealand, ended in July last year. It bought a further package in October and has no intention of junking such a valuable resource, even though a court battle in New York between Ellison's team and holder Ernesto Bertarelli over the structure and format of the America's Cup has sidelined everyone else until the matter is decided.
Oracle spokesman Tom Ehman indicates a probability that the new 90-foot design would still be introduced if Oracle were to win a head-to-head against Alinghi. Oracle has said that it would like to see a quick turnaround, with multiple challengers again in play, and to stage a full blown cup in Valencia. Oracle is believed to have a second design team also working on the AC90.
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