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America’s Cup: Sir Ben in the slow lane to progress as teams sent designs for shorter 62-foot catamarans


The agonisingly slow process of organising and presenting the next America’s Cup takes a few steps forward this week as potential challengers are sent the design outlines for the boats to be used, 62-foot catamarans using wing sails and foils to skim across the top of the water. They are being asked for comments.

They would be 10 feet shorter than the boats which were featured last September in San Francisco when the defender, Larry Ellison’s Oracle, came from being 1-8 down to win by 9-8 against Emirates Team New Zealand. There would also be some standard elements, principally in the wing and possibly in the main structural beams, which would cut some of the research and design budget. And the crew would be reduced to eight, with an all-up weight of 700kgs, though the full protocol governing the event would cover any nationality requirements.

Some, like the New Zealanders, would like a substantial return to a nationality rule and Britain’s Sir Ben Ainslie has said that any British challenge would have no difficulty meeting much more than the modest 25 per cent. which is being discussed. That would imply a minimum of two per boat.

Details like the structure of the event, including the methods and venues for the qualifying races for the finals in 2017, continue to exercise Russell Coutts, boss of the Oracle racing team, and Iain Murray, acting on behalf of the Challenger of Record, Australia’s Hamilton Island Yacht Club. Murray, who was chief executive of the event’s race management in 2013, has been joined by Richard Slater, who was Oracle’s rules adviser for AC34.

The venue is also unlikely to be announced in the near future, with a repeat in San Francisco not ruled out as the defender keeps up the pressure by mentioning other venues like Chicago, Newport, Rhode Island, San Diego, and even Hawaii. The venue will considerably influence the design work but may not be known until much later this year.

All of which is costing Ainslie valuable time and prevents him from presenting a full package to potential sponsors, though this week his mind may be on the problem of negotiating the same waters on which he won the second of his four Olympic gold medals.

Qingdao is hosting an impressive array of British Olympians in the fleet of 12 Extreme 40 catamarans contesting the third of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series. With Ainslie is Paul Goodison, a fellow 2004 golden boy, and Pippa Wilson while Sarah Ayton is with Leigh McMillan, a Tornado catamaran campaigner at the same regatta.

But it was the Doncaster-born Anna Tunnicliffe, who won gold for the United States, who was in the clubhouse with first day bragging rights with Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi team, followed by McMillan’s crew on The Wave, Muscat. Ainslie, meanwhile, had a disappointing first day and is in the bottom three overnight.

But not as disappointing as the other Omani crew, skippered by Rob Greenhalgh and joined by Oracle’s America’s Cup winning Kyle Langford, which lasted only until the start of the first race and was then sent with a crash gash in one of its hulls back to the repair yard.

The damage was done by Team GAC Pindar, which has been joined by helmsman David Gilmour, son of four-time world match racing champion Peter, as part of Iain Murray’s challenger team from Australia.