'New era' for America's Cup

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The America's Cup is back on track. It may not be a track to everyone's liking but a "new era" was promised by the boss of the defending team, Russell Coutts, in his BMW-Oracle base in Valencia today.

The boats will be "cool", he said as he showed an impression of a 72-foot catamaran with a wing sail. They will be fast at over 30 knots, said design consultant Pete Melvin, and there will be an annual America's Cup World Series producing a world champion team.

"This will be a competition for the Facebook generation, not the Flintstone generation," said Coutts, who added that the rules surrounding the revamp of an event which can trace its history to 1851 on the Isle of Wight were established a new, level playing field.

His view was endorsed by the team which represents all challenger interests, Mascalzoe Latino, with its Italian president Vincenzo Onorato saying that the rules protocol is "the fairest ever written."

Listen: Russell Coutts explains his vision to Stuart Alexander:

Right-click here and click "Save target/link as..." to download

The opening skirmishes, scheduled to be staged next summer, will be in specially built 45-foot catamarans using wing sails. From 2012, the regatta programme will move into the new AC72s built by teams which have been given an extended window, from 1 November to 31 March, to register.

The identical 45-footers, being built in New Zealand, will then be used for a Youth America's Cup on a new circuit attracting entries carrying national flags from either national sailing bodies clubs, or America's Cup teams. That will be decided by an overall race director, expected to be announced soon.

The new organisation is relying heavily on a development programme which promises spectacular television pictures. But the boats will once again rely on manpower, rather than engines and hydraulic winches, to handle the sails. Coutts envisages a crew of 11, instead of the previous 17.

There will also be limits on testing training, as in Formula One motor racing, in a bid to cut costs by a target 20 per cent.

Britain's Team Origin said it wanted to digest all it was being asked to sign up for, no least all the commercial arrangements, before commenting. Origin boss Sir Keith Mills has already made it known that he did not favour a move into multi-hulls, though there could be other British backers who would welcome the move.

And the German team skipper Jochen Schuemann said that, apart from thinking that multi-hulls were unsuitable for America's Cup match racing, his greater concern was that there was too little time left to raise enough commercial sponsorship for a programme that has to be able to see three years ahead.