There will be a showdown at the Competitors’ Forum meeting on Tuesday 31 March 2015. Negotiations over changing the boats to be raced and the venue for the first phase of America’s Cup have reached a climactic moment. Luna Rossa has threatened to withdraw. Team New Zealand may lose a major funding source. The Protocol may be changed drastically – abandoning the split venues for challenger selection and scrapping the AC62 in favor a a new class of boat.
What caused the showdown? Where do things stand?
- On Wednesday 25 March, Commercial Commissioner Harvey Schiller announced plans to abandon the AC62 in favor of a smaller boat.
- On Thursday, Luna Rossa announced their opposition to the change, stating that they would withdraw if the change were made, and that they would cancel the first America’s Cup World Series event in Cagliari in June.
- Also on Thursday, Emirates Team New Zealand announced their support for Luna Rossa‘s position.
- Within hours, Schiller informed ETNZ that the America’s Cup Qualifiers (the round robin phase of the challenger selection) would not be awarded to Auckland. The New Zealand government reconfirmed that without the Auckland regatta, they would not renew as a sponsor of the team.
- On Friday 27 March, ACEA CEO Russell Coutts confirmed that the current proposal is to abandon the split venue for challenger selection, and instead to hold all 2017 racing in Bermuda.
- Coutts explained that America’s Cup World Series racing will be in foiling one design AC45’s, as previously announced.
- Coutts also repeated that he expects to have one Asian challenger (widely rumored to be from Japan) and possibly another Asian challenger. Coutts made it clear that he only wants competitive teams and criticized China Team for being uncompetitive in the 2007 America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain.
- The class rule for the new, smaller America’s Cup boat will be presented to the teams. It is likely to be a scaled down AC62, possibly an AC54, with a crew of six instead of the eight man crew on the AC62.
- This would be a change to the Protocol, not a change to the AC62 Class Rule. The distinction is important, since only a majority of the five challengers is required to change the Protocol, while a change to the AC62 Class Rule would require unanimous approval.
- Artemis Racing, Ben Ainslies Racing and Team France have all expressed their support for the change
What happens next?
A Competitors’ Forum meeting has been called for Tuesday 31 March to vote on the changes.