BARCELONA, Nov. 8, 2007 – At a press conference in Barcelona today, AC Management (ACM), the event authority for the 33rd America’s Cup, presented the new Competition Regulations, including the event format and schedule, and elaborated on the new AC90 class. Announcing the dates for the Trials and the America’s Cup Match marks another step towards a 2009 event.
Attending the presentation were Michel Hodara, CEO of ACM, Tom Schnackenberg, ACM class rule and competition regulations consultant, Rolf Vrolijk, Alinghi principal designer, Juan Kouyoumdjian, TeamOrigin principal designer, and Agustin Zulueta, Desafio Español general director.
AC90: Bigger, Faster, More Demanding
The AC90 yacht, in summary, will be 90ft overall (27.4m), 6.5m in draft whilst racing, retracting to 4.7m. The beam will be 5.3m, up from 3.5m for many of the ACC V5 boats. It will have a displacement of 23tons, a mast height of 37.9m above the deck, a maximum bowsprit distance of 15.5m from the mast and unlimited spinnaker area. With a crew limit of 20 people, this will be a very demanding and exciting boat to sail (there are three more crew than on a V5 boat and approx 50% more sail area!). In recognition of the demanding nature of the new yacht, the crew weight limit has been removed.
This rule is a product of six weeks worth of exhaustive design consultation between the five entered Challengers and the Defender under the leadership of Tom Schnackenberg, ACM class rule consultant. As previously announced, it was published on October 31st.
The Competition Regulations: What’s New?
The objective is to create an even more spectacular sporting event for the 33rd America’s Cup by introducing several new measures aside from the new AC90 yacht. ACM has gone to great lengths to work with the five entered Challengers and Alinghi to create a competition that balances the needs of all competitors. The resulting Competition Regulations and event format for the 33rd edition are based on the goal to have a very competitive and exciting event but with the clear intention of controlling cost.
ACM aims to limit costs for competitors through outlawing two-boat testing (the only permitted opportunity for one AC90 yacht to sail alongside another is when racing in ACM organised Practice Race or the Event), introducing “no-sail periods” and limiting the total number of sails produced. All this has been decided through consultation and in agreement with all five entered Challengers and the Defender.
A further major difference to previous America’s Cup events is the competition format. The 33rd edition will be divided into four phases: Acts, Trials, Challenger Selection Series and the America’s Cup Match, with the Defender being able to compete in the Acts, the Trials and the Match, but not in the Challenger Selection Series.
This system has been adopted taking into consideration the fact that the America’s Cup has evolved over the past 156 years from Defender trials (several Defenders racing to establish the strongest) being the focal point and the Challenger training in isolation, to the Challengers outnumbering the Defenders (for the first time in the 70s) and finally to what has been in place for the past 10 years: Challenger trials only. This situation has forced isolation upon the Defender.
In addition to this isolation, the cost-curbing two-boat testing ban in this edition has as a consequence that the Defender participates in the Trials phase leading up to the Challenger Selection Series. It is recognised as vital however that Alinghi does not impact the selection of the final Challenger and the format of the Trials is designed to achieve this.
Practice Racing has been introduced as a replacement for two-boat testing. Any team can request a practice race and the regatta director will arrange an official practice series. This will be a carefully organised schedule publicised well in advance and providing equal opportunity for all Challengers who wish to participate. These are due to start as early as October 2008 and will continue up until April 2009. They will include a mixture of fleet and match racing round robins.
Event format and schedule (based on a 10 team scenario)
End of June/ July 2008: Act 1, in Valencia (fleet & match race in ACC V5 yachts)
September 2008: Act 2, location in Europe tbc (fleet & match race in ACC V5 yachts)
April 2009: Act 3, in Valencia in AC90 (fleet race) (tbc)
Results from the Acts do not carry forward into the Trials. However, aside from the exposure and prestige gained, there are bonuses with regards to sail allocation for 2009. If teams compete in the 2008 Acts, they gain five sails on top of their 45 sail allocation for 2009. The overall winner of the 2008 Acts gains an additional two sails and the second placed competitor gains one extra sail.
– Round Robins 1 and 2
Starting on May 2nd 2009, they will result in a ranking that includes all Challengers and Alinghi. The six top ranked teams proceed into the Semi Final. The remaining teams proceed into a parallel fleet racing event called the ‘Challenger Sail Off’, the results of which go towards the final ranking and therefore the net surplus distribution.
– Semi Final
May/June 2009: Three Rounds of the Semi Final (between the top six teams of the Round Robins) will result in a Challenger ranking. Number 1 in the ranking goes straight to the Challenger Selection Final, whilst there will be a Repechage between the 2nd and 3rd placed Challengers. Alinghi moves to the parallel ‘Secondary Series’ at this stage.
Challenger Selection Series
The Challenger Selection Series starts in late June 2009 with the Repechage. The winner of this goes on to meet the top ranked Challenger in a best-of-seven Challenger Selection Final in July. The winner of the Challenger Selection Final becomes the Challenger and goes on to meet Alinghi in the America’s Cup Match on the 18 July 2009.
Concurrent with the Challenger Selection Final, Alinghi and the newly eliminated Challengers race two Round Robins of a parallel event called the ‘Secondary Series’. Results from this determine the final ranking of these Challengers.
The 33rd America’s Cup Match
Starting on 18 July 2009, the best Challenger will face the Defender in a best of nine match race series.
Michel Hodara, CEO of ACM: “The competition regulations are another major step towards an event in 2009. Today we are pleased to announce an event format that will produce more sailing than ever before and hopefully will stimulate new teams to enter the competition. It is clear that by July 18th 2009, for the start of the 33rd America’s Cup Match, we will certainly have the two competitors at the peak of their form, ready to provide yet again an exciting and entertaining event.”
Tom Schnackenberg, ACM class rule and competition regulations consultant: “The process of competitor consultation has been a very rewarding one. Initially, we were focused on the Class Rules. We had many difficult discussions where in fact everyone was on the “same side of the table” and yet we all struggled to find words to express our intent. On other occasions, competitors had different opinions about content and it was quite an exercise to find some common ground.
It was quite an adjustment for the Challengers to accept Alinghi in the Trials, but once they understood the rationale, they joined in sorting out potential problems and in coming up with solutions. The biggest improvement as far as the Challengers are concerned would be the increased length of time of participation for all. This is particularly reflected in the six-team Semi Final Series and the Challenger Sail Off for the minor placings. This means that ALL challengers will be competing from the Act in April, until nearly the end of June, and five of them will be competing even into July.”
Britton Ward, principal designer for Desafio Español: “The America’s Cup has always been the pinnacle of the sport of yacht racing and has been traditionally contested in yachts that are at the cutting edge of technology and performance. The new AC90 Rule will produce a fleet of boats that continues this tradition. The new AC90 will be longer, lighter and wider with deeper draft and larger sail plans than their predecessors. This new breed will be visually impressive and promises to show spectacular performance, howe ver, they will be challenging to sail to their full potential. The new rule does a nice job allowing design freedom to encourage technological development while controlling the main performance drivers which should continue to provide close racing.
Grant Dalton, syndicate head for Emirates Team New Zealand: “ACM has moved quickly and efficiently over recent weeks, first on the class rule and now on the competition regulations. It has been a full-on and dynamic consultation process inv olving, from the Emirates Team New Zealand end, many long nights on the phone as we heard the points of view, assessed the positions and gave our input. We have found the process stimulating and have understood the need to keep things moving quickly, to allow the regatta in 2009 as planned.”