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Much Still Up in the Air Regarding 34th Cup, and the Clock is Ticking

A competitors' forum in Auckland highlights the progress made by America's Cup Race Management, and the long way still to go.

January 31, 2012
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Sailing World

120131_Prada_AC45

Luna Rossa Challenge tests out its new Prada-branded AC45, minus the 4-meter wing extension that will be used in light-air races starting in April, on the Hauraki Gulf off Auckland, New Zealand. Nigel Marple/Luna Rossa Challenge 2013

**Details of the new-look America’s Cup competition slated for San Francisco are still emerging and much remains to be discussed. **That was the measured but optimistic report from Iain Murray, head of America’s Cup Race Management, after the latest teams’ forum held today in Auckland, New Zealand.

A scoring system featuring one point for the winner of three races in a day, course lengths, race duration and other issues were all on the table in a session that featured plenty of discussion but no decisions, Murray told a media briefing. [For a gallery of rederings of San Francisco during the Louis Vuitton and America’s Cup in 2013, click here.]

America’s Cup defender Oracle Racing, and the three paid-up challengers for the Cup—Sweden’s Artemis Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand and Italy’s Luna Rossa—were all represented in person at the meeting. The other teams joined by teleconference.

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Describing a slimmed-down America’s Cup from that first envisaged, with fewer competitors, smaller budgets, and tighter spending limits, Murray spoke of teams building AC72s, those that hope to build AC72s and those that only intend to race AC45s in the America’s Cup World Series which will now continue into 2013. In the latter category, Murray reported that Ben Ainslie Racing, headed by Britain’s Olympic ace, has now been formally accepted.

“There’s a number of different agendas emerging, and as we go forward we have a variety of subjects we need to deal with,” Murray said. “The direction, shape, and feel have changed. All those discussions are split up between the different agendas, so it’s getting more complex by the day.”

As Murray addressed the Kiwi media, the two Auckland-based AC45’s were being launched and prepared for a week of race testing the just-completed 4-meter wing extensions designed to boost performance in light air. Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa are the guinea pigs under the watchful eye of ACRM race officer Harold Bennett. All teams will get the extensions in April and they will be used in competition when directed by the race committee.

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Once the AC72’s are launched there is a possibility that racing will be scheduled in the northern and southern hemispheres. Murray gave no details, but his comment implied San Francisco and Auckland. This competition would be in addition to the agreed testing periods. “There are four voters on 72 matters and if they can agree, we’ll change the rules,” he said.

Asked if more teams would be building 72-foot catamarans to enter the Louis Vuitton Cup, Murray said he was hopeful of having more teams in addition to Oracle and the three challengers. However, “the runway to start building is going to run out pretty quickly, getting pretty thin by the end of May,” he cautioned.

“I’d be happy if we had more teams building boats, but it is what it is. The world is different place to what it was 12 months ago with the second wave of the economic situation in Europe and we have to be matter of fact about that. In terms of what we’ve achieved in the last 12 months, we’ve achieved a lot.

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“Going forward, clearly we have to strengthen the properties we have to work with, whether they are teams, or races or venues.”

Asked about the Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa relationship and the Jury hearings over collaboration, Murray described the partnership as a pretty smart move, a win-win for both teams.

“There were some original rules to deal with this. The Jury has interpreted them, and I’m sure they will abide by it as it’s been laid down. There’s a lot of devil in the details. Everyone is trying to get a very clear understanding of what it’s all about and we’re in the middle trying to massage it to keep it out of the jury and work with the teams to have practical solutions to how we go forward with this thing; trying to work with each other rather than fight with each other. “

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Subjects dealt with during the meeting included TV camera placements on the 72s, the question of onboard cameramen, guest positioning and safety, all complicated because the designs of the new boats were not known. There had been an update on the remaining venues for the 2012-’13 season and a discussion on the venues that are being worked on for the second season of the America’s Cup World Series. The first will end in Newport in early July.

Discussing the America’s Cup and the World Series he said: “We have to move from one to the other fluidly to keep the connection, but we also have to make sure we don’t turn the America’s Cup into the World Series. The good thing with the World Series is that it has allowed us to get our teeth into catamaran racing, it has allowed us to get our heads around televising, making rules, understanding what catamaran racing is, and it has allowed us to start to involve the public in what we’re doing.

“We don’t want to break down the history and heritage of the America’s Cup of having high quality match racing. We are doing everything we possibly can to deal with that.

“The fact that the races get shorter to me is not the point. It’s the quality of the races.”

Defending shorter races Murray predicted teams would be absolutely exhausted after 30 minutes. “Watching the physical exertion over 20 minutes in an AC45 race, it’s a scary thought as to what that translates to in a 72 race in San Francisco.

“The clear message from the teams is that these boats are going to be in the range of VMG 18 knots upwind and circa 30 to 35 knots VMG downwind. These are very fast boats.”

Murray painted a picture of a team of 11 men hoisting, unfurling and tacking a headsail similar in size to that of a supermaxis sailed by a crew twice as big, jibing it three times on a six-minute run from Chrissy Field to Alcatraz or rehoisting the furled sail up the rig in 55 knots apparent when approaching the weather mark

“For 11 people to manage all that, its going to be tough it. It’s going to need a well-managed, well-oiled team of men sailing these boats.”

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