Plans Shaping Up for Post-Cup ACC Regattas

The America's Cup returned to New York on Tuesday, spending the morning in the model room of the New York YC on West 44th Street. However, it certainly wasn't the homecoming the NYYC has dreamed of for the past two decades as the club was merely acting as a gracious host for a stop on the Alinghi victory tour.The big question remained unanswered--there was no announcement regarding the venue for the 32nd America's Cup. But Alinghi representatives Brad Butterworth and Josh Belsky did shed a little light on the team's plans for the next few years and some of the changes the Swiss syndicate is looking to institute for the 32nd America's Cup.First on Alinghi's agenda is what Belsky, a native of nearby Rye, N.Y., called a "reenactment" of last February's Louis Vuitton Final. The event is slated for San Francisco in the middle of September and will feature USA-76 and SUI-64 match-racing on the City Front. Belsky didn't rule out participation in some of the IACCSF events scheduled for this summer and fall, but said the main focus will be an exclusive battle between Alinghi and Oracle/BMW Racing. Most of the Swiss syndicate's sailing team has been retained, under the continued direction of Jochen Schümann, and Belsky said the sailing crew Alinghi brings to San Francisco will be nearly identical to the team that won the Cup in March.After another extended break next fall and winter, the team will reunite next spring to begin training anew. A series of America's Cup Class regattas leading up to the America's Cup in 2007 will help to keep Alinghi sharp, give potential teams a chance to get their feet wet and test themselves against the best, and, according to Belsky, "keep professional yacht racing in the spotlight." Alinghi is seriously eyeing a more open regatta in Newport, R.I., in the summer of 2004. "To go and sail in Newport would be a great opportunity to take the Cup back there," said Butterworth. "There's a lot of people interested in the sport from [the East Coast]. We'd like to take an event there and do something with it." Regattas in Europe will follow with a world championship in 2006 and then a fleet race regatta just before the challenger eliminations in 2007. As skipper Russell Coutts said soon after winning the Cup, Alinghi is looking at tweaking the America's Cup Class rule to make the racing more exciting. Whether this means ramping up the performance in lighter air or strengthening the boats for more rigorous heavy air sailing, or some combination of both, won't be decided until the America's Cup Management--which is being run by former Alinghi executive director Michel Bonnefous and has already separated from the defense syndicate--picks a venue. Butterworth said that lowering the displacement of the boats is an option, but that they are going to be very careful not to completely obsolete the 80 or so ACC boats that have already been built.