With Kiwis and Italians back at the negotiating table, Cup teams are expected to vote for a major change in the 35th America’s Cup on Wednesday where a new smaller boat will be agreed
After the surprise news last week that two of the biggest teams in the Cup were considering turning their backs on the event if plans for a smaller boat went ahead, this week things seem to have clamed down a touch. Having threatened to pull stumps and leave the 35th America’s Cup, both Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand are now talking about a smaller boat for the Cup.
“The good news is all six teams agree we should reduce the size of the boats to save money,” said Russell Coutts, CEO of the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA). “However, there is still some debate as to the size of the boat we should adopt.”
A decision, (or vote as some are putting it), is expected to happen tomorrow Wed 1 April, (arguably not the best day to launch big news and a major change for an event that requires only the slightest misunderstanding to spark controversy), but with all six teams settled on the idea, the debate now is how much smaller will teams agree to go.
Here things get a little fuzzy, but having focused on a boat somewhere between 45-50ft, it sounds like there is now talk from one team at least of a new cat in the upper fifty foot range. If true, this would be close to where the debate started some time ago with a proposal for a 54 footer that could be taken apart to fit in a 40ft container.
Incidentally, sticking a 54footer into a 40foot container isn’t as odd as it may sound, the RC44 (Russell Coutts 44) has a transom scoop that unbolts so that the boat can be made short enough to fit in an open 40ft container. These boats definitely benefit from the performance boost of four more feet in the water, plus the convenience of being able to be shipped around in a container, so there’s little reason why this wouldn’t work for the skinny hulls of a Cup cat.
Having said that, Coutts appears to be more in favour of something under 50ft. “When it comes to cost-reduction, size matters,” he said. “Under 50 feet, real savings kick in on all levels: design, boat-building, sailing team and operations, so that’s why we’re looking at this range.”
So why have the Kiwis and Italians changed their minds? Perhaps one of the reasons was the realisation that a change to the type of boat only required a majority decision. A unanimous vote among teams was only necessary to make changes to the AC62. With Ben Ainslie Racing, Artemis and Team France making it clear they were in favour, the Kiwis and the Italians would have been out voted from the start.
Perhaps the Kiwis have managed to strike a deal with their government who had said that it wouldn’t fund a team if the country didn’t get an event. Hopefully we will know more this week.
But what we do seem to know is that the 62 footer is out and something more affordable is about to be in. While there are plenty of debates going on as to what the size should be, Artemis boss Torbjon Tornqvist told me last week that whatever was decided he was happy with the idea that it would be a new boat design and not simply an AC45.
“The Cup needs an exciting boat and the event needs more entries,” he said, in justification for the change.
New teams could indeed be on their way according to Coutts if the class changes.
“If these changes are adopted it seems certain new teams will join this edition of the Cup,” he said.
In a few hours we could know, or will we?