New plans for the next America’s Cup could change the face of grand prix racing. Matthew Sheahan reports from Valencia
Today, (Monday 13 Sept) in Valencia, BMW Oracle will end months of speculation and announce the details of the 34th America’s Cup.
The press conference, which takes place in BMW Oracle Racing’s base in the former America’s Cup port in Valencia, will be streamed live online as the Cup holders reveal the boat, the date and the protocol that will govern the next America’s Cup. Only the venue will remain unknown.
America’s Cup announcements always attract a great deal of interest, but today’s news looks set to have greater implications for grand prix yacht racing given the speculation that the next generation of AC boats will be in 72ft wing masted multihulls.
Such a move looks set to trigger a major debate as to whether such machines are appropriate for the ultimate match racing event. In addition, the cost of creating such extreme machines will also doubtless be a hotly contested issue.
With big team budgets that draw in some of the best brains in the business, the America’s Cup has frequently influenced the future of yacht design and technology. A shift to multihulls, (ironically at a time when the Olympics has chosen to abandon them), could provide a new impetus to multihulls sailing. But of more significance would be the focus on wing mast technology.
If solid wing masts are to be the future for the world’s most prestigious yacht race and if enough teams sign up as Challengers for the 34th America’s Cup, there is a good chance that the technology will have a knock on effect for the rest of the sport.
Clearly the current Cup holders, who designed and built the world’s biggest wing and won the last America’s Cup, have a big advantage in this field. However, the risk for BMW Oracle Racing in its quest to restore the spectator appeal to the next America’s Cup, is that the leap to big, expensive and technically complex multihulls will be a step too far for less affluent teams.
To ease the progression into such large machines, it looks likely that Challenging teams will be sailing 45 foot versions from next year in a series of international events.
There’s plenty riding on today’s announcement, both for the Cup and the future of grand prix racing.
The press conference will be streamed live, beginning at 1300 CET.