After Team New Zealand’s 5-0 whitewash of Prada in the America’s Cup finals, the Challenger of Record Management has revised the format of the Louis Vuitton Cup.
The revision is based on the two central principles of the LV Cup: to find the best challenger, and to prepare that challenger for the finals. Until now, that has been established using a round robin format. Each boat races others in its group and points are awarded for wins. The lowest scorers are eliminated until just two boats remain to contest the Challenger final.
There have been many objections to this format. The stronger challenges objected to meaningless races with weak syndicates, extending the LV Cup to four months; other syndicates pointed to dramatic improvements in that period. The eventual challenger complained that after four months of racing, the ten lay days that preceded the America’s Cup finals were insufficient to recover and regroup into a competitive unit.
The ten syndicates from seven countries that form the Challenger group have agreed a new format that spares the big-budget two-boat teams the pointless racing but also allows the slow starters to gain enough speed to make the finals if the ability is there.
The LV Cup, starting on 1 October 2002, will open with two round robins in which each syndicate will race every other once to establish seeding for the top eight boats. The ninth and tenth boats will exit at this stage.
The quarterfinals, beginning on 12 November 2002, see the eight boats split into two groups of four – the Double Chance group (places one to four) and Single Chance (five to eight). The top boat in each group (one and five) will select an opponent (four and eight, presumably) for a best of seven series, leaving two to race three and six to race seven in a similar best of seven series.
After this, the two Double Chance winners will go through to the semifinals and the two Single Chance losers will go home. In a repechage of sorts, the two Double Chance losers race the two Single Chance winners in another series of seven races, with the winners forming the second semifinal and the losers dropping out.
The semifinals are scheduled for 9 December 2002, giving the Double Chance winners 18 days of grace to carry out modifications, recover, test their second boats (if they have them) and train more intensively. Neither will have raced the other since the opening round robins, over five weeks earlier, pitting strength against speed of improvement. The winner of yet another seven-race series enters the final.
The second semifinal, again a best-of-seven, will produce a winner and that winner will face the loser of the first semifinal in a best-of-seven repechage series, ensuring that the two finalists are of the highest possible quality.
The Louis Vuitton Cup finals, best of nine this time, begin on 11 January 2003 with a layday scheduled after every three races.
The 31st America’s Cup finals will begin on 15 February 2003, starting with one race per day over the weekend, then alternate days off until the second weekend when, if necessary, both days will be used for racing before resuming the alternate day schedule in the second week
On the plus side, this means there will be some very high profile matches throughout the elimination series but that the top seeds won’t clash after the round robins for over a month. The repechage series deals a fairer hand to the middle-ranking syndicates (where we might expect to find GBR Challenge) and, after 19 November, there will be a single course used for racing.
On the negative, it is complex to explain. Two syndicates will be ejected after one month of competition, working against the improvement motif. The top syndicates will spend much of their time away from the race course, not least the month-off between the Challenger finals resolution and the America’s Cup finals, raising issues for sponsors.
Louis Vuitton Cup