A new team, a new venue and a view from the top on why the 32nd America's Cup has already proved so popular

Among the 12 teams competing for the next America’s Cup three new nations are among the contenders. Of these, perhaps the most surprising is that of China. Working in association with the former French team, Le Defi, the Chinese campaign comes with another twist, an America’s Cup event in China in 2006, as ACM CEO Michel Bonnefous explained.

“Asia is a very important area and having a Chinese team will create a lot of media attention and help to justify the fact that we will go to China,” he said shortly after the deadline for entries had passed. “If we go to China it will certainly be through an exhibition race, perhaps not with all the boats. We are still discussing with the teams what would be the best way, but there is interest.

“In answer to your question, [about whether we will be going to China], I would say yes.”

As hosts for the 2008 Olympics, plans for the America’s Cup event would see the fleet racing out of the same venue as the Olympic sailors, from the new purpose built Qingdao International Yacht Club.

Bonnefous went on to confirm that there were plans for one other exhibition race next year in Switzerland, but that at present there were technical difficulties with the draft of the boats and the depth of the lake to overcome.

Meanwhile, this season presents big challenges for both the teams and the organisers as the Cup circus tours from it’s Valencian base to two other European venues, (Malmo in Sweden and Trapani in Sicily), a logistical nightmare for the organisers in which more than 2,000 tonnes of equipment, more than 50 containers and just short of 100 RIBs will need to be shipped around Europe. All at a cost.

And herein lies an irony. Within a long list of high profile events for professional sailors around the world, several of the major events have struggled for entries, some new and innovative ideas have collapsed along the way and never even made it to the starting line. Yet with minimum budgets of 60 million Euros, America’s Cup racing is by far the most expensive event in the sport and yet has managed to attract twelve teams. What does Bonnefous attribute this success to?

“The America’s Cup is bigger than sailing,” he said. “It’s a social, cultural event. It’s a world-wide known brand. You challenge for the America’s Cup and it means something.

“My view on the future is that we will have fewer, but bigger world wide events and more local events, but I hope that the America’s Cup will continue to be one of the leading International events.”

With the stage set and the teams in place, two years of speculation as to whether the prospect of Cup racing in Europe and the high costs that that might entail, could attract enough interest is over.

Twelve teams from ten countries make this the most international edition of the America’s Cup ever.

The circus kicks off in six weeks time in Valencia with Acts 4&5 (16-26 June). The July issue of Yachting World (published June 9) will carry a special preview of the 2005 America’s Cup season.