America's Cup to have smaller yachts, crews in three-year racing programme

America's Cup last year (@kiwilark)
Mat Belcher
Jimmy Spithill (TV3)

Major changes have been made to the 35th America’s Cup series, with smaller yachts and crews, a three-year racing programme and the introduction of a nationality rule.

The new Protocol, negotiated between Oracle Team USA (Golden Gate Yacht Club) and challenger of record Team Australia (Hamilton Island Yacht Club), defines the rules, format and commercial regulations.

Entries open on June 9 and close on August 8, giving prospective teams two months to enter.The Class Rule for the new AC62 yacht, which has already been shared with teams in draft format, will be issued in the coming days, before the entry period opening.

Key features of the Protocol include:

  • A three year racing programme from 2015-17 with every race counting toward qualification and/or points in the final America’s Cup match.
  • At least six America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) events a year in 2015 and 2016 to be raced in the AC45 class. The ACWS will be used to seed teams for the America’s Cup qualifiers.
  • The America’s Cup qualifiers (ACQ) series in 2017 involving all teams, with a bonus point in the America’s Cup Match at stake. The ACQ events will not be held at the America’s Cup match venue.
  • America’s Cup challenger playoffs in 2017 for the top four challenger teams to emerge from the ACQ. Racing to be held at the America’s Cup match venue.
  • The America’s Cup match in 2017, featuring the defender, Oracle Team USA, against the top challenger. The first team to win seven points will win the America’s Cup.
  • Up to two Youth America’s Cup events providing a pathway for young sailors to join the top rank of professionals.
  • The new AC62 yacht – a foiling, wing sail catamaran sailed by eight crew – to be raced in all events in 2017.
  • A crew nationality rule requiring at least 25% of the AC62 crew to be nationals of the country of their challenge.
  • Defender will be able to build two AC62s; Challengers can build one AC62.
  • Wind limits for all events to be held between five and 25 knots.

Team Australia Mat Belcher skipper says, “We are convinced the 35th America’s Cup will surpass previous events in almost every way: more challengers, amazing new boats and a competition structure that will engage and enthrall people over a three year period.”

Oracle’s two-time winning skipper Jimmy Spithill says it will be be much more difficult to hold on to the Cup.

“It’s the America’s Cup, so it’s not supposed to be easy, but our goal is to make it a three-peat,” he says.

“It was so close last time. Battling back to win from being down 8-1 is something we will never forget and I expect it will be just as difficult this time.”

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