33rd America's Cup - New Protocol rewrites sailing history
Sailing history was written this morning in Valencia with the official presentation of the 33rd America's Cup Protocol. Without any doubt it was the busiest press conference in Valencia, quite understandable if one considers what was at stake. Facing the press were seating Michel Bonnefous, the CEO of the event organizers, Brad Butterworth, Alinghi's skipper, and Hamish Ross, General Counsel of Alinghi. This conference was followed by a second one, this time at the Desafío Español base, where the Challenger of Record informed the media about their point view on the protocol.
We will provide a synthesis of what was told in the two conferences regarding the main issues of the Protocol.
America's Cup Management (ACM) is the sole authority organizing the event. This isn't a novelty since it was the case with the 32nd America's Cup. ACM was already in Valencia and the other venues of the Louis Vuitton Acts the only authority in charge of all aspects of the events.
Contrary to what we expected, no announcement was made concerning the venue of the event. The only certainty is that the 33rd America's Cup will be organized in a European country. There are obviously conversations with Valencia but no deal hasn't been reached yet. According to Michel Bonnefous, "Today we have a natural relationship with Valencia and Spain, and obviously we are discussing extensively the renewal of Valencia as a venue, but we haven't reached an agreement so far. I imagine if we can reach an agreement with Valencia it will happen fairly soon, so we will be able to announce it quickly". Agustín Zulueta, General manager of Desafío Español, stated that if Valencia were to be elected the announcement would be made in the next couple of weeks.
If no agreement is reached between ACM and Valencia, the event will be put into bid and the announcement will be made before 31 December 2007. According to Bonnefous, a number of cities have presented their candidature and holding it a new city might bring "a new flavor" to the oldest sailing trophy.
If the host city is Valencia, then the America's Cup Match will take place in 2009 and if it's not then it might be in 2010 and 2011. Both solutions are "interesting", according to Bonnefous. If it stays in Valencia then ACM will have less work to do on setting up the venue and can spend more on communication and marketing of the evnt.
According to Bonnefous, the only disagreement between ACM and the city of Valencia is the latter's plans to expand the commercial harbor, already Mediterranean's biggest one. It is exactly this point that seems to have stalled the negotiations, rather than any other financial issue.
New America's Cup Class
Without any doubt, the day's most important and historic news is the decision to change the America's Cup class. According to the Protocol, "ACM shall issue new ACC Rules on or before 31st December 2007, or such later date announced on 31st December 2007, as it may 15 be reasonably necessary to complete review and revision of the ACC Rules. There will be a minimum of 18 months between the issue of the new ACC Rules and the first race of the Regatta in ACC Yachts measured under the new ACC Rules. The
new ACC Rules may provide for yachts having a maximum length overall of ninety feet in length overall, a draft whilst racing of 6.5m, but with a compulsory sliding keel system capable of reducing the draft to 4.1m for entering port and docking. All racing in the Regatta shall be undertaken in ACC Yachts that comply with the new ACC Rules."
So a completely new set of boats will probably appear in the race courses soon. Still, the existing boats will not be made obsolete. According to the Protocol, there will be a series of regattas raced with the current ACC yachts and the only obligation is to have the America's Cup Match in the new class.
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