What can we say? The announced new Americas Cup class is a fact. We are going multihull! The newly announced rules will take the Americas Cup into a new era. The event is finally turning a much required corner which it should have taken some years ago. Not only should the new format be more exciting to both sailors and audience, it also should lead to a better level playing field and make it easier for competitors to access.  With some of the biggest changes in Americas Cup history, the organizers have taken a bold step forward.  It is now up to the sailors to prove them right!

In presenting a new format for one of the world´s oldest and most famous events, the Americas Cup, Russell Coutts and friends are taking the Cup to the next level. The introduced changes  are not only introducing a new boat class for the best sailors in the world, they also should create increased fairness, excitement and sustainability, values which are essential in going forward. We will briefly discuss the introduced changes and their effects.  

New spectacular boat class and new annual world series should bring back the fun again! Reflecting on  the 33rd Americas Cup a few thoughts come to mind. Firstly and for all, “let’s not have that one again!” As a result of all the legal disputes the Americas Cup lost credibility and appeal and hence was facing a big danger. Having said so, everybody interested in sailing was in awe when seeing the gigantic and enormously expensive multihulls in battle with each other. A third reflection was that everybody regretted the fact that there were no world series (like in the 32nd AC)  in the build-up to “Let’s create a class and world series that are fair and spectacular”  and this is exactly what they did. Let’s first look at the boat class: a new exciting class of boat is introduced, the AC72 wingsail catamaran, which will be raced from 2012. Simultaneously a scaled down version, the AC45 will also be build, which will be raced from next year onwards and will provide a fast-track for competitors in wingsail technology. The AC72 will be spectacular; with a length of 72 foot, width of 46 feet and with a wingsail of 130 feet high this beast should reach speeds in excess of 30 knots, making it the fastest boat class in the world. As these boats will not be easy to sail this also means that only the best (most fit, strong agile and multitasking) sailors in the world will be able to sail these boats…..and….no automated winches.  Hence this should guarantee that the AC will once again be the pinnacle of sailing; the fastest cutting edge technology boats with the best sailors on it!

Let’s now turn to the world series which will be organized into the run up towards the Americas Cup and which will be mandatory. They will start in 2011 on AC45’s and will be a combination of fleet and match racing, whilst each year an Americas Cup World Champion will be crowned. This should bring back the buzz we witnessed during former America’s Cup events and as importantly improve the connection with fans.

New rules create improved fairness and improved level playing field. We all know what happened during the last Americas Cup. The defender of the cup did define the rules and sadly this resulted in disputes and an uneven level playing field, which severely hurt the credibility of the event. This will not happen again. The future  Regatta Director will be part of an independent organization (thank god, no more disputes)  and will be appointed jointly by the Challenger and Defender.  Hence the Defender has forfeited some of the rights traditionally enjoyed by the holder of the trophy in the interest of making the competition more balanced and fair. Additionally majority approval of the competitors is required to amend the Protocol. Adding an independent jury and a well defined protocol of the 34th Americas Cup with few loopholes at first glance (however undoubtedly a few will pop up) and we have a much better base to start off from.

New format guarantees excitement.  No doubt the new format should be fun. Races will be shorter, faster and furious, which should be fun to watch. But it is not only the boats and future world series that will create excitement, there are lots of other elements that will be introduced to make the event more attractive. Firstly race delays will be minimized due to the new boat (which can sail with low wind speeds) and reliable venues. Secondly for the first time onboard cameramen will be onboard of the competing yachts whilst tracking technology will also play an important role, both should add to the fun and experience.  Thirdly it will be investigated how to better explain all the rules to a broader audience. Moreover geostationary spectator boats may replace the traditional buoys.  Fourthly, the experience will be leveraged through the internet (one global website for all team and racing content, games etc). These elements should attract a younger crowd and create excitement. Russel Coutts phrased  it right: let’s say farewell to the Flinstone generation and welcome the facebook generation, which also explains the move to multihull. He is right. It is clear! We are finally moving from the 20th to the 21st century and are reconnecting…….The youth forms the future and if no changes are being made, the Americas Cup will face the end rather sooner than later. This is also why a new youth Americas Cup will be introduced. It also means that the “older generation” should adjust and be willing to sacrifice; no matter what, they should not fear, they will be around for some time as some of them are still amongst the best sailors of the world and I am sure in the end they all will enjoy it as much as anybody else. As far as I am concerned that should finish the monohull-multihull dispute!

Lower costs, better returns means improved sustainability! The last Americas Cup has been far too expensive as far as costs are concerned. If this would go on, this cost spiral would severely limit the interest in participating and hence reduce the attraction of the race. Hence the organization has taken measures to reduce cost levels. For example on-board crew is being reduced from 17 to 11 (remember personnel cost account for 60% of a campaign), testing periods are being reduced, there will be limits as far as the number of sails, support boats and weather stations is concerned, etc, etc. Moreover the choice for multihull rather than monohull also turns out 20% cheaper (lower draft, logistic costs etc). All in all the costs for teams will range from EUR 40mln for a small team with a reasonable competitive profile to EUR 100mln for a big team. That makes this thing cheaper than some of the campaigns of the 32nd Americas Cup. All of this should raise the appetite of current and prospective teams. There are already some teams that want to buy the AC45 and a number of 8 challengers should not be out of reach, whilst rumors have it that at least one other American team will challenge the Defender BMW Oracle. Can’t wait for it!

So what about the returns? No doubt the last Americas Cup did not bring  sponsors what they had hoped for. In contrast the legal battle between the teams resulted in some negative publicity. This time they should get a better deal for their money; branding freedom, more competitors, increased high adrenaline competition, a world series of races rather than a 3 day event, on board cameras, better spectator possibilities, reconnection to the younger generation and lower costs. The math is simple; lower cost and better exposure means higher returns. Adding the bigger fan-base this should not only be good for sponsors, it should also help the long term future and sustainability of the Americas Cup!  Lets sail!

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13 Responses to “34th Americas Cup: taking it to the next level!”

  1. andrea Says:

    How about less rules and more traditional boats. Its not about sailing anymore, its all about ridiculously expensive technology. I think I will watch the Volvo sailing instead. Real sailing, real boats, not some techno shell. A 747 wing on a hull.

    Oh yeah, throw out the multi-hulls

  2. jan-kees.mons Says:

    Americas Cup is always about technology I am afraid but by introducing new rules they limit the costs rather than increasing it. I agree the Volvo is fun as well but in fact the Volvo is not much cheaper than the new formatted Americas Cup. Last but not least, the Americas Cup should reconnect and come out of the dark ages;-)

  3. Oscar Says:

    Multihull sailing is like the formulae-1 in Auto-sport.
    I was waiting since 1976 (that year I started sailing the Olympic Tornado catamaran) for the change from old (still beautiful) slow monohulls to Multihulls. Why should the best boat race in the world not use the best sailing options there are today. Last 33 cup proved the America’s cup had discovered the beauty of extreme fast sailing.
    By the way, many years ago, the little-America cup was already a sailing match with wing-sail catamarans.
    I can’t wait seeing these boats sailing.

  4. jan-kees.mons Says:

    Hello Oscar,
    Couldn’t agree more. Although I am still a vivid monohull sailor, we have to move forward and synchronize with the new generation: fast faster, furious, fun and short. Multihull fits the bill, wingsail even better (as we all witnessed). For the remainder all teh decisions seem to be right…..the Americas Cup will be the spectacle again it used to be. Remains the bigggest race on earth together with the Volvo!

  5. Kees Rovers Says:

    Yes! Multihulls! I was sad to see the Tornado disappear from the Olympic stage, but this makes my day and year! Although I understand the conservative monohull standpoint, for it is a part of the sports and worlds history, I agree with Jan-Kees that multihull sailing is better for the new generation. And why would you build a boat that needs a lot of weight in a keel to stay upright? You wouldn’t send Usain Bolt on his way with 100 kilo weighing shoes, would you?
    A multihull is light, faster and a sensation to sail. Though the smaller ones can be a bit overexciting to sail in 24+knots winds – don’t you agree, Jan-Kees? – it is a thrill to be able to control all this power.
    The next stop: hydrofoils?

  6. jan-kees.mons Says:

    Nice comparison with Usain Bolt! And yes (pending on the wind) the small ones can be somewhat overexciting;-). Hydrofoils? Not in our life………This is already huge step…….

  7. Wolf from Italy Says:

    next level?!

    i remember louis vuitton cups with teams from all over the world and the best sailors competing.. millions of appassionates..

    and now?

    why should ac34 be more attractive than the embarrassing ac33?
    (at least in england or germany the interest will be at the same low level than this year.. )

  8. jan-kees.mons Says:

    The AC33 was a disgrace for sailing and indeed very embarassing but more so because of what happened before (all the legal disputes etc) than the actual race itself. Additionally the format of the race was very disappointing……just two boats competing in 3 races with little or no wind …..In contrast the Louis Vuitton Cup was and still is great fun to watch, again we agree! And it is this format which they will bring back again. There will be series where countries will fight each other to the bone to decide who will end up to be the challenger (and or defender in the case of America). We have to await which countries will participate in the end. In any case, by going to a standardized format costs have been contained to a certain extent and when you want attract sufficient nations, you need to do something about costs. Multihull is cheaper than monohull. Additionally there is the question on monohull vs multihull. Although I am a vivid sailor of particularly monohulls, I agree with the decision to go to multihill. Besides the cost aspect, multihull sailing should appeal more to the younger generation, that is (like in everything) more aimed at fast, fun and furious. If the AC wants to develop/go along with time, they should do something in that perspective. And clearly in a strictly regulated new class, fights will be more fierce than in the AC33 (experiments with the right course needs to take place though. Adding on board cameras, visuals, new media etc (look at the WMRT match races), I cannot see why AC34 could not become successful and regain something of its lost status…..fun and spectacular races in the port of SanFran, it could be worse………but only time will tell.
    To put in a nutshell; old format of competing nations, new boat classe, cost containment making it more attractive, appeal to younger generation, new media and coverage making it more interesting to new user groups, attractive port of happening

  9. van der ploeg Says:

    BMW pulling out and entry fees drasticalkly reduced, what’s next before the light goes out?

  10. van der ploeg Says:

    San Fran won

  11. jan-kees.mons Says:

    The light won’t go out…..The Americas Cup is just too big to not survive. Yes BMW is out and that is not entirely surprising as the car manufacturer did not get sufficient returns on its sponsorship investment in AC33 and does not want to run the risk to see that happening again. Entry fees reduced should further reduce the entry barriers to participate. That should be no problem for the commercial returns of the event; it’s just a fraction of the total.

  12. jan-kees.mons Says:

    Good news, SanFran will be the ideal setting for a succesful AC 34! It will make for beautiful pictures and spectacular sailing in SF harbour, whilst a broader audience can enjoy the sailing!

  13. van der ploeg Says:

    With Alcatraz looming in the background, that should scare the living daylight out of some sailors!

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