Cup Rules Announced… Maybe

Into the uncertain atmosphere over Société Nautique de Genève’s (SNG) Protocol for the 33rd America’s Cup (under challenge from the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) in the New York State Supreme Court) America’s Cup Management (ACM), the body charged by SNG with running the regatta, yesterday launched the Competition Regulations.

The press conference in Barcelona introduced the event format and schedule, the dates for the Trials and the America's Cup Match, along with more on the AC90 – the new boat. We’ve already written about this, and there’s a good interview with Tom Schnackenberg, the man charged with bringing the new boat to life, at BYM News on how some of the parameters came about.

One added detail is that the crew weight limit has been removed because the new boats are so powered up – perhaps that will give all those heavier sailors disenfranchised from the current Olympic slate (which doesn’t include any keelboats) something to do…

As expected, the new rules attempt to outlaw two-boat testing, by forbidding AC90 boats from sailing alongside each other outside the events and formal ‘practise’ racing, which will be organised, apparently on-demand, by the regatta director. There are also rules excluding the sailing of ‘surrogate’ boats, in an effort to block expensive work-arounds/loopholes, and no-sail periods when the boats can’t be used at all. Returning are measures we’ve seen before like sail limitations, a 50% limit on modifications to an AC90 hull, and this time there will be no shrouding allowed at any time.

ACM are sticking with the much derided plan for the Defender to sail in the Challenger trials, and the format seems to have been designed to try and remove any influence they might have (by throwing races) over the outcome. I’ve got three words for what they’ve come up with; Cricket. World. Cup. Here’s the plan from the official press release:


End of June/ July 2008: Act 1, in Valencia (fleet & match race in ACC V5 yachts)

September 2008: Act 2, location in Europe tbc (fleet & match race in ACC V5 yachts)

April 2009: Act 3, in Valencia in AC90 (fleet race) (tbc)

Results from the Acts do not carry forward into the Trials. However, aside from the exposure and prestige gained, there are bonuses with regards to sail allocation for 2009. If teams compete in the 2008 Acts, they gain five sails on top of their 45 sail allocation for 2009. The overall winner of the 2008 Acts gains an additional two sails and the second placed competitor gains one extra sail.


Round Robins 1 and 2

Starting on May 2nd 2009, they will result in a ranking that includes all Challengers and Alinghi. The six top ranked teams proceed into the Semi Final. The remaining teams proceed into a parallel fleet racing event called the 'Challenger Sail Off', the results of which go towards the final ranking and therefore the net surplus distribution.

Semi Final

May/June 2009: Three Rounds of the Semi Final (between the top six teams of the Round Robins) will result in a Challenger ranking. Number 1 in the ranking goes straight to the Challenger Selection Final, whilst there will be a Repechage between the 2nd and 3rd placed Challengers. Alinghi moves to the parallel 'Secondary Series' at this stage.

Challenger Selection Series

The Challenger Selection Series starts in late June 2009 with the Repechage. The winner of this goes on to meet the top ranked Challenger in a best-of-seven Challenger Selection Final in July. The winner of the Challenger Selection Final becomes the Challenger and goes on to meet Alinghi in the America's Cup Match on the 18 July 2009.

Concurrent with the Challenger Selection Final, Alinghi and the newly eliminated Challengers race two Round Robins of a parallel event called the 'Secondary Series'. Results from this determine the final ranking of these Challengers.

The 33rd America's Cup Match

Starting on 18 July 2009, the best Challenger will face the Defender in a best of nine match race series.

Got all that?

If you want to read the new rules for yourself – and bear in mind that the whole lot will likely go in the bin if Oracle win the court case – you can find a PDF here. But just from a quick read, I think I can already see some very expensive ways to get race crews more time on the water and in competition, and to seriously improve the quality of one-boat testing…

As you’d expect there’s plenty of analysis of this elsewhere on the web, I can point you to who have posted the graphic of the format provided by ACM. And Richard Gladwell has done a great job of outlining the main points in a Sail-World story. While the Valencia Sailing blogspot has the press conference audio and a text blog of what was said.

And finally, CupinEurope is running a story about the Italian Challenge, Eolia finding their first sponsor in La Banca Intesa-Sanpaolo - a banking group involved as a minor sponsor for Luna Rossa last time. People still want to play the game, whatever the game turns out to be...

Mark Chisnell ©