The America’s Cup has shaken and stirred the rules for the 2017 regatta. They’re radical, ambitious and sure to set off debates in yacht club bars from Sydney to San Diego to San Francisco to Southampton.Defending champion Oracle Team USA will race against challengers in early elimination rounds. It can build two 62-foot, wing-sailed foiling catamarans — insurance against a catastrophic failure — while challengers will be limited to one, a clause that’s sure to be controversial.
In another twist, either Oracle Team USA or a challenger could start the best-of-13 America’s Cup match with a one-point lead, depending on results from the qualifying rounds.
The 78-page protocol for the 35th America’s Cup was released Tuesday, more than seven months after Oracle Team USA staged one of the greatest comebacks in sports to beat Emirates Team New Zealand and retain the oldest trophy in international sports.
The rules were published even though organizers haven’t decided whether San Francisco, San Diego, Bermuda or Chicago will be the main venue. It’s expected that the early qualifying rounds will be held in a different venue than the challenger semifinals and finals, and America’s Cup match.
The new rules are designed to cut costs. The catamarans will be 10 feet shorter than before, requiring a crew of eight rather than 11, and smaller shore crews and design teams.
It’s not cheap to enter, though — that fee is $2 million, payable in two installments.
There could be six to eight challengers. Next Tuesday in Greenwich, Olympic star Ben Ainslie — who sailed for Oracle in the last cup — will launch a British challenge. Other teams are expected from New Zealand, Italy, Sweden, Australia and maybe China and France.
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