America's Cup in chaos - part one

Photo: Oracle Team USA / Photo: Balazs Gardi
A small boat to cut costs, but not all the teams are in favour of this significant development
Just when it seemed to be all on track, sailing’s premier event, the America’s Cup, descended into chaos last week following an announcement, outlining some dramatic changes to the event, which aim to slash campaign costs. The significant change - which seems to be firmer than a ‘proposal’, but slightly short of a ‘done deal’ (with a decision on it expected as early as this week) - would involve replacing the AC62 with a smaller and, allegedly cheaper, foiling cat of a size that can be taken apart and shoe-horned into standard 40ft containers. This sudden initiative is believed to have been spawned by Larry Ellison and Torbjörn Törnqvist after seeing the footage of their turboed AC45s sparring on San Francisco Bay and hearing about their performance. Both Oracle Team USA and Artemis Racing didn’t simply just add foils to their AC45s, but fully transformed them into ‘mini-AC62s’ with their beam widened, adding a proper cockpit with wheels and pedestals, plus a pod replacing the ‘spine’ system running fore and aft up the middle of the boat, etc. Incredibly the performance of these turboed AC45s proved to be similar to that of the AC72s – during one bear-away the Oracle Team USA turboed AC45 hit 46 knots and allegedly the two boats were regularly hitting 40+ knots in scarily little breeze. (One wonders what a similarly pimped AC62 might do…Paul Larsen, watch out!) In addition to the Defender and Artemis Racing, the proposal for the smaller boat has received support from Ben Ainslie Racing as well as Team France. For Cammas’ team such a move and its knock-on reduction in required campaign budget would make the difference between being able to compete and not being able to (last summer the French team had more than half its budget secured). However less positive has been