America's Cup changes considered as teams reduce

Onboard the USS Midway - Russell Coutts - Larry Ellison - USA Victory Tour

Top international yachting correspondent, Stuart Alexander peers through the fog shrouding the America's Cup and his his perspective in The Independent:

Changes to the format of the America’s Cup preliminary events are being considered in San Francisco by the holder, Larry Ellison’s Oracle Racing Team, the sponsoring Golden Gate Yacht Club and the organisation they have set up to arrange regattas over the next 48 months, the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA).

Already having had to hold up the announcement about which of the 14 challenges received for America’s Cup 34 can meet the qualification and financial requirements, ACEA, in conjunction with its sister organisation, America’s Cup Event Management ACEM), has seen timetables slip as a search continues for the venues to host the 2011-12 America’s Cup World Series (ACWS).

ACEA has consistently been saying that it does not expect all 14 of the original hopefuls to make it into the world series. The Challenger of Record, the Rome-based Club Nautico di Roma and its Mascalzone Latino team, has already dropped out. One of the 14, believed to from Germany, was rejected by the scrutineers in San Francisco.

But, while the new Challenger of Record, the Royal Swedish Yacht Club’s Artemis and the New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s Emirates Team New Zealand, are seen as certain runners, only the Team China challenge has been looking viable.

Another Italian team claims to have paid its $200,000 initial performance bond and San Francisco has been talking up a team from South Korea. The Australian team has yet to be substantiated.

An announcement is expected on or about 1 June which will finally name the participating teams for this season, but Iain Murray, ceo of ACEM, has already said that some of the penalties and forfeits over payment by the deadline of 31 March this year may have to be reviewed. Many believe the number may have dropped from 14 to six or seven

There is also the possibility that the fleet of 10 45-footers, originally due to switch to a Youth America’s Cup at the end of the 2011-12 season, may see their campaign life extended and the introduction of the 72-footers for the 2012-13 season delayed.

The second world series regatta is scheduled for Plymouth in September. The city was happy to give the impression that its total financial commitment was about £200,000 and that it had not paid a host venue fee, a substantial sum when ACEA first started touring the world looking for venue partnerships.

The city remains coy on the budget, which has been drawn down from various existing sources, or obligations undertaken by ACEA on either the number of boats which would race or the number of teams which would compete. It had hoped for 10 teams but admits 'this could change'.

The third ACWS regatta this year will be in San Diego, though the dates have still not been announced. November is more likely than December.

For the full story, including commentary on the Volvo Ocean Race http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/general/sailing/americas-cup-changes-considered-2289498.html!click_here