Yachting: America's Cup to go back to tradition

By Daniel Silva

VALENCIA - The America's Cup is poised to return to its traditional multiple challenger format after US side Oracle won the 33rd edition of sailing's oldest and most prestigious trophy held in Spain.

Oracle boss Larry Ellison said he had not yet decided on where to stage the next Cup - although he mentioned Newport, San Diego and San Francisco in the United States as possibilities - but he said the location must have room for many teams.

"We have to develop bases for many teams because it is going to be a multi-challenger event," he said after his side defeated Swiss defender Alinghi in the 33rd America's Cup staged off the Spanish port of Valencia.

Under the Deed of Gift, the rules of the 159-year-old event, the winning team has the right to select a Challenger of Record which then works with it to set the rules and select the location for the next race.

The Cup defaulted to a rare head-to-head duel between Oracle and Alinghi this year because two sides could not agree on the rules for a conventional regatta with several teams in a dispute that involved several court challenges.

Oracle's trimaran beat Alinghi's catamaran during the second race of the best-of-three series yesterday by a comfortable margin of 5min 26sec to defeat the Swiss side 2-0, becoming the first US team to win the Cup in 18 years.

A return to Newport, Rhode Island, where the Cup was held - and won - by the Americans for over five decades until 1983 would please sailing purists and fans of what is the world's oldest continuously held sports competition.

But Oracle represents the Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco, where Ellison lives, and a bid by the city to host the event will carry weight even if weather conditions there are not ideal.

But Oracle CEO Russell Coutts said no decision on the location had been taken.

"The location will need to have the right infrastructure, all these things have to be explored. Nothing has been planned yet, we were focused up until now on winning," he said.

The 33rd America's Cup was the first not to feature a qualifying contest since 1988, meaning teams from countries including South Africa and New Zealand that competed last time had to stay away.

Ellison, the 65-year-old co-founder and chief executive of computer firm Oracle Corp., said he would work to ensure that the next edition of the race involved more people and got more television coverage.

The value of the media rights for the Cup this year was limited because it was staged over a much shorter time period and involved fewer teams.

He said the goal would be to "attract sponsorship and funding for all of the teams that want to participate, from Oracle and Alinghi but also to the Chinese team and the South African team and the Swedish team and the New Zealand team."

"If we do our job well and work closely with them, the 34th America's Cup should be the most popular America's Cup ever," added Ellison, who is worth about US$22.5 billion, making him the world's fourth-richest person according to Forbes magazine.

This was the first time in the history of the America's Cup that multihulls have sailed against each other. The two entries were also the biggest, fastest and most expensive boats to have ever taken part in the competition.

Alinghi boss Ernesto Bertarelli said he would prefer to see the America's Cup continue to use multihulls.

"We had the fastest possible boats racing each other, I think that is good. Why would you want to go slowly?" he said after his side lost the 33rd America's Cup to Oracle.

Ellison did not say when he hoped to stage the next America's Cup but it is traditionally held every three or four years, meaning it could be held in 2013 at the earliest.

He did confirm media reports that Oracle had selected Italian side Mascalzone Latino, backed by Italian shipping magnate Vincenzo Onorato, as its Challenger of Record.

- AFP

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