Sailing: Grant Dalton perplexed by new America's Cup format

America's Cup World Series boats line up at Portsmouth, England. Photo / Getty Images
America's Cup World Series boats line up at Portsmouth, England. Photo / Getty Images

The war between Team New Zealand's Grant Dalton and former America's Cup champion Russell Coutts continued as the schedule for the 35th America's Cup in Bermuda was released today.

The new racing format features all six teams competing in a round robin. In these opening two rounds, each competitor races every other team twice, with the challengers battling for a place in the top four and the right to advance to the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs.

The current Defender, Oracle Team USA, moves straight into the America's Cup Match in which it will take on the winner of the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs.

What has heads turning, however, is the fact Oracle will compete in the round robin stage, despite having automatic entry into the final.

Dalton made no secret of the fact he's perplexed by the somewhat novel format.

"I guess the strange thing for people and really for us too is that Oracle is in those first rounds and that's no more complicated than them trying to increase their chances of defending by matching themselves up against the opposition," said Dalton.

"I don't know whether that happens in any other sport in the world where the finalist gets to play in the rounds, and it certainly didn't happen when Team New Zealand had the America's Cup."

America's Cup Event Authority CEO Russell Coutts, however, has championed his new format as an opportunity for every team to plan their strategies.

"I'm sure everyone associated with the 35th America's Cup is as excited as I am to be able to announce the schedule for 2017," Coutts said.

"We are looking forward to seeing fierce competition as the event kicks off with Oracle Team USA against Groupama Team France as the first race of the day, followed by more exciting racing for all our America's Cup fans and followers. It will be a fantastic spectacle.

"All the America's Cup teams now know who they will line up with in the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Qualifiers, allowing them to plan their race strategies for each of their double round robin races.

"Bermuda is gearing up for what I believe will be the greatest America's Cup ever and, with Bermuda's beautiful Great Sound as the stage for the 35th America's Cup, we have the perfect location for a truly iconic, world-class sports event."

In 2013, Emirates Team New Zealand took an 8-1 lead over Oracle Team USA, before Oracle made an astonishing comeback and retained the trophy with a 9-8 victory.

Team New Zealand will meet Groupama Team France in its opening race of the qualifiers on May 26.

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