Withdrawal of Team Australia leaves plenty of questions remaining about the state of the famed sailing event
The America's Cup is in limbo once more and looks likely to remain that way for a while yet.
Six weeks after signing off on the Protocol for the 35th America's Cup, Hamilton Island Yacht Club have withdrawn, leaving the event without a challenger of record.
The Australians had entered in the hope of creating a more affordable (in relative terms) and accessible event. But they came to realise in the past week that despite their best intentions, they had negotiated a Protocol that still kept the event out of reach.
Iain Murray, the chief executive of the Australian syndicate, told Sail World a lack of clarity on the most basic of details made it impossible for the team to pull together the funds needed for a credible campaign.
"The timeline is the killer in this Cup," said Murray. "Sponsors want to know where the venues are, and the dates. The gap gets pretty wide trying to get the sponsors to commit against the timeline of the expenditure."
The latest twist in the America's Cup saga has created both intrigue and confusion. Just where Team Australia's withdrawal leaves the next event remains unclear, with the competitors' rules advisers likely to be still scouring through the Protocol trying to figure out what it all means. Cup organisers don't seem to be in any hurry to clear any of that confusion up - the only communication coming from the America's Cup Events Authority since Team Australia's withdrawal was in the form of a vaguely worded press release.
The organisation later tweeted "we'll have more team information following the close of entries on August 8". So until then, there is plenty to ponder about the state of the famed event:
If the guys who signed off on the Protocol can't put a challenge together, what hope do the rest of them have?
What must the Protocol's first draft have looked like if the version released was the middle ground?
What are the chances of Russell Coutts ever admitting that perhaps Grant Dalton's complaints over the delay in nominating a venue might have had some merit?
Who will be the next challenger of record?
Can they make it their first job to come up with a shorter name?
Do Oracle have a back up lapdog challenger in their hip pocket?
Will the new challenger of record be strong enough to renegotiate the Protocol on more acceptable terms for the remaining challengers?
Given there have to be at least four teams entered before a challenge is officially accepted, what happens if another team pulls out?
If there are only four challengers, does that mean there is no longer any need for a multi-staged challenger series?
Was Ernesto Bertarelli really all that bad?