When his Oracle Team USA won the America’s Cup sailing race in 2010, entrepreneur and sailing aficionado Larry Ellison earned the right to choose the rules for this year’s competition.
Ellison has taken the opportunity to screw up America’s favourite sailing race.
By selecting an especially expensive, complicated, and fast type of boat — a 72-foot catamaran called the AC72 — Ellison has effectively made the 2013 Cup too costly for many competitors, the New York Times reported today.
The competition is set to begin on July 4, and only four teams are signed up. That’s fewer than in any modern Atlantic Cup, and far fewer than the 15 teams race organisers had predicted would compete, according to the Times. There are usually between 7 and 13 teams. That’s not even enough boats for us to bother spending time building a photo slideshow about.
Each team, with the exception of New Zealand’s, is backed by an individual billionaire, and each has spent between $65 million and $100 million so far.
The chief executive of Ellison’s Oracle Team USA, Russell Coutts, noted Ellison reduced the crew size for the boats to 11 members, from 17, as a way to control costs.
The Swedish team, Artemis, has not announced whether or not it will compete come July. On May 9, its catamaran capsized while practicing in San Francisco Bay, killing sailor Andrew “Bart” Simpson.
This week, Olympic champion sailor Sir Ben Ainslie, who was a friend of Simpson’s and sails for Ellison’s team, called for a review of the Cup’s rules.
“We need to look at some of the rules to try to increase the safety of those boats, the AC72 class, and we’re going through that process right now,” he said, according to the Daily Mail.
The America’s Cup is the world’s oldest active race, and is not held on a set schedule. The reigning champion has the right to choose the location of the next race and the type of boat that will be used.
A spokesperson for Ellison told the Times the high-speed, high-tech AC72 boats were chosen because they would make the race more exciting for a television audience. The location, San Francisco Bay, was chosen for the same reason.
But even that choice looks like it is backfiring. The lack of competitors (who sail against each other for the right to challenge Ellison’s team for the Cup) means the event could be abbreviated, the San Francisco Business Times reported.
With fewer racing days, the city might not even make back the money it has spent to host the race. In protest, more than 4,000 people have signed a petition on Causes.com calling on Ellison to cover any debt the city incurs.
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