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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sailing: America's Cup sets new rules on consultation

Associated Press Writer

ROME BMW Oracle Racing will defend the America's Cup in 2013 or 2014, and promises sweeping reforms in consultation with other teams.

The competition will feature new rules, new boat designs and other sweeping reforms.

Seeking to put an end to the disputes that marred the last America's Cup, BMW Oracle on Thursday pledged cooperation with other teams and a body of independent experts to solve any conflicts.

"Confrontation has been replaced by consultation," said Russell Coutts, CEO of the BMW Oracle team, at a news conference.

The last competition was marred by 2 1/2 years of legal disputes between BMW Oracle's chief Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli of Swiss team Alinghi. They fought over their interpretation of the 1887 Deed of Gift, which governs the America's Cup.

Coutts appeared in Rome alongside Vincenzo Onorato of the Mascalzone Latino team, which is the Challenger of Record. The team is based at the Club Nautico di Roma.

"What we want is discussion and debate now in order to avoid disagreement later," Coutts said, the 159-year-old silver trophy behind him. "Our minds and our ears are open."

Details were scarce during the news conference at the Capitoline Museums. But officials sought to stress their commitment to modernizing the competition and making the 34th America's Cup more viable for commercial partners and TV audiences.

"There are some things that we've got to fix and make right and having fair rules is definitely one of them," Coutts said.

BMW Oracle won the America's Cup with a two-race sweep of Alinghi in Valencia, Spain, in February.

Coutts said the next America's Cup venue has not been decided yet, although San Francisco is a strong contender because it is home of Oracle's founding Golden Gate Yacht Club. Coutts said he has been talking to specialists and event managers.

"We have to address the where before the when," he said.

Coutts said the new competition rules would be consolidated in one document. He said officials have sent out to potential teams the protocol used in the 32nd America's Cup, seeking their comments and input.

The protocol for the 34th America's Cup will be issued by the end of August, while new design rules would be released by the end of the following month, officials said. The venue will be confirmed by the end of the year. The challenger period runs from Oct. 1-Jan. 31.

Meanwhile, officials are also looking at new designs for boats. The new designs are aimed at making the race more spectacular and avoiding lengthy delays that have plagued previous races. The new boats should be able to sustain higher winds and a wider range of conditions, Coutts said.

One issue that didn't come up was some kind of nationality requirement for teams. Coutts said he would favor the idea, but doesn't see it happening in the short term because adding new requirements might make it harder for teams to enter the race.