'Defining moment' for new-look America's Cup

3 min

London (AFP)

A new framework agreement for the America's Cup, which will see costs slashed and the battle for sport's oldest trophy taking place every two years, was agreed Wednesday and described as a "defining moment".

The agreement, supported by all but one of the teams taking part in this year's spectacular, was unveiled at Garrard jewellers in London -- chosen because it was where the impressive trophy was made in 1848.

The accord will see the America's Cup contested every two years instead of four while qualifiers -- The America's Cup World Series -- will begin by the end of this year for the 2019 edition.

It is hoped that there will be 12 stops for the World Series which will encourage more teams and enthuse a new generation of sailors.

The boats are also to see changes with just two crafts used in the World Series.

The costs of fielding a team will be between $30-45million which the driving force behind the agreement, Martin Whitmarsh -- Chief Executive Officer of Ben Ainslie Racing -- said is a "significant reduction from current team budgets".

Two-time winner Jimmy Spithill, who aged 29 became the youngest skipper to win the America's Cup when he triumphed for the first time in 2010 with Oracle, will captain Oracle again later this year and he was ecstatic about the agreement.

"This is the oldest sporting trophy," he said. "This is a defining moment and we have to ask ourselves why we didn't do this earlier.

"The reduction of costs is very important and it makes me very optimistic for the future."

Ainslie said the new-look event heralded a new dawn for the competition.

The British sailor was instrumental in the last America's Cup four years ago when he was brought in as strategist at Oracle.

- 'Young sailors dream' -

They were trailing challenger Emirates Team New Zealand by 8-1 but went on to clinch the trophy in the deciding race.

"We should see 10 or more teams, 12 events... this has a huge amount of potential," said 37-year-old Ainslie, who is the most successful yachtsman in Olympic history with four golds and a silver.

"Collaboration is the key here to the agreement. If you look at the Cup it has had a complicated history. The key shareholders coming together is great.

"The key facts are the agreement on the class of boat and the timetable.

"This is a strong foundation stone and will I hope also encourage young sailors to be able to dream of the possibility of one day competing in an America's Cup."

Whitmarsh, who joined BAR in 2015 after a long and highly successful career with the McLaren Formula One team, wouldn't elaborate on the reasons for the Emirates Team New Zealand team not signing the accord.

"We are still talking to them and they know it makes sense," he said. "I'm very optimistic they will come on board."

Whitmarsh was at pains to state the Deed of Gift -- where the champion dictates the venue and is responsible for the terms of the next edition -- remained sacrosanct and had been respected throughout the talks.

However, he said something needed to be changed to keep the America's Cup firmly in the public eye.

"I could never understand why it would be so prominent and then slip out of the news for several years," he said.

"The Cup has always built to a crescendo and then at best there has been radio silence and at its worst been dominated by off-the-water stories.

"This agreement provides stability, enables long-term planning and by controlling costs will encourage more teams to enter.

"The five teams' collective vision is for it to remain the pinnacle of sailing."