Russell Coutts’ plans for the Challenger Selection Series

Posted on 18 December 2013 by Valencia Sailing

Although no official announcement has been made yet in what regards the future of the world’s oldest sports trophy, Russell Coutts recently talked to the Yachting World magazine and outlined the preliminary plans he has been working on for the 35th edition of the America’s Cup.

The CEO of Oracle Team USA didn’t reveal anything in that interview that we hadn’t already mentioned in the recent past. In what regards the time frame for holding the next edition, it seems that Coutts is in favor of the summer of 2017, in San Francisco, if of course the negotiations with the city come to a fruitful conclusion. That doesn’t come much as a surprise, as the years 2015 and 2016 are deemed to be unsuitable. It would be too early for 2015 while 2016 is an Olympic year.

As far as the boat is concerned it appears Coutts wants to ditch the AC72′s and opt for a smaller 60-foot foiling catamaran with a crew of 7 of 8 and a number of one-design elements. Again, this is an aspect that has already been covered recently but Coutts makes it more official with this interview. Coutts argues that a smaller boat with less crew and less liberty for designers will bring costs down. Nevertheless, changing the boat once again will throw away the progress made during the last three years and will force the teams and the event to face the same potential problems and pitfalls they faced in the past. Everybody will have to go through the same steep learning curve, with huge differences between the yachts that would again result in unattractive races where one boat crosses the finish line five minutes ahead of the other. Not only that, right now there are at least a couple of AC72′s that could be readily available for any current or potential future team.

Coutts’ plan that seems to raise concerns among the potential challengers has to do with the racing format for the selection of the Challenger that will face Oracle Team in three years. Just like the previous edition, a worldwide circuit is envisioned but unlike last time it will count, and heavily, towards the final challenger selection. According to well-informed French sources, Coutts would like the preliminary circuit to serve as an initial cutoff from which just the top four will make it to the actual Red Bull Cup, or whatever the Challenger Selection Series (CSS) might be called, at the America’s Cup venue.

In this America’s Cup edition as well, Russell Coutts has the helm of the event. Photo copyright Gilles Martin-Raget / America’s Cup

As a result, the challengers will be racing in modified, foiling AC45′s from 2015 until early 2016 and then the top four will have one year to design and build their actual, new, America’s Cup boat. In order to also make it cheaper for the organization, Coutts states in the Yachting World interview that he would like each challenger to hold a preliminary race in its home country and bear the entire organizational costs. If that plan fails to succeed then Coutts could present an alternative in which two “regional” championships are held. The first one would be in Europe where the potential challengers from Europe and the Middle East would compete for two CSS berths, while the second one could take place somewhere in Australasia and will see the Australasian challengers square off for the remaining two CSS spots. The costs of each “regional” championship could then be shared among the corresponding teams.

The idea that only four of the participating teams would advance to the CSS is ludicrous, at best. Even if the AC72′s turned out to be extremely complex and expensive, each challenger that took part in the previous Cup knew at the time of its inscription that if the necessary funding was in place early on, they had their spot in the Louis Vuitton Cup guaranteed, regardless of their result in the ACWS. Now, if Coutts’ plan goes ahead and there are more than four challengers, teams will know for sure that they will be in the America’s Cup venue just 18 months before the event takes place! Unless they are backed by a billionaire they will have absolutely no chance whatsoever in getting any sponsorship at all!

Can anyone imagine what big multinational group would ever fund Ben Ainslie or Franck Cammas for the 35th America’s Cup if they have no certainty as to whether the team will exist beyond 2016? Even if they are two of the world’s best and most accomplished sailors will any marketing manager sign a sponsorship deal with them with such an unknown hanging over them? Guess what chances a newcomer will have! None.

Despite his repeated claims to the contrary, it seems that once again Russell Coutts is trying to build as big an advantage for the Defender as possible… That’s what the America’s Cup is all about after all…

9 Comments For This Post

  1. mick Says:

    When will the Challengers grow some BALLS and stand up for this shit…

  2. Chriswah Says:

    I agree with Mick, these challengers need to grow a pair.

    There are some interesting things in this though, especially the regional racing. That could be very interesting, but think that all teams should be included in the CSS for a few rounds of racing….

  3. ELVSTROM Says:

    This idea has no legs. The Challengers will not allow this. In fact, the Defender has no right to control of the how the challenger is selected. It will be interesting to see how the COR reacts to this. I have heard that COR is consulting with ETNZ closely. I’m sure that AR, LR and the French will put up much more of a fight than AR did as COR during AC 34. PC was a bit of a lapdog to RC. I like the idea for the 60′.

    Any word on Ben’s efforts?

  4. Jon exert Says:

    What I find most incredible is the way rc and oracle manage to carry on without anyone ever realizing the hypocrisy of it all. Alinghi created such a great event and were so terribly critisized by these guys and eventually under the pressure of the supreme puppet court of new York were forced to hand over the cup. it’s a disgrace that these cheating, lying hipocrites should be allowed to continue. The cup is dead.

  5. AC Intel Says:

    Jon exert, except for your last statement, I fully agree.

  6. adam 12 Says:

    Actaually now that the AC is over and Oracle have somehow managed to win , Russel is actually doing a good job at trying to right some of the wrong´s we saw in the last edition of the AC from san Fran , i think he´s actually on to something and has learned something from his error´s , hopefully they will try to make it a fairer contest and if he manage´s to stick to righting some of the wrong´s of the last event it could be really great , if the CoR can somehow manage to keep the challenger trail´s separate from the activities of the defender ´s operation this will be a strong move but i don´t see him wanting to do this actually going the other way . will see what will happen but we should all cut him a bit of slack he´s our Bernie Eccelstone and finally we seem to have none person who is running sailing , the only other strong issue is that of the nationality deal if everyone on the boat was from the country being represented by the ten this would increase the interest greatly , all good 12

  7. acintel Says:

    Adam 12, your statement proofs you don’t know Russell, his selfishness, his incompetence when it goes beyond sailing and his ego.

    Correcting the wrongs of the 34 means pretty much changing everything starting with Coutts himself. So let’s not dream, he’s likely to replicate failures.

  8. adam12 Says:

    I would´nt be so hard on him mate , there are a lot of selfish people in the sailing game as you know , and with all do respect the job that Russel was faced with was huge i agree that mistake´s were made and even Russel has admitted that , the knives are allay´s out in the yachting game and allay´s another bloke keen to take over , i pleased that there is finally someone very much in charge of the sailing game , i believe that he will try very hard to right some of the mistake´s of the last Cup , we all need to work together and be a bit more positive , with the emphasis on working together this is what offshore sailing on long leg´s teach´s the young people , the first question should be how´s the boat not where´s my gear bag and the hotel and do we have internet and which restaurant are we in tonight and when is the lay day , happy new year , 12

  9. adam 12 Says:

    well , He´s in charge and that´s not going to change , agree that there need´s to be change , but it is not going to happen on the scale that you are discussing , deal with it , when you go to work for people like L.E. you are under a lot of pressure to get result´s that mean´s WIN or your out , anyway i don´t find RC so Bad and wish him all the best in trying to get it right this time , i´ll tell ya one thing the team he´s putting together for the next cup is going to be even better than the one he had in the last cup and he has no financial constrain´s as you know , having a sponsor like Oracle is a Huge advantage as the sponsor is personally involved in the program and will give the financial support needed to get the result , will see , 12 out


Sailing Calendar