Entries for the 34th Americas Cup accelerated with a flurry of last-minute activity on deadline day last week, March 31, resulted in 15 teams from 12 nations entering the competition set for the 2011 and 2012 World Series events and the Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup Finals set for San Francisco in the summer of 2013.
The 34th Cup is set to look wholly different than any before it with a completely reinvigorated format and slew of innovations.
Featuring wingsail catamarans measuring 72 feet overall, the event will be sailed in the confines of San Francisco Bay, a natural amphitheater with some 2.5 million people living along its shoreline amid Alameda, Marin and San Francisco counties.
The number of entries was beyond the expectations of many, except for perhaps Larry Ellison, the founder of ORACLE Racing. At the press conference at City Hall in early January announcing San Francisco as the venue for the 34th Cup, Ellison expressed optimism that 14 to 16 teams would sign up for the 34th America’s Cup. At the time there were only four entries, yet Ellison’s comments have proven prescient.
Of the 14 challengers who've entered, 12 have been validated while the others are being checked against qualifying requirements. Some of the vetted teams have yet to publicly announce their challenges.
The latest to announce was Italy's Venezia Challenge. Other countries with teams that have announced are Sweden, New Zealand, France, China and Australia. In the spate of media stories following the close of the initial entry period, the Associated Press highlighted Korea and Canada as other possible contenders.
“It’s obviously an acceptance of the new vision of the America's Cup,” said Iain Murray, regatta director for America’s Cup Regatta Management. “People must be liking what they see, which is the World Series, the catamarans, the 45s, new rules. They can see all that stuff now. And there's more to come, with television production, and maybe just the event being in San Francisco. There's a package around the America's Cup of activity and people that’s never been there before.”
At a follow-up press conference in Plymouth, UK, America’s Cup Event Authority chairman Richard Worth compared the transformed Cup as the F1 of the water. ORACLE Racing skipper James Spithill, participating from Auckland via video conference, said the America’s Cup can finally stand up to the F1 comparison when he enthused about the switch to wingsailed catamarans.
“The America’s Cup has been compared to F1 for years,” said Spithill. “That comparison has held true in design, engineering and technology. Now the America’s Cup has the boats to live up to the comparison.”
34th America’s Cup Entry List
Defender: ORACLE Racing/USA
Challengers: Aleph-Équipe de France
Artemis Racing (Sweden)
Emirates Team New Zealand
Energy Challenge (France)
Mascalzone Latino (Italy, Challenger of Record)
Venezia Challenge (Italy)
Four challengers – Confirmed/Confidential
Two challengers – In vetting process