French sailing team drops out of America's Cup 

click to enlarge Thinning field: The Oracle racing team has been practicing in local waters, but they have been left with only three challengers after the French departure. The deadline for more teams to sign up is less than two months away. - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
  • Getty Images file photo
  • Thinning field: The Oracle racing team has been practicing in local waters, but they have been left with only three challengers after the French departure. The deadline for more teams to sign up is less than two months away.

A French sailing team that had signed up to race in San Francisco’s America’s Cup yacht regatta has removed itself from contention, creating more setbacks for the event.

The team, called Aleph, announced Tuesday that it planned to drop out of the regatta and wished the other competitors good luck, but didn’t provide a reason for quitting. Aleph finished fourth during races in San Diego in November and was considered the weaker of two French teams in the running.

That leaves just four teams — including reigning champion Larry Ellison’s Oracle racing squad — signed up for local installments of the Louis Vuitton Cup, which will set up two remaining competitors for the America’s Cup finals in the fall of 2013.

Sam Singer, a spokesman for the America’s Cup, said the news doesn’t mean the races will be a bust in San Francisco, with nearly two months remaining for additional teams to pay the $200,000 entry fee and participate in the run-up to the regatta’s grand finale.

“That’s not an issue at all,” Singer said. “It only takes two to have a race. Four is great, but two is all you need.”

Ellison, a billionaire, is attempting to remake the sport with larger, faster and costlier catamarans, but critics have questioned the receptiveness of the sailing world and the general public. In addition to the entry fee, teams spend up to $1 million building the 45-foot yachts being used in the precursor World Series events and upward of $10 million to construct the never-before-used 72-foot boats that will be raced in the finals.

World Series events are getting under way next week in Naples, Italy, where the Spanish-based GreenComm team also declined to participate, although members said they hoped to participate in Venice next month depending on whether they can achieve “financial reorganization.”

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

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Dan Schreiber

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Thursday, Feb 26, 2015

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