America's Cup organizers are scheduled to make several major announcements in Valencia, Spain, on Monday amid increasing indications that the next regatta will be sailed in 72-foot catamarans in 2013.
Early indications were that the 34th America's Cup would be sailed in 2014. However, organizers are concerned that racing during a year with the World Cup and the Winter Olympics could hurt corporate sponsorships. Sailing the regatta a year earlier would also reduce the cost of campaigns and get the event back in front of the public quicker.
The image of the America's Cup was severely damaged during a bitter 2½-year court fight between San Francisco-based BMW Oracle Racing and two-time champion Alinghi of Switzerland.
MW Oracle Racing swept Alinghi in two races in giant multihulls off Valencia in February, returning the oldest trophy in international sports to the United States for the first time in 15 years.
BMW Oracle Racing, owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison, has been working with Italy's Club Nautico di Roma, the Challenger of Record, on rules and other details for the 34th America's Cup. The protocol that will be unveiled Monday has been called the fairest ever. Among other details, it will call for neutral, independent race management.
The venue won't be announced until the end of the year. The leading contenders are San Francisco, Valencia and a port near Rome.
The last traditional, multichallenger America's Cup was in 2007 in Valencia, when Alinghi beat Team New Zealand.
The switch from traditional monohulls to catamarans would make for faster, more exciting racing as organizers hope to make the event more TV-friendly. Catamarans and trimarans have been sailed in the America's Cup before, but only because of lack of mutual consent for a class rule.
In 1988, Dennis Conner sailed his catamaran to a two-race sweep against New Zealand's big monohull off San Diego. In February, BMW Oracle Racing sailed a trimaran with a radical, 223-foot wing sail to two lopsided victories over Alinghi's catamaran.
BMW Oracle Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill and CEO Russell Coutts — a four-time America's Cup winner — became intrigued with sailing the America's Cup in multihulls in the wake of their victory in February. However, organizers had independent rule writers create new classes of monohull and multihull boats in order to have a choice. BMW Oracle Racing also spent four days during the summer testing how racing can be better portrayed on TV.
Catamarans will be faster than the current America's Cup sloops, which, while high-tech, can be somewhat plodding. The catamarans will be able to sail in wider wind ranges, meaning fewer delays.
The impending switch to catamarans hasn't been universally received. Britain's TeamOrigin has said it might not compete if the next regatta is sailed in catamarans.