How to change the America’s Cup boat

Published on March 26th, 2015

During the build-up toward the 34th America’s Cup in 2013, it was widely agreed that the AC72 was too big, too expensive, too complicated. While it seemed appropriate when first conceived, the boat proved to be more than what was needed. A smaller boat would sufficiently fill the broadcast screen while still providing riveting performance.

So for the 35th America’s Cup, the AC62 rule was created to make amends for the overreach in the previous edition. However, in the time that rule was released in June 2014, enough of the competitors are now thinking it’s an overreach too. So rather than potentially face another size reduction in the 36th America’s Cup, there is an effort to make that change now.

But how do you make a change now, with the teams already at work on their AC62 design? Peter Rusch, Communications Director of the America’s Cup Event Authority, provides this explanation:
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The relevant rules are in the Protocol and how to amend the Protocol (Article 20), and similarly in the Class Rule and how to amend (section 4).

For the Protocol, Article 20.2 says it may only be amended with agreement of Golden Gate Yacht Club (club of the Defender) and the Challenger Committee. The part of the Protocol that establishes the Challenger Committee indicates it operates on simple majority vote. Nowhere in the Protocol does it say the Challenger Committee needs more than a majority vote.

The Protocol also provides that the America’s Cup Qualifiers, the America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs and the Match must be raced in yachts that conform to the AC62 Class Rule. That is the operative provision that has to be changed in the Protocol (amongst other cross-references). To make that change requires a Protocol amendment, so the simple majority of the Challenger Committee would apply.

The AC62 Class Rule provides for a different standard of approval required for any amendment to the rule (unanimity after March 31st), but the proposal is not to amend the AC62 Class Rule.

Rather, as above, the proposal is to amend the Protocol to introduce an entirely new class of yachts to be raced in 2017. The AC62 Class Rule will remain unchanged, but with no effect after the Protocol has been changed to provide that those yachts won’t be raced.
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The rule changes are now being drafted and teams will be asked to vote on these changes before the end of March.

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