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America's Cup organizers reconsidering format of challengers' series

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Regatta organizers are considering a new best-of-three daily match-racing format for the Louis Vuitton Cup for challengers and the America's Cup match on San Francisco Bay next year.

Defending champion Oracle Racing of San Francisco and the eight foreign challengers discussed the "three-for-one" proposal in Auckland, New Zealand, this week.

If approved, the format would replace the traditional daily schedule of one-off match races. So instead of needing to beat an opponent once to earn a point, a team would need to beat its opponent twice. The format would be possible because races will be shorter than in previous America's Cup regattas.

Regatta director Iain Murray said the proposed format would be more rigorous for the teams and provide for more compelling TV viewing.

"The `three-for-one' plan we've been discussing would allow for more starts, more mark roundings, all of the exciting parts of the race, on each day," he said. "Essentially every day would be a best-of-three to earn the point. It adds excitement, but also adds an element of fairness, as where one mistake might put you out of a particular race, you still have a shot to come back strong in the other matches to take the point on the day.

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"This is one of the scenarios we're considering in consultation with the teams," Murray said. "It has come out of our learnings from the America's Cup World Series where we've been able to experiment with different race courses and event formats."

The America's Cup World Series is being contested in 45-foot, wing-sail catamarans. The Louis Vuitton Cup and America's Cup match will be sailed in 72-foot cats.

Murray said the time frame of the racing will remain the same. The Louis Vuitton Cup will start July 4, 2013, with the winner to face Oracle in the America's Cup match beginning Sept. 7, 2013.

Oracle Racing and the eight challengers all paid a $100,000 entry fee before the ACWS began last year. Another $200,000 fee is due June 1. Organizers said Oracle and challengers Artemis Racing, Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa have already paid.

Oracle, Artemis, Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa have started construction of their 72-foot catamarans, and Murray said he's seen the plans of two other teams.

"In practical terms, the teams should be building their AC72s by the end of June, so there is still another five months to know who will be on the start line come July 4, 2013," Murray said.