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5 of 6 America's Cup teams agree to new regatta framework

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SAN DIEGO (AP) Five of the six skippers in the America's Cup gathered at the House of Garrard in London on Wednesday to announce a framework agreement they say will be good for the future of the oldest trophy in international sports.

The agreement would lock in the current class of foiling catamarans, narrow the time frame between the next two regattas to two years and make sailing's marquee regatta less costly for new syndicates.

While the agreement is touted as commercially attractive, a big problem is that Emirates Team New Zealand did not sign it and the agreement would be moot if the Kiwis win the 35th America's Cup in Bermuda this summer.

The Kiwis indicated in a statement that they prefer to stick with tradition as spelled out in the Deed of Gift, the 19th century document that governs the competition.

''Emirates Team New Zealand believe the future America's Cup format is to be decided by the Defender and Challenger of Record as it has historically been,'' the syndicate said.

Getting the Kiwis on board could be impossible. They've been at odds with the America's Cup Event Authority since it pulled a qualifying regatta from Auckland, which in turn cost the syndicate millions of dollars in funding from the New Zealand government. The regatta was yanked after Emirates Team New Zealand supported another syndicate in a dispute over an unprecedented midcourse downsizing of the catamarans that will compete this summer.

Emirates Team New Zealand, the hard-luck loser of the 2013 America's Cup, took its case to an arbitration panel and reportedly has won, which could lead to an award of millions of dollars from the ACEA. However, organizers have attempted to keep the panel's deliberations shrouded in secrecy, with violators facing penalties, including a fine of up to $1 million.

''Emirates Team New Zealand is not here today, but they have been kept updated on all developments throughout the creation of the framework agreement,'' said Martin Whitmarsh, the CEO of Britain's Land Rover BAR. ''We remain optimistic that they will come on board in the future and it is clear that cooperation is better for all of the stakeholders in the America's Cup.''

The agreement was announced at the House of Garrard, the jeweler that in 1848 crafted the silver trophy that became the America's Cup. Signing it were two-time defending America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA, which is owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison; SoftBank Team Japan; Team France; Sweden's Artemis Racing; and Land Rover BAR, which is led by Sir Ben Ainslie, a British sailing star who helped Oracle win the 2013 America's Cup on San Francisco Bay in a stunning comeback against Team New Zealand.

Traditionally, when the America's Cup changes hands, the new defender takes some time to negotiate the format and class of boats to be used in the next regatta with the Challenger of Record, which represents the interests of all the challengers.

There is no Challenger of Record for the 35th America's Cup. Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club dropped out early in the cycle and was replaced by a committee of the remaining challengers. Notably absent from the announcement was any mention of San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club, which under the Deed of Gift is the event's legal trustee.

Under the framework agreement, America's Cup 36 will be in 2019 and AC37 in 2021. They will be sailed in the same class of catamarans that will be sailed in this summer's regatta.

Whitmarsh said the teams hope to reduce the cost of a campaign to between $30 million and $40 million.

Ellison has spent an estimated $500 million since the early 2000s in pursuing, winning and defending the silver trophy. Ellison and Russell Coutts, who heads both the ACEA and Oracle Team USA, want the event to become self-sustaining commercially.

The framework agreement appears to build on the vision of Ellison and Coutts to turn the America's Cup into a nautical version of Formula One while giving short shrift to the Deed of Gift.

''People who want to enter this race now know how much it will cost, what kind of boat they need to build and that the rules can't change on them,'' Ellison said in a statement. ''They are now able to plan ahead, build a boat, build a team and come out and compete for their country.''

However, it was the midcourse change in the boat size that has made this America's Cup contentious. Also, the notion of nationality has been almost entirely stripped away since Oracle won the America's Cup in 2010.


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