The America's Cup: New Rules Introduced to Avoid Controversies in Future

By Blackshaw, Ian | The International Sports Law Journal, July-October 2010 | Go to article overview

The America's Cup: New Rules Introduced to Avoid Controversies in Future


Blackshaw, Ian, The International Sports Law Journal


The America's Cup, which is the oldest trophy - 159 years' old - competed for in international sport and, in recent years, mired by controversies, has introduced new rules for the 34th edition of the competition, scheduled to take place in 2013. The new rules are designed to eliminate disputes in the future.

This major international sailing competition predates by 45 years the Modern Olympic Games, introduced in 1896. In 1851, the schooner 'America', funded by a group of businessmen from New York City, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to race against a fleet of British yachts considered to be the best of their time. 'America' was a radically designed pilot boat with low topsides and raked masts - said to be a triumph of new world technology - and very different from anything that plied British waters at that time.

On August 22, 1851, 'America' took on and beat the fleet of British boats in a race around the Isle of Wight to win the trophy that later came to bear her name.

In 1887, the syndicate of owners donated the trophy to the New York Yacht Club under a Deed of Gift, which sets out the terms and conditions for future challenges. These still govern the competition today. The main aim of the event is described in the following terms:

"This Cup is donated upon the conditions that it shall be preserved as a perpetual Challenge Cup for friendly competition between foreign countries."

Initially, a one-on-one sailing competition between teams representing foreign yacht clubs, in modern times, the America's Cup has evolved into one of the leading global sports events, in which teams from around the world compete in a series of eliminations for the right to race against the Defender in the America's Cup Match.

Surveys have shown that the America's Cup provides the third largest economic benefits in sport to host countries, after the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. So, apart from the sporting side of the competition, which is very keen and quite aggressive, there is much to play for financially speaking as well!

For 2013, wing sail catamarans will be used and other innovations introduced to attract commercial sponsors, who have been deterred by legal wranglings prior to the 2012 event, which took place in February.

These changes include a shorter race format and a series of cost-cutting measures; and, according to the chief executive of the 2010 winner of the event, BMW Oracle of the USA:

  "This new format and boat will put the America's Cup back at the
  pinnacle of our sport. … 

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