A fast catamaran and fair rules are coming to the America's Cup, profound changes that promise to bring the staid old regatta fully into the 21st century.
New champion BMW Oracle Racing of San Francisco and an Italian syndicate that represents challengers on Monday unveiled the AC72, a 72-foot catamaran with a wing sail that will be used in the 34th America's Cup in 2013.
The venue won't be decided until the end of the year. Whether the boats sail on San Francisco Bay, off Valencia, Spain, or near Rome, spectators can expect shorter, sharper and more spectacular racing.
"It will be racing that meets the expectations of the Facebook generation, not the Flintstones generation," BMW Oracle Racing CEO Russell Coutts said during a news conference in Valencia.
Instead of heavy sloops burying their bows in waves and straining to accelerate, the next America's Cup will feature AC72s sprinting across the water as fast as 30 knots, their windward hulls flying out of the water.
"We need to have the best sailors in the world racing the coolest and fastest boats in the world," said Coutts, a three-time America's Cup winner as a skipper who went on to become a key figure in BMW Oracle Racing's stunning victory with a radical trimaran in the 33rd America's Cup in February.
Coutts said fair rules, the new class of boat and better TV exposure are critical to the future of an event that began in 1851.
Cup was severely damaged when BMW Oracle Racing and two-time champion Alinghi of Switzerland were locked in a bitter, 2½-year court fight over rules for the 33rd America's Cup.
BMW Oracle Racing prevailed in court, then 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 unveiled Monday has been called the fairest ever. Among other details, it calls for neutral, independent race management.
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 off Valencia testing how racing can be better portrayed on TV.
While stressing that a venue hasn't been chosen, Coutts used San Francisco as an example of what spectators can expect.
"If the course can run past landforms like Alcatraz, these boats would rip around that harbor very, very quickly," Coutts said. "I calculated that they can do three laps of the bay in about 45 minutes, reasonably comfortably. If you saw the recognizable features such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the cityfront, I think that would make compelling TV."
Organizers believe the AC72, which will be 46 feet wide, can regularly exceed 30 knots. By comparison, the America's Cup Class sloops that were used from 1992-2007 sailed upwind at about 11 knots and downwind at 12-13 knots.
The AC72 will make its debut in 2012. It will be sailed by a crew of 11, down from 17 aboard the ACC sloops. Onboard cameramen will add to the broadcasts.