With just 12 months remaining before the start of the next America’s Cup season in Auckland, New Zealand teams, sponsors and the media have all been waiting patiently for the event’s dates and format.
In the light of the failure of the Challenger to beat the Defender in the last America’s Cup, the Challenger group, through their organisation CORM (Challenger of Record Management), has now defined the next Louis Vuitton Cup format. It is a dramatically different event structure.
In the past the Louis Vuitton Cup format has consisted of several Round Robins where each boat raced each other once per round with varying points per win per round. This resulted in the lowest points’ scorers being eliminated, leaving just two boats to contest the Finals for the challenger prize.
In Auckland during the most recent America’s Cup season in 1999/2000 the Louis Vuitton Cup winner ultimately was not strong enough to beat the Defender, Team New Zealand and take the America’s Cup from Auckland. Some of the stronger challengers believed time was wasted racing against weak syndicates. Other syndicates however benefited from the long competition and improved dramatically over the four-month period of the Louis Vuitton Cup. Another criticism of the most recent event was that the Louis Vuitton Cup winner was so exhausted after four months of constant competition that the 10 days break they had before the America’s Cup Match wasn’t enough time to recover and prepare to face the Defender.
The strongest teams from the last Cup, some of them returning to try again this time, believed that the event format should be changed for future Cups so that the better teams should race only other good teams, spending the rest of their time with their own in-house training; but at the same time allowing smaller teams to benefit from constant competition.
After many months of debate the current challenger group, which consists of ten syndicates from seven countries, has devised a new event format that they believe will fulfil the needs of the challenger movement. It will allow strong two-boat teams to spend more of their time training, whilst also giving many of the viable one-boat programmes plenty of racing and the chance to go all the way to the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals, and beyond, if they are good enough.
The racing for the sixth Louis Vuitton Cup will begin on the 1st October 2002 and the Challenger should be known sometime in the third week of January 2003. The format used will see a variety of tournament variations taking place. The event starts off with two Round Robins, where each syndicate will race each of the others once per round for one point per win. At the end of these two rounds a pecking order based on races won will have been established with the fleet seeded from one to eight. The two syndicates having finished ninth and tenth after the Round Robins will be eliminated at this point.
The Louis Vuitton Cup Quarter Finals begin on 12 November 2002 and see the remaining eight boats split into two groups, the Double Chance and Single Chance groups, according to their ranking (one to four – Double Chance, and five to eight – Single Chance). The top ranked teams in each group (ie number one and number five) choose their opposition for a best of seven series. All things being equal team number one and team number five will choose the lowest two ranked boats in their respective groups (ie number four and number eight) so as to have the best chances of progressing to the next stage. This leaves teams three and seven to race teams two and six respectively, also in a best of seven series.
At the end of this round the two Single Chance losers are eliminated and the two Double Chance Winners qualify directly for the Semi-Finals. The Quarter Finals Repechage then takes place which sees the two losers from the Double Chance group exercise their second chance against the winners of the two pairs in the Single Chance group, a