Coutts brushes aside America's Cup critics

America's Cup (Gallo Images)
America's Cup (Gallo Images)

Hamilton - New Zealand sailing great Russell Coutts dismissed criticism of this year's America's Cup from his home country, ahead of the final match between Team Oracle USA and the Kiwis which starts on Saturday in Bermuda.

It is a chance of revenge for the New Zealanders, after they blew an 8-1 lead to lose 9-8 to Oracle in one of sport's greatest comebacks in 2013.

The 1984 Finn-class Olympic champion and five-time America's Cup winner Coutts is the head organiser of the 35th edition of the world's oldest sailing competition, which has featured a shortened format and ultra-fast boats in an attempt to bring in new fans.

But New Zealand, who set up the rematch with the Americans by beating Sweden's Artemis Racing 5-2 in the challenger final on Monday, have refused to join the other teams to discuss the future of the Cup.

Coutts expressed his delight with the new format, but acknowledged that should New Zealand win the title and hold the next staging of the event, then it could prove to be a one-off.

"We just have to wait and see what their plan is, they have not announced their plan," he told AFP.

"I think the strength in the framework agreement with the five teams that have joined is really that they have agreed to pre-agree the rules before any one team wins.

"Typically in the past, the team has won, and then created the rules with a friendly challenger of record, in isolation to everyone else.

"So everyone else has to wait and see what those rules are. And clearly, that's not ideal.

"It's much better I think to involve everyone, and the New Zealanders were invited to participate in that process, they declined."

The criticism has come despite an exciting America's Cup challenger series, that has seen the hydrofoil boats enable teams to travel up to double the wind speed.

New Zealand have accused that of killing innovation in the event, but Coutts strongly disagrees.

"No, I don't think that that's true," he said.

"I think clearly you see more innovation in these last two America's Cups than we've perhaps ever seen in these last, you know, 30-50 years, frankly.

"You know, no matter what the critics say about foiling, what I can tell you is that it's already having a dramatic impact in our industry.

"Of course it's a more efficient way of sailing, and therefore that's going to translate in a fairly major way than it already is into a pleasure boat, leisure industry."

Other significant changes to this year's competition include the shift from offshore to inshore racing, which opened up the sport to a new fanbase, and the shortening of the races themselves.

"In many ways we've seen a bit of a revolution in the America's Cup," Coutts added.

"We've developed a completely different television package, a different way of televising the event; the races are much shorter; there's more action and excitement."

The first to seven wins from the races to take place from June 17-18 and 24-27 between Oracle and New Zealand will claim the 'Auld Mug', which was first awarded in 1851.

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