In 2007, the last full Cup, there were 11. This year the $100 million cost of mounting a challenge meant only teams from Italy, Sweden and New Zealand showed up.That 2007 competition featured large sloops, perhaps better performers, if not as pretty as the America's Cup-class sloops that replaced the Twelve Meters commencing with the 1992 defense in San Diego. This year's competition featured what might best be described as soft-water iceboats, with extreme planing characteristics and airfoils rather than sails.
"They are too expensive," said Grant Dalton, general manager of the partially government-funded Kiwi effort and a longstanding critic of the AC72 class of yacht.
"For participation you need somthing that's more realistic pricewise," added Dalton, 56, who expects to leave the America's Cup scene. "Oracle has done an amazing job with their technology."
A lower bar-to-entry could mean simpler boats with more off-the-shelf parts. But the main focus will be reducing the massive on-shore staff needed to build, maintain and operate the sophisticated sailing machines, which for this regatta climbed into triple digits.
Ellison, one of the richest men in the world, indicated that he was inclined to remain in San Francisco in the next defense with some form of foiling multihulls that were able to reach speeds above 50 mph. But he did not want to go backwards in a regatta he said had "changed sailing forever."
Overshadowed in the expense, and the technology, is a rules change that made the U.S. defense even more impressive. Because of some rules infraction during the semifinal races, the U.S. team entered the defense with minus two wins, meaning their team had to win eleven to the Kiwis' eight to defend the Cup. And in this elimination race, the U.S. team got a poor start and trailed at the first weather mark.