America’s Cup teams voted Tuesday to reduce the size of boats from 62 feet to an unprecedented 45-to-50-foot range for the 2017 race in Bermuda.
Organizers said a majority of teams favored reducing boat length to decrease the overhead cost of entry, the New York Times reported. Two major teams, Italy’s Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand—Oracle Team USA’s biggest competitors—have threatened to withdraw due to the downsizing.
Organizers also pulled a qualifying regatta from Auckland, New Zealand, so all racing would take place in Bermuda. The move will make it difficult for Emirates Team New Zealand to secure government funding, the team said. Oracle Team USA has contested the race location, adding to the difficulties for other teams to raise sponsorship money.
The actual cost reduction is debatable, as many teams have already spent tens of millions of dollars designing their 62-foot race yachts. The boat length had already been reduced from 72 feet in the 2013 America’s Cup.
Some fear smaller boats might have a negative impact on viewership for the 2017 America’s Cup. Red Bull has successfully applied the tactics and thrill of large catamaran racing to smaller boats, both in amateur and professional races. So the jury is still out on whether smaller boats would diminish interest.