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04.03.2003, 10:11
08:22 04Mar2003 RTRS-Sailing-Alinghi plans more TV friendly Cup, venue undecided

By Lincoln Feast
WELLINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) - America`s Cup winner Team Alinghi said on Tuesday it was introducing new rules designed to make the event more appealing to television audiences and remove some of the traditional advantages enjoyed by the defending team.
Alinghi will defend the cup for the Societe Nautique de Geneve in land-locked Switzerland from an as yet undecided European location, most likely in 2007 so as to avoid clashing with the Winter Olympic Games in Turin and the Soccer World Cup in Germany in 2006.
Alinghi became the first European team to win the cup in its 152-year history when it completed a 5-0 whitewash over Team New Zealand on Sunday.
"Our goal is to make this event even better than it was so far," Alinghi executive director Michel Bonnefous told reporters.
"It has to be the most beautiful sailing race in the world, a celebration of the best sailors for the public and all the people who have a passion for sailing."
Alinghi skipper Russell Coutts said consistent weather conditions would be a key factor in deciding where the event would be held to enable television coverage to be carefully planned.
MED FAVOURED
The latest event was criticised for its long periods of inactivity between rounds and delays during scheduled race days due to wind conditions on New Zealand`s Hauraki Gulf being either too strong or too light.
Some minor changes might be made to the boats to enable them to race in a wider range of wind conditions, Coutts said.
A number of Mediterranean ports in Italy and France have been suggested as possible venues including, Naples, Saint Tropez, Marseilles and the principality of Monaco.
Alinghi, which is backed by biotechnology billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, said a decision on the venue would be made by December 15.
The next event is likely to feature shorter races of one to two hours, with the main challenger and final series taking place over a condensed eight-week period rather than the four months in the previous cup.
Those races will be preceded by a number of regattas between Alinghi and Larry Ellison`s Oracle BMW Racing which represents the Golden Gate Yacht Club as the so-called "Challenger of record", and other challengers.
US FLEET REGATTA PLANNED
The first pre-event regatta is due to take place in the Golden Gate Yacht Club`s home waters off San Francisco later this year and would count in some way towards the final series in Europe in 2007, Alinghi said.
"The regatta will have a big kick-off. It will be kicked off in the way of a massive fleet regatta with all the participants including the defender," Alinghi said.
Key rule changes in the America`s Cup Protocol, which governs the event include the removal of rules that require crew to hold residency in the country they are representing and on the sale of design information from earlier cup campaigns.
Alinghi said the changes would enable new teams to come in on a much more level platform with existing teams and Coutts said he hoped as many as 20 challengers might sign up for the next Cup.
Unlike previous regattas, one organisation will handle both the initial challenger series to decide which team has the right to take on Alinghi in the America`s Cup, and the main event.
An independent race committee will also be appointed by the defender and the challenger of record, rather than the defending yacht club.