Changes coming to America’s Cup

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Bigger and faster boats will be used in the next run for the Auld Mug, but the challenger series has lost its sponsor of nearly a quarter-century

JULY 17 — Louis Vuitton, the luxury French fashion and leather goods brand and sponsor of the Louis Vuitton Cup since 1983, will not financially support the next America’s Cup competition.

"We have brought an end to our partnership with the America's Cup after a quarter of a century," Christine Belanger, Cup director for Louis Vuitton, said in a statement last Friday.

The multimillion-dollar decision apparently stems from disagreement over the more “commercial” direction Cup holders team Alinghi are steering international sports’ oldest competition.

Louis Vuitton spokesman Bruno Trouble, a former Olympic sailor who skippered France III in the 1980 Cup competition, spoke to the Associated Press about a desire to preserve the “elegance” and “tradition” of the regatta series.

A spokesman for America’s Cup Management said the search for a new sponsor is under way.

Meanwhile, organizers are planning to introduce a new class of boats, to be 90 feet LOA and sailed by a crew of 20. The 33rd America’s Cup will take place no earlier than 2009 and no later than 2011, according to organizers. A venue has not been selected, but organizers said discussions with Valencia, Spain, which hosted this year’s competition, are under way. A decision is expected by the end of the year. www.americascup.com

Rich Armstrong