America's Cup 2013:
Rules, Regulations, Protocol and Governing Documents

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America’s Cup Rules for 2013

The America's Cup is governed by several related sets of rules.  In order of precedence:


  America's Cup Rules in Order of Precedence:

Click on chart to learn more:


The Deed of Gift:

Overall the America's Cup is held by the Trustee, currently Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), who defends the trophy under the terms of the 1887 Deed of Gift.  A yacht club from another country can challenge the Trustee yacht club for the Cup.  The Deed of Gift contains strict provisions for holding and defending the trophy, but allows the defending club to agree with a Challenger to set most terms of the race under mutual consent.

“This Cup is donated upon the condition that it shall be preserved as a perpetual Challenge Cup for friendly competition between foreign countries."
 --America's Cup Deed of Gift, George L. Schuyler, 1887

The Deed of Gift is a legal document creating a trust in the state of New York, and is administered by the New York State Supreme Court.  All challengers agree to be bound by its terms if they win the Cup.  Read more about the Deed of Gift

The Protocol: Mutual Consent

Historically, mutual consent was usually reached between Defender and Challengers in an exchange of letters and telegrams, and often recorded in a document called the Conditions of Match, sometimes signed by both parties.  Since 1992 there has been a formal "Protocol" agreement for each match that defined the rules and procedures surrounding each America's Cup match. 

Under typical recent arrangements, after the Defender and a Challenger of Record have agreed on initial terms of the Match, entries from additional challenger candidates can be accepted, with the new teams also agreeing to be bound by the Protocol terms as a condition of entry. 

Every match from the very first in 1870 onward involved aspects of mutual consent that modified the terms and conditions of the races to some degree, with the exception of the challenges in 1988 and 2010 which decidedly did not involve agreement between the challenger and defender.  Those matches reverted to the strict terms of the Deed of Gift.  (See Note 1 below)

The Protocols for each Defense since 1992 have followed similar patterns, but varied in many specifics according to the intent of the particular Defender and Challenger of Record involved.  The Protocol is an agreement between these two specific teams, plus any other entries that sign on and agree to be bound by it, but nothing about a previous Protocol is necessarily binding on the succeeding Defender and Challenger of Record.

The Protocol for 2013 can be amended by the Defender and Challenger of Record with the approval of a majority of the Competitors.
Read more about The Protocol for the 2013 America's Cup

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Other Applicable Rules:

The protocol provides for the adoption of other applicable rules including a design class rule for the America's Cup yachts, and the Racing Rules of Sailing for the America's Cup.

Boats - The AC72 Rule:

The AC72 Class Rule was created under the sponsorship of the teams.  The Defender, Golden Gate YC, and the Challenger of Record, at the time Italy's Club Nautico di Roma, worked out the basic terms and came to agreement on the basic concept of the boat for the 2013 America's Cup.  Feedback from discussions with potential teams was also considered.  The goal of the rule is at least twofold, keeping the boats to the intended basic type while trying not to permit unexpected loopholes that create designs with undesirable characteristics.

Amending the Class rule requires unanimous consent of all the participants not yet eliminated from competition.  Originally issued October 15, 2010, the AC72 Rule has been amended since, most notably to eliminate the option of a shorter wingsail, and also to clarify several issues.
Read more about the AC72 Class Rule

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Racing Rules of Sailing for the America's Cup (RRSAC):

The RRSAC are modified versions of the ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing, including the Match Racing Rules of ISAF's Appendix, as adapted to the particular needs of the America's Cup.  The RRSAC also invoke the ISAF Anti-Doping Regulations and the World Anti-Doping Agency rules.
Read more about the Racing Rules of Sailing for the America's Cup

Sailing Instructions:

The Sailing Instructions typically include detailed information about the conduct of the regatta, such as times, procedures, courses, communication provisions, scoring, and are meant to include any added or modified rules beyond the standard RRSAC.  The Sailing Instructions (SI's) are to be issued 10 days prior to the first race of a regatta, but the Race Director can amend them as needed.
Read more about the SI's on Racing Rules Page

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Administering the Rules:
The America's Cup Deed of Gift is administered by the New York State Supreme Court, as noted above.

The Protocol is administered by the America's Cup Jury, a panel of international experts on yacht racing, law, and the America's Cup.  The Jury interprets, enforces, and applies penalties to situations regarding the Protocol and the subsequent rules that the Protocol creates. 

The Jury also resolves disputes between any of the America's Cup entities, including entered teams and other internal entities, whether or not a specific rule applies.  The Jury importantly is the body that hears racing rules protests under the RRSAC. 

The AC72 Class Rule, however, is primarily interpreted and applied by the Measurement Committee.  The Jury only interprets the Class Rule in case the Measurement Committee exceeds its jurisdiction or itself breaks a rule.  In addition to the Class Rule, the Measurement Committee interprets certain articles of the Protocol that apply to limitations on hulls, wings, and appendages (see Protocol Art. 29.9).  The Measurement Committee responds to requests for Rules Interpretations, inspects the yachts during construction and upon completion to ensure compliance, issues certificates for each yacht, and inspects the boats during racing.

Read more about who administers the various rules of the America's Cup

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Note 1. The 1988 and 2010 Matches are popularly termed "Deed of Gift" matches to emphasize that they were raced under the strict terms of the Deed of Gift without modification, although to be technical the Deed of Gift, of course, still applies to all America's Cup matches.  Using the term "Deed of Gift Match" makes the distinction that the conditions of the match were not determined in this case by mutual consent.

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