By Noel Randewich
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The America's Cup in 2017 will be held with a smaller version of the catamarans used in last year's regatta in San Francisco Bay and will include new crew nationality minimums, according to protocols released on Tuesday.
Owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand last year and as defender negotiated the rules for the next Cup with Team Australia's Hamilton Island Yacht Club, the Challenger of Record.
Among the new protocols, 2017's Cup will be sailed with a similar but smaller version of the 72-foot, wing-sail catamarans used in 2013. The new 62-foot boats, called AC62s, will be crewed by eight people, three fewer than last year.
Oracle Team, which had just one American out of a crew of 11 on board when it won in 2013, has also agreed to a new rule requiring that at least two members of the eight-person crews for each race in 2017 be nationals of the country of the yacht club represented.
The twin-hulled AC72 yachts used in the 34th America's Cup were criticized as unstable and dangerous after a fatal training accident ahead of the regatta.
But the thrilling final races in September were a ringing vindication of Ellison's decision to transform a once-staid yachting event into a TV-friendly, extreme-sports spectacle featuring the huge catamarans flying across the Bay at 50 miles per hour.
Ellison has yet to agree on whether the next America's Cup will be held again in San Francisco. Other possible sites include Hawaii and San Diego.
(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Leslie Adler)