Only hours before Wednesday's midnight registration deadline, a French sailing team has dropped out of contention for the right to compete in the 2013 America's Cup on the San Francisco Bay.
Led by internationally renowned brothers Loick and Bruno Peyron, Energy Team was one of five clubs scheduled to compete for the Louis Vuitton Cup next summer, the winner of which will go on to face Larry Ellison's fearsome Oracle Racing team.
"We will shift to 'Plan B'," Peyron said in a statement. "We will compete in the AC World Series [a related event that doesn't lead directly into main race] and prepare for the next America's Cup, the 35th edition, in the best possible way."
With Energy Team's departure, the remaining contenders (hailing from Sweden, New Zealand, Italy and South Korea) will vie for the chance to represent the Royal Swedish Yacht Club against the Golden Gate Yacht Club and Oracle Racing.
"We feel a responsibility to build on all the work we have done so far and to provide a platform for long-term success for our team and our partners," added Peyron. "We want to be playing to win and in this instance we have run out of time for 2013."
This particular field of challengers is lighter than in previous years, largely due to reasons tied to the sky-high cost of participating. Getting a boat into competition is mind-bogglingly expensive--up into the millions of dollars for a single vessel.
Largely at Ellison's behest, the competition has switched this year into using a faster, significantly more expensive, class of boats as a way to make America's Cup sailing into more of a TV-friendly spectator sport. While this change will doubtlessly lead to more exciting races, the boats' increasingly prohibitive price tags have made it difficult for many teams to compete.
Energy Team is only the latest to haul its wing-sailed catamaran back onto dry land. Last month, a Chinese team also dropped out of the competition and Aleph Yacht Club, another French team, pulled out in April.
A report put out by the Bay Area Economic Institute found that the America's Cup would generate around $1.4 billion in new revenues and somewhere in the neighborhood of 9,000 new jobs for San Francisco. But that was based on the assumption that 15 teams would participate.
The organizers originally put the deadline for application in June. In an effort to give more teams the opportunity to participate, however, they extended it until the beginning of August.
The 2012-13 World Series kicks off in the San Francisco Bay on August 21. Local Team Energy fans take heart: This month's races will feature the Peyron brothers competing.