How times have changed.
Back in the day, I got seriously abused by Stingray and others when i said there would only be a maximum of 4 challengers for AC34. Back then, the party line was that the future of the cup was all about it becoming a professional circuit that attracted lots of teams. IIRC, the vision was at least 12 teams, or else it wouldn't be sustainable.
The next big U turn is over this over the quality of the fleet issue. There was a time when the likes of Stingray insisted that the cup had to accomodate new teams which might not have a chance of winning because that is how teams develope into becoming winners (just look at how long it took TNZ to win). In fact, there remains only one challenger who has won first time out. Many of the current "stars" of the AC circuit gained their initial experience with teams that were never going to get to the semis, but who were an important part of the long term health of the event.
So now, in the light of RC and LE having totally failed to deliver what they promised, namely an affordable AC that could really become a sustainable top level professional circuit, the fanboys do a complete about turn. Now it's about quality, not quantity. Now they argue the cup has always been about those who can afford to spend spend spend nad that the small, low budget teams no longer have a place.
Again, I would expect to get attacked by the OR bully boys, but I have to go back to their earlier arguments. We need the smaller teams on the limited budgets because it is them who give the next generation of sailors their first chance. Under the current system, somebody like JS would never get a chance. There is no denying he deserves to be where he is today, but his track record when younger would never have got him into a team today. And I am sure there would be many other examples of that. The same goes for other essential parts of a team, such as designers and shore staff.
Most important of all, you Americans should be screaming your protests from the rooftop about the closed shop that GGYC has created in the USA. If OR loses, who has the experience to step into the gap that i am sure will be left by LE exiting the AC. The reason why the USA kept the Cup for so long and then won it back at first time of asking was its long history of multi boat defender trials. Now there doesn't seem to be an American capable of organising an AC team. This has the same feeling as US Olympic sailing - while you have a few key winners on the team, all was rosy but once they retired, success just disappeared.
So, at the risk of being verbally abused (yet again), I hope that this edition really is more affordable than before and that we can see significantly more teams, even if they don't stand a chance of winning the challenger series. As long as we see only 4 or 5 challengers building AC62's, the event is really on the "endangered" list. We need to see 10+ teams. As for the USA, you had better hope OR doesn't lose because it seems likely that it would be a long time before you see the cup again