One-off America's Cup match a backwards step, says New York Yacht Club commodore

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FILE PHOTO: Antique ice sailboats from the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club's sail on the frozen upper Hudson River near, Astor Point in Barrytown, New York

(Reuters) - New York Yacht Club commodore Christopher J Culver has hit out at the prospect of a one-off America's Cup match between Team New Zealand and INEOS Team UK, saying the idea was not in sailing's best interest.

New Zealand, who retained the "Auld Mug" this year with a 7-3 victory over Luna Rossa, on Friday accepted the Royal Yacht Squadron Racing, represented by INEOS Team UK, as challenger of record for the 37th America's Cup.

Local media reported the next match might be held around the Isle of Wight, the site of the original race in 1851, as a one-off between TNZ and INEOS, with TNZ boss Grant Dalton confirming it was one of the options being considered.

Such a race would exclude all the other challengers, including NYCC, who won the trophy in 1851 and successfully defended it 24 times in a row until 1983.

"A deed of gift match off the Isle of Wight would be a huge step in the wrong direction," Culver said in a statement. "The two previous Deed of Gift matches were distinct low points in the history of the America's Cup.

"The New York Yacht Club will not support a Deed of Gift match or an America's Cup competition effectively open to only the defender and Challenger of Record."

Regattas in Perth in 1987, Auckland in 2003 and Valencia in 2007 helped increase interest in the America's Cup and Culver said a two-team race would undo the progress made.

"Each of those drew 10 or more teams and the significant commercial interest necessary to support such a grand event," he said. "To waste this opportunity on a two-team event is not in the best interests of the Cup or the sport."

Luna Rossa helmsman Jimmy Spithill said he would be surprised if the Auld Mug wasn't defended in New Zealand again.

"Look at the amount of time and money...put into this team, I would have thought it would be an absolute no-brainer to hold it here," Spithill said.

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)