NEW YORK (Reuters) - The next America's Cup will be contested in Bermuda in 2017 after defending champion Oracle Team USA chose the tiny mid-Atlantic island as host of the world's premier sailing competition on Tuesday.
The move to select the island British territory by Oracle, who as defending champion earned the right to select the race's next venue, marks the first time a U.S. team has chosen to defend the title outside the country.
Bermuda, which will be just the ninth different host of the race, and San Diego were the two finalists vying to stage the 35th edition of the America's Cup, which is held roughly every three to five years.
"Our island will provide an unprecedented on-water spectator experience ... a range of wind conditions that will provide the most intriguing design challenges for the teams and certainly test the world's best sailors." Bermuda Premier Michael Dunkley said at a news conference in Manhattan to announce the venue.
With a population of just under 65,000, the island's biggest challenge may be attracting the massive crowds that packed the San Francisco Bay Area for the 2013 America's Cup.
Oracle, owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, won the 2010 America's Cup and successfully defended it last year after coming from behind to beat Emirates Team New Zealand in the tie-breaking 19th race of the finals.
"The past America's Cups were long courses way off shore, not that exciting and very difficult to see, almost impossible. Now as you saw in the last edition it's stadium sailing, it's about getting the fans and spectators on the sidelines like a football match," said Oracle skipper James Spithill.
"This race course allows that. The great thing about Bermuda is you can see the entire track."
The format for the 35th regatta will consist of races in an America's Cup World Series in venues around the world where entries from Britain, France, Italy, Sweden and New Zealand will fight for the right to challenge Oracle in Bermuda.
In previous years syndicates gathered in one venue to race each other before the winner went on to face the holders.
"We're halfway there," joked Ben Ainslie, who will spearhead Britain's challenge to bring the "Auld Mug" back to Britain for the first time since it was held in 1851. "As a British team we obviously have quite historic ties to Bermuda so we are absolutely delighted."
Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto.; Editing by Frank Pingue