Angst For Americas Cup

American Cup

This year, the first regatta of the 35th America’s Cup World Series will take place in Portsmouth, Great Britain, between July 23 – 26, 2015. This follows the decisions regarding the proposed 2017 race, which lead to the Italian team, Luna Rossa, withdrawing their challenge and the 2015 event scheduled for Cagliari, Italy, being cancelled. This dispute is the most recent in a long line of legal battles over rule changes which have dogged the race since it began in 1851.

The Beginnings

Old American Cup

The trophy, the oldest international sporting trophy and affectionately known as “Auld Mug”, was originally awarded in 1851 by the Royal Yacht Squadron for a race around the Isle of Wight in England. The winner was the schooner “America” and the trophy was made available for perpetual international competition, but until 1970 there was only ever one challenger to the holder of the trophy. In 1970 there were multiple challengers for the first time with challengers running a selection series and the winner becoming the official challenger. Since 1983 Louis Vuitton has sponsored the Louis Vuitton Cup as a prize for the winner of the selection series.

Early matches featured yachts measuring 20-27m on the waterline, generally owned by wealthy sportsmen and culminating in the J-Class regattas of the 1930s. After World War II, smaller, less expensive 12 metre yachts were allowed to compete, until 1990, when this class was replaced by the International America’s Cup Class, used until 2007. After a long legal dispute, the 2010 race featured 27m multihull yachts in a best-of-three match in Valencia, Spain. Since then the favoured boats have been foiling, wing-sail catamarans. The 34th version of the race in 2013 featured AC72s and the smaller, 45ft controversial AC62s are the proposed boats for the 2015 race.

The race format is now a collection of regattas known as The America’s Cup World Series, leading up to the America’s Cup Race. The race now attracts not only the world’s top sailors and prestigious yacht designers, but also involves wealthy entrepreneurs and sponsors.

What are Foiling Catamarans?

A sailing hydrofoil is a yacht with wing-like foils mounted under the hull, allowing the boat to lift up out of the water as it increases in speed. This results in decreased drag and increased speed and gives such a yacht the potential to achieve speeds exceeding two times the wind speed. The foiling catamaran with its wider planform has greater stability than the monohull. In a classic boat, speed is related to the waterline length of the boat, but the foiling world of sailing is completely different. Speed is restricted by drag, so a smaller foiling boat can be as fast as a larger one. This explains why the boats of today’s racing are so much faster than the huge yachts built in 2010.

Trouble for 2017

While the main reason behind the new class rule to use AC62s, is to push costs down and thereby attract more teams to take part, it was also hoped that new boats would enhance the spectator experience and would make the sport more attractive to television audiences. They will be able to achieve speeds of close to 50 miles an hour, much faster than any other current racing series in world sailing. Most of the teams believe that, to be a global success, the America’s Cup needs to be accessible to the best teams, not just the biggest and wealthiest. The new boats will also create a significantly more sustainable and environmentally-friendly event as well as presenting demanding challenges to designers and engineers.

Another change for the 2017 race is that a majority of the six teams involved has indicated a preference that all racing in 2017 be conducted at a single venue, Bermuda.

The decision, in March 2015, to use smaller boats and concentrate the racing at one venue in the 2017 race, was agreed on by the majority of the six teams currently in the race, but lead to the withdrawal, in protest, of Luna Rossa, the Italian Team. Team New Zealand supported the Italians and was in turn attacked by four of the other teams. The rules of the event state that important decisions and changes should be governed by a majority vote and each team that voted for this new America’s Cup Class made compromises and sacrifices for what they believed is the betterment of the race. Unfortunately abiding by the decisions of the majority seems a step too far for Luna Rossa and possibly Team New Zealand.

Portsmouth hosts the first event of the 2015 World Series circuit July 23-26 2015

90,000 tickets have already been booked for this unique occasion to witness home team Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) and the other world class teams racing on the Solent, just off Southsea Common in Portsmouth. Spectators will be within touching distance of the action and this will be the first time that British sailing fans we be able to support the home team on home waters. The event will deliver an incredible four days of action packed sport and entertainment with big screens and a regatta village. The remaining venues for the 2015 series are Gothenburg, Sweden – August 28-30 and Hamilton, Bermuda – October 16-18.

Watch this space for more news and results.

Author - Dee White

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