Courtesy of Peter Rusch, America’s Cup Communications Director
In June 2017, the world’s top sailors, along with an international audience of sailing enthusiasts, will descend upon Bermuda’s Great Sound for the 35th edition of the America’s Cup, presented by Louis Vuitton. As the pinnacle of international sailing, the America’s Cup has been generating enthusiasm for the sport for more than 160 years.
The America’s Cup is the competition for the oldest trophy in international sport. Its history traces back to the first race in Cowes, England, in 1851, when a radical-looking schooner ghosted out of the afternoon mist and swiftly sailed past the Royal Yacht stationed in the Solent, between the Isle of Wight and the south coast of England, on an afternoon when Queen Victoria was watching a sailing race.
As the schooner, named America, passed the Royal Yacht in first position and saluted by dipping its ensign three times, Queen Victoria asked one of her attendants to tell her who was in second place. “Your Majesty, there is no second,” came the reply. That phrase, just four words, is still the best description of the America’s Cup and how it represents the singular pursuit of excellence.
That day in August 1851, the yacht America, representing the young New York Yacht Club, would go on to beat the best the British could offer and win the Royal Yacht Squadron’s 100 Pound Cup.
This was more than a simple boat race, however, as it symbolised a great victory for the New World over the old, a triumph that unseated Great Britain as the world’s undisputed maritime power. The trophy would go to the young democracy of the United States, and it would be well over 100 years before it was taken away from New York.
Shortly after America won the 100 Pound Cup, New York Yacht Club Commodore John Cox Stevens and the rest of his ownership syndicate sold the celebrated schooner and returned home to New York as heroes. They donated the trophy to the New York Yacht Club under a deed of gift, which stated that the trophy was to be “a perpetual challenge cup for friendly competition between nations.” Thus was born the America’s Cup, named after the winning schooner.
The America’s Cup is without a doubt the most difficult trophy in sport to win. In the more than 150 years since that first race-off in England, only four nations have won what is often called the “oldest trophy in international sport.” For some perspective, consider that there had been nine contests for the America’s Cup before the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896.
The modern America’s Cup retains the same “winner takes all” spirit of the first contest. In September 2013, ORACLE TEAM USA won the 34th America’s Cup Match in San Francisco, and — as the defending champion — retained the right to select a venue for the next edition and to agree the rules of the event with the other competitors.
The 35th America’s Cup will be held in Bermuda in 2017, in which six teams will compete. In addition to ORACLE TEAM USA, there are five challengers: Artemis Racing (SWE); Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (GBR); Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL); Groupama Team France (FRA); and SoftBank Team Japan (JPN).
In 2015, the teams competed in three Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series events, with Emirates Team New Zealand closing out the year at the top of the leaderboard, just ahead of ORACLE TEAM USA. At least six more international events are scheduled for 2016 and early 2017 before the America’s Cup.
“The thing that a lot of people forget about the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series is that every single point of every single race all add up to rankings going into the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers in 2017. And with that, there are actual vital race points on offer to carry into that series and through to the America’s Cup for the team that performs the best,” explains Glenn Ashby, the skipper of Emirates Team New Zealand.
“Whilst the series is viewed as a build-up to the America’s Cup, in fact, the America’s Cup has well and truly started on the water.”
Whilst the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series provides the racing competition in one-design, foiling catamarans, each team is also hard at work designing and building the larger America’s Cup Class boat it will race in 2017.
“The key to success in the America’s Cup is you need to design, build and race the fastest boat,” says ORACLE TEAM USA skipper, James Spithill. “All three elements — design, building and sailing — are critical.”
Over the 2016 calendar year, more teams will establish training bases in Bermuda. In addition to ORACLE TEAM USA, both SoftBank Team Japan and Artemis Racing will set up full-time in Bermuda. Groupama Team France is expected to spend a significant amount of time on the island as well, whilst Emirates Team New Zealand and Land Rover BAR will increase their time in Bermuda towards the end of the year.
As 2017 begins, participating teams are allowed to launch and train in their new America’s Cup Class boats. For most, this will take place in Bermuda. Racing in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers begins in late May 2017 and features all six teams. Then ORACLE TEAM USA steps up its training programme whilst the five challengers race in the America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs to determine who will face the defending champion in the America’s Cup Match, which begins on June 17, 2017, with racing scheduled through the end of the month.
“Our vision for the America’s Cup in Bermuda is to deliver an unforgettable experience that will be nothing short of spectacular for the teams, sponsors and spectators alike — whether they be with us on island or watching from around the world,” says Michael Dunkley, the Premier of Bermuda.
To that end, a dedicated America’s Cup Village that will house all the public activities and team bases will be constructed at The Royal Naval Dockyard at the west end of Bermuda.
In addition to the America’s Cup, there will be other events for the public to enjoy throughout May and June 2017, including the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, the J Class Regatta, a Super Yacht Regatta and the America’s Cup Endeavour Program for youth sailing.
For more information on the 35th America’s Cup, visit americascup.com.