“Your Majesty, there is no second place.”
Bermuda is abuzz. After all, not many venues get to host yachting’s holy grail. It’s time once again for the 166-year-old America’s Cup (AC) to eclipse the world of sailing and light up the imaginations of sailors and landlubbers alike.
In its 35th running, the often-controversial event has been dubbed the race of millionaires and draws a crowd of enthusiasts and critics alike, each hoping to catch a glimpse of the action and a photo of the silver. Love it or hate it, you certainly won’t be able to ignore it this summer as the defender Oracle Team USA takes on the winner of the 2017 Louis Vuitton Challenger Playoffs.
The action will take place in America’s Cup Class (ACC) catamarans, which are a little larger (nearly 50 feet LOA) than the AC45F yachts (45-foot, one-design, foiling, fixed wing cats) used in the Louis Vuitton World Series. An overhaul of the rules stipulates that the next AC, already set for 2019, will be raced only in ACC boats while the AC45Fs will be retired.
The venue is Great Sound near the city of Hamilton in Bermuda. This summer, Oracle helmsman, Jimmy Spithill, will defend the trophy for the Golden Gate Yacht Club against challenging clubs that hail from seven countries: Italy, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, Great Britain, France, and Japan.
U.S. enthusiasts can watch the action remotely during waking hours and without much risk of spoiler alerts because Bermuda’s time zone isn’t off by much from the U.S. east coast. The World Series will be raced in late May and early June, followed by the playoffs in the second week of June. The 35th defense will be the best of 13 (or the first to reach seven points) and is expected to take place June 17-27, although these dates are provisional.
Events beyond the qualifiers and the AC races are also planned. The first is the Youth America’s Cup that will consist of up to 16 teams of sailors aged 19-24 years. Another will be the attendance of eight classic J Class yachts, mostly replicas of the refined vessels that raced in the 1930s. Finally, superyachts of 80-plus feet will compete in an invitational just before the AC final matches begin.
Part of the bay has already been staked out for spectating superyachts to enjoy front-row seats. Who among us would pass up the chance to sit on the aft deck behind celebrity-sized sunglasses, sipping a glass of chilled white and cheering on helmeted racers who look more like SWAT team members than sailors?
If you don’t breathe this rarified air, you may still be able to get in on the action in a few ways. Tickets are sold via the official website (americascup.com) and are available for grandstand seating, VIP spectator boats and the America’s Cup village. The Moorings is offering all-inclusive crewed charters on some of their 4800 and 5800 catamarans. A lucky few will enjoy luxury accommodations, the services of a gourmet chef and a fully stocked bar along with a great on-the-water vacation. The Moorings will also be selling tickets to grandstand seating, the village and Gosling’s Dark and Stormy Island Bar. It’s the next best thing to wine on that superyacht deck.
In case all this sounds too crowded and harried, the AC will also be televised. NBC Sports will provide live coverage of the Louis Vuitton qualifiers and NBC National will cover the final match races. The AC marketing team is also active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, or you can download the AC app for the latest news and results.
Ever since the upstart schooner America dared to challenge Aurora of the English Royal Yacht Squadron to a race around the Isle of Wight, the Cup has represented the pursuit of sailing excellence. The trophy, known as “Auld Mug”, was displayed at the New York Yacht Club from just after the first race in 1851 until Australia II of the Royal Perth Yacht Club broke the streak and snatched it away in 1983.
Many of the races weren’t as friendly as the first one watched by Queen Victoria, and subsequent courtroom drama shaped much of AC history. But it has always been a spectacle, and every few years this contentious competition momentarily blocks out the sun, grabs the world by the collar and demands attention like few other grand prix events can. Winner takes all. And as was famously explained to the queen herself, “There is no second place.”
By Zuzana Prochazka Southern Boating May 2017
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