Official America’s Cup racing begins today
There will be eight boats on the starting line today when the America’s Cup World Series kicks off the final regatta of the event’s inaugural season. The boats represent six countries in total, and include the defenders, Oracle Team USA, who have two boats. Oracle 4, driven by James Spithill, is currently in first place in the series.
The challengers are Team Energy from France, two Italian boats from Luna Rossa Challenge,
Team Korea, Sweden’s Artemis Racing, and Emirates Team New Zealand. The Kiwi boat is a close second overall as the regatta begins.
The America’s Cup World Series, which had previous stops in Portugal, England, San Diego and Italy, is sailed in 45-foot catamarans, which are 22 feet, 6 inches wide. The masts, with extensions, are 83 feet, 5 inches high.
Not only are the boats new, the racecourse is also different. The AC45s start on a short-reaching leg, which often creates epic traffi c jams at the first mark. From there they sail several windwardleeward laps, until finishing on another reach. If the southwest wind prevails, the races should start just off Fort Wetherill and finish at Fort Adams.
“It’s an awesome place to race,” said Spithill, who will skipper the leading boat. “And when you race in a cool bay like this, you ask yourself why would you ever go outside, offshore. It can be a spectator sport in these boats, and I think that’s incredibly exciting when you have a natural amphitheater like this.”
The maximum draft of the boats is just 8 feet, 8 inches, which allows them to sail very close to the shoreline, creating what has proven thus far to be an exhilarating experience for spectators along the shorelines where the races have been contested. The AC45s are capable of speeds of up to 30 knots – or 35 mph – and are crewed by five people.
The main sail on the AC45s is not a sail at all, but rather a wing, giving the boat more in common with an airplane than a traditional sailing vessel. The boats fly somewhat more traditional jibs and gennakers up front. Scott Ferguson of Jamestown is the designer of the rig that is used on the AC45 boats.
Another innovation for the America’s Cup World Series is the use of boundaries to ensure that the boats remain in close contact. Each boat carries a GPS unit that alerts them if they are coming close to the boundary. Any team that crosses the perimeter incurs a penalty that requires the boat to slow down for two boat lengths before resuming full speed.
Spithill’s boat is locked in a tight race with Emirates Team New Zealand for the overall championship. As the American defender of the Cup – although Spithill himself is Australian – he recognizes that there will be added pressure as he and his crew sail in front of the home country crowd.
“It’s close,” Spithill said. “It could go either way. To me that’s exciting and that’s why we do it. It’s just going to be a tough battle and it’s going to be a real tough fight all the way to the end. That’s the only way you’d want it. We’re going to be pushed out there, and there’s going to be a lot of pressure. But that’s why we do it. We love it.”
There has been some confusion over the relationship between the America’s Cup World Series and the America’s Cup Final, which will be sailed in San Francisco next summer. No points won in the World Series will carry over to the final. The event is instead designed to maintain public awareness of the America’s Cup during the years where it is not contested.
The Louis Vuitton Cup, which determines the team that will challenge Oracle in the final, and the final itself, will be sailed in all new 72-foot catamarans on San Francisco Bay. So far there are commitments from Oracle Racing, which will again build two boats, Emirates Team New Zealand, Artemis Racing and Team Korea. Artemis Racing is the challenger of record. It became that after Italian team Mascalzone Latino said it would not take part in the defense. It is the first time in Cup history that there was an appointment of a replacement.
According to the rules of the competition, no AC72 can be on the water prior to July 1. Spithill expects to launch the first Oracle AC72 in late July or early August.
In the ACWS, each day of racing includes both fleet racing and match racing. On Saturday, the AC 500 speed trials will be added to the mix. The AC 500 is a straightline drag race in which each boat goes as fast as possible, competing against the clock.
On Thursday, fleet racing starts at noon. Match racing will begin at 12:40 p.m. In match format, teams will have to win two out of three matches to proceed to Friday’s semifinals.
Match-racing semifinals will begin at 2:36 p.m. on Friday. The second semifinal will start 16 minutes later. Fleet racing will begin at 3:15 p.m.
On Saturday, the AC 500 will lead off the day’s events at 1:50 p.m. There will be fleet races at 2:36 p.m. and 3:16 p.m.
On Sunday, the America’s Cup World Series will hold both its fleet and match racing finals. The match-racing finals will begin at 2:40 p.m., while the fleet championship will commence a half hour later, at 3:10 p.m.
Sunday’s races will be televised live across the nation on NBC. It is the first time that any America’s Cup-related race has been broadcast live nationally in the United States in many years. Races on the other days can be viewed live on the America’s Cup YouTube channel.