Katie reports in from San Francisco ~The America’s Cup Begins!

Three years in the making, yesterday was the start of the 34th America’s Cup. With completely new boats, and completely different type of sailing, the goal is to make it viewer friendly and exciting. The racing is super short ~ around 30 minute races (max: two a day), and it all happens inside of San Francisco Bay.

34 americas's cup San FranAlthough a match race, the rules and course have deviated with the change into giant, wing-sail catarmarans. Previously, we raced monohulls. I liken the change as similar to that from racing helicopters to racing F-16s. We could maneuver back and forward within inches and now it is a speed race with occasions for tight maneuvering. Both are exciting, but just very different. These new boats can go up to 50 miles an hour! Not only is that flying, these things literally raise out of the water in a mode called “foiling.” To achieve the highest speeds the boats rise up on blade foils leaving no hull friction in the water. Extraordinary design, but it will come down to which sailors (drivers and crew) are the best at keeping these massive machines up on their foils. Hulls in the water are slow!

The American’s won the last America’s Cup in 2010 making the US the ‘Defender’ and host of the 2013 Cup. Unlike traditional America’s Cup’s where there are many countries challenging to race against the Defenders, the 2010 Cup was a ‘Deed of Gift’ Match. In short two very acrimonious teams who can’t agree on rules ended up in a one-on-one match where bare-bone default rules written in 1851 are used. (Also occurred in 1988 with Dennis Conor and the big winged NZ boat.) They raced different boats in a best of three races in Valencia. Oracle Racing Team (USA) beat the Swiss and brought the Cup back to San Francisco.

AC first race

The cost: Neither the time and nor resources that would be required of changing to these new multi-hull boats for the 34th Cup was well thought out. Instead of the hoped for 10-12 countries of Challengers, there ended up only being three challengers: Artemis – Sweden, Luna Rossa – Italy, and Emirates Team – New Zealand) who could afford to pay the astronomical sums required to get to the starting line. Exciting but cutting edge changes ended up with the death of a very famous British sailor. Emirates Team NZ (ETNZ) emerged out of the Challenger Series as the one to challenge Oracle easily beating Artemis and Luna Rosa. New Zealand has just over four million people ~ that is the size of Los Angeles, which is just one city in California. ETNZ has been in the America’s Cup since 1995, and certainly have set the standard for winning.

ETNZ and Oracle Racing have not yet raced against each other. How they will line up, and if either one has an advantage remains to be seen. Many eyes will be on this event. Will one boat have such an advantage to walk away or will it be close? Only time will tell! [Read More]