No clear favorite as America’s Cup trials near

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The America’s Cup trials start two weeks from Friday on Bermuda’s Great Sound, and the man in charge of sailing’s marquee regatta doesn’t believe there’s an overwhelming favorite, not even two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA.

Russell Coutts has been watching practice races between the 50-foot, foiling catamarans. He said he’s impressed with Oracle Team USA, Artemis Racing of Sweden, SoftBank Team Japan and Emirates Team New Zealand, the hard-luck loser in the 2013 America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay.

NBC Sports will present over 40 hours of coverage from Bermuda across NBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports app, beginning Friday, with coverage of the Cup Qualifiers on NBCSN. NBCSN and the NBC Sports app will provide comprehensive coverage of the qualifiers and Challenger Playoffs through June 12. The first races of the final stage of competition in the 35th America’s Cup, the America’s Cup Match, will take place on June 17, at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.

“I actually don’t think there is a clear favorite right now,” Coutts, CEO of the America’s Cup Event Authority, said in a recent phone interview. “I think it’s really close between these teams.”

Coutts won the America’s Cup three times as a skipper – for two different countries – and twice as CEO of Oracle Team USA, which is owned by Larry Ellison, one of the world’s richest men. Coutts remains CEO of Oracle Team USA, although he said his role is limited to overseeing the team’s budget while general manager Grant Simmer and skipper Jimmy Spithill run the day-to-day operations.

Oracle has capsized twice in the last month, most recently on Wednesday . No one’s been injured and the team said damage was minimal.

The other two teams in the trials are Britain’s Land Rover BAR, led by Sir Ben Ainslie, the most decorated Olympic sailor in history, and Groupama Team France.

Coutts said that while Land Rover BAR is among the best at maneuvering the fast, wing-sailed catamarans, it has a speed problem.

“The French got in late, so it might be hard for them to get up to the level the other top teams are,” Coutts said. “But I would not rule BAR out. They’ve certainly been sailing their boat at the same level as the other four top teams. If they can get their speed together, they will be a force to be reckoned with, no doubt about that.”

Coutts pointed to a recent day of practice racing, when Oracle beat Japan, New Zealand beat Artemis, Oracle beat Land Rover BAR, Land Rover BAR beat France, Japan beat New Zealand, New Zealand beat France and Japan beat Oracle.

Coutts said the conditions were within a knot of wind for all the races.

“They can all beat each other and it depends on how well they sail,” Coutts said. “I couldn’t say that one team’s standing out as being stronger than the others. The outcome is going to be very unpredictable, which of course, in essence, is what we need.”

 

Date  Start Time (EST)  Event  Channel
5/26 1:00 PM America’s Cup Qualifiers: Round Robin 1 NBC Sports app
5/27 1:00 PM America’s Cup Fleet Racing NBCSN
5/28 1:00 PM America’s Cup Fleet Racing NBCSN
5/29 1:00 PM America’s Cup Fleet Racing NBCSN
5/30 1:00 PM America’s Cup Fleet Racing NBCSN
5/31 1:00 PM America’s Cup Fleet Racing NBCSN
6/2 1:00 PM America’s Cup Round Robin NBCSN
6/3 1:00 PM America’s Cup Round Robin NBCSN
6/4 1:00 PM America’s Cup Playoffs Semifinals NBC Sports app
6/6 1:00 PM America’s Cup Playoffs Semifinals NBC Sports app
6/7 1:00 PM America’s Cup Playoffs Semifinals NBC Sports app
6/8 1:00 PM America’s Cup Playoffs Semifinals (if needed) NBC Sports app
6/10 1:00 PM America’s Cup ACCP Final NBCSN
6/11 1:00 PM America’s Cup ACCP Final NBCSN
6/12 1:00 PM America’s Cup ACCP Final NBCSN
6/17 1:00 PM America’s Cup Match NBC
6/18 1:00 PM America’s Cup Match NBC
6/21 10:00 PM America’s Cup: Courageous NBCSN
6/24 1:00 PM America’s Cup Match NBC
6/25 1:00 PM America’s Cup Match NBC

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Team New Zealand routs Oracle Team USA to win America’s Cup

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HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) Helmsman Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand won the America’s Cup on Monday with a resounding romp against software tycoon Larry Ellison’s two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA.

The underfunded but resourceful Kiwis claimed the oldest trophy in international sports with another dominating light-air sprint around the Great Sound aboard their fast, 50-foot foiling catamaran. They won Race 9 to clinch the 35th America’s Cup match at 7-1.

As soon as the red-and-black cat crossed the finish line, the normally reserved crew of six began whooping and jumped up onto the trampoline netting and into a joyful group hug.

“We’re on top of the world,” said Burling, who at 26 becomes the youngest helmsman to win sailing’s greatest prize in a competition that dates to 1851.

Magnums of champagne arrived and Burling and crewman Blair Tuke, who won Olympic gold and silver medals together, sprayed the crew.

There were five Kiwis on the crew plus Australian Glenn Ashby, a multihull wiz who serves as skipper and controls the wingsail.

There were no Americans on Oracle Team USA’s crew, which included five Australians and one from Antigua.

Team New Zealand started with a negative point because Oracle won the qualifiers, forcing the Kiwis to win eight races to return the Auld Mug to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland for the first time since 2003.

The Kiwis atoned for their mind-numbing collapse in 2013, when they blew an 8-1 lead as Oracle won eight straight races in one of the greatest comebacks in sports.

Race 9 was another blowout for Team New Zealand, which represents a small, sailing-mad island nation.

Skipper Jimmy Spithill put Oracle in the lead rounding the first mark, but the fast Kiwi cat overhauled the American-flagged boat and sailed into the lead on the downwind second leg.

The Kiwis’ fast boat was powered by a revolutionary grinding system in which they replaced traditional arm power with leg power. They installed four stationary bikes in each hull, with the “cyclors” powering the hydraulic systems used to trim the wingsail and control the daggerboards that are tipped with hydrofoils.

Among the crew was Simon van Velthooven, who won a bronze medal in track cycling at the London Olympics.

In 2010, Spithill became the youngest skipper to win the America’s Cup, at 30. That was the first of two Cup victories for Ellison, one of the world’s richest men.

2017 America’s Cup: How to Watch

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The 2017 America’s Cup continues on NBC Sports this weekend as Emirates Team New Zealand look to build on their commanding 3-0 lead over Oracle Team USA on the third day of racing from Bermuda.

Four years after a thrilling American comeback kept sailing’s greatest prize in the United States, Emirates Team New Zealand has returned to challenge for the Cup. And just like their 2013 meeting in San Francisco, it will take an impressive rally from Oracle Team USA to retain their title as America’s Cup Defender.

WATCH: 2017 America’s Cup (Saturday at 1 p.m. ET, Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, Monday at 1 p.m. ET)

The first team to win seven races from the Great Sound in Bermuda will lift the trophy, and the Kiwis are on their way to doing just that after four straight wins to begin to the competition (New Zealand started off down a race after the USA’s win in the America’s Cup Qualifiers). Victory in four of the six races this weekend would be enough to send the Cup to New Zealand for the first time since 2003.

The challengers looked dominate in the first weekend of racing, but there is reason for American optimism after a five-day layoff and a chance to utilize the deep pockets of yacht owner Larry Ellison. Not to mention, Oracle Team USA has been before after falling behind 8-1 in the 2013 America’s Cup and reeling off eight straight wins to retain the trophy.

 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Who: Oracle Team USA vs. Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2017 America’s Cup

When: 1 p.m. ET

Where: NBCSN and the NBC Sports App

 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Who: Oracle Team USA vs. Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2017 America’s Cup

When: 1 p.m. ET

Where: NBCSN and the NBC Sports App

 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Who: Oracle Team USA vs. Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2017 America’s Cup

When: 1 p.m. ET

Where: NBCSN and the NBC Sports App