‘Foiling’ America’s Cup due to set sail Saturday in Bermuda

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There’s a British knight, a mob of Aussies even though there’s no Australian team, a crew of New Zealanders looking for redemption and the now-familiar billionaire set.

Toss in a fleet of fast, space-age catamarans sailing on Bermuda’s Great Sound and the 35th America’s Cup will be like none before it.

During the next 2 1/2 weeks, five challengers will vie for the right to face two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA in the first-to-seven America’s Cup match starting June 17.

The qualifiers had been scheduled to begin Friday with the opening races of Round Robin 1, but they were pushed back to Saturday because of predicted strong winds deemed unsafe for the 50-foot, wing-sailed catamarans.

The opening matchups will be Oracle Team USA against Groupama Team France; Sweden’s Artemis Racing against SoftBank Team Japan; France versus Emirates Team New Zealand, the hard-luck loser to Oracle in 2013; and Artemis against Britain’s Land Rover BAR, which is by Sir Ben Ainslie.

“I think you’ll see the fastest boats on water, the best sailors, the best athletes in the world and it’ll be incredible,” Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill, an Australian, said Thursday. “There’s no doubt in my mind this will be a defining chapter in the America’s Cup and will be known as the foiling America’s Cup.”

Ah yes, foiling. It’s all the rage in sailing and nowhere does it get more buzz than in the America’s Cup. When the boats hit a certain speed, they rise up on hydrofoils and speed across the tops of the waves. When the boats are foiling, they’re riding only on the leeward daggerboard and both rudders. Daggerboards on both hulls are in the water for a few moments during tacks and gybes. The boats are capable of reaching almost 50 mph.

Here are some things to watch for as the 35th America’s Cup is sailed at the northern tip of the Bermuda Triangle:

THE FORMAT

In a break from tradition, the defender, Oracle, will sail against the challengers in the two round robins. One challenger will be eliminated and the remaining teams will sail their semifinals and finals while Oracle trains on its own. If the winner of the qualifiers is Oracle or a challenger that advances to the match, that team will start the match with a one-point bonus.

“We’re sailing this to win,” Spithill said. “Clearly there is something here worth fighting for.”

THE VENUE

In another departure from tradition, the trustee of the America’s Cup, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht Club, put the venue up for bid. San Francisco, which provided a spectacular backdrop in 2013, fell out early. Bermuda, a British overseas territory, won with a bid of $37 million in infrastructure and services over three years, plus $40 million in various sponsorship guarantees.

AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE, OI OI OI

Nationality rules have long since been dumped, although the British, French and New Zealand teams have strong national representation. Australia doesn’t have a team, but Aussies hold key roles in three teams: Spithill and trimmer-tactician Tom Slingsby lead Oracle Team USA, Nathan Outteridge is Artemis’ skipper-helmsman and Glenn Ashby is skipper-wing trimmer for Emirates Team Zealand, although Kiwi Peter Burling steers the boat. Ex-Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker now skippers SoftBank Team Japan. Groupama Team France is led by Frenchman Franck Cammas. Ainslie, the most decorated sailor in Olympic history, hopes to become the first Englishman to hoist the Auld Mug in victory in the regatta’s 166-year history.

In 2013, there were only two Americans on Oracle’s 11-man crew, John Kostecki and Rome Kirby. Kostecki, the tactician, was replaced by Ainslie as the team struggled early. The boats are smaller now and require only six sailors. The projected “starting six” for Oracle Team USA includes just one American – grinder Cooper Dressler of Coronado, California, across the bay from San Diego. However, other sailors, including Kirby, will rotate in on days multiple races are scheduled.

ADRENALINE RUSH

The catamarans are powered by mainsails that look and perform like airplane wings. “Without a doubt the boats are absolutely amazing to sail,” Ashby said. “It’s quite surreal and the exhilaration and G-forces you feel are pretty much unexplainable compared to sailing on any other kind of craft.” The hydraulic systems for the wing sail and daggerboards are powered by beefy grinders. The innovative Kiwis have turned to leg power, building four cycling stations into each hull for the grinders to ride.

MAYHEM

Oracle has capsized twice in the last month and Ainslie ran into the back of Team New Zealand’s boat in a practice race, causing damage that took three days to repair. In late 2015, Cammas nearly lost his right foot when he fell overboard during training and was struck by a rudder. Artemis’ Iain Percy thinks collisions are the biggest danger. “The boats are very exciting and it’s a visual sport, but it does hold danger for the athletes,” he said.

Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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