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.