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


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:


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.

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Racing in 36th America’s Cup cleared to begin next week

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Racing in the 36th match for sailing’s America Cup between defender Team New Zealand and Italian challenger Luna Rossa will begin next Wednesday after the relaxation of COVID-19 lockdown regulations in host city Auckland.

The Cup Match was due to begin Saturday but was pushed back to Wednesday when Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, moved to alert level 3 after a small community outbreak.

The outbreak is now thought contained and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced Auckland will move to alert level 2 from Sunday. That will allow racing to take place in the best-of-13 race Match, albeit without crowds at the Cup village or fan zones ashore.

Two races will be sailed on Wednesday with an off-day Thursday. Racing will continue on the next four days — March 12 to 15 — and continue each day afterwards until one team has won seven races.

Auckland COVID outbreak forces America’s Cup postponement

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The first weekend of sailing in the America’s Cup has been postponed after new COVID-19 cases were reported in Auckland. It is now not likely to begin until March 10.

Auckland was placed in limited lockdown for seven days from 6 a.m. Sunday with travel restrictions into and out of New Zealand’s largest city, strict limits on public gatherings, and a ban on sports events.

The 36th match for the America’s Cup between Team New Zealand and Italy’s Luna Rossa was due to begin next Saturday. America’s Cup Events chairwoman Tina Symmans said Sunday the decision had been made early to give participants “some certainty in planning.

The alert level changes were announced late Saturday after two new coronavirus cases were located in the community which could not directly be linked to earlier cases. Auckland recently returned to level 1 after a small community cluster of infections.

“ACE has always said that it wishes to hold as much of the racing under level 1 restrictions as possible,” Symmans said. “But to be prudent, ACE will apply for an exemption to race under Level 3 restrictions so as to keep as many options open as possible.

“However, racing will not occur before at least Wednesday, March 10. We need to understand all likely scenarios so that an updated racing schedule can be put in place whilst also ensuring the regulatory requirements are met.”

Races in the America’s Cup challenger series took place this month without crowds when Auckland was at level 2. A government exemption would be needed and strict protocols would have to be in place for racing to take place at level 3.