What is the America’s Cup?
The America’s Cup, with its history dating back to 1851, is a match race that sees teams battling it out in a series of racing events called the America’s Cup World Series. The winning team will then take on the Defender – the victorious crew from the last edition. In keeping with the competition’s roots, the event places sailors on the newest and fastest boats; a tradition that has resulted in technological innovations that have set the bar for the sailing industry, worldwide.
How did the America’s Cup start?
In 1851, Commodore John Cox Stevens, a charter member of the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) sailed his schooner across the Atlantic Ocean towards England. His destination was “The Great Exhibition” in Hyde Park - the first world’s fair. The fair, hosted by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, invited the world to come to England, and display their latest technological advancements. And at a time when Britannia ruled the waves, this was an invitation that excited innovators across the globe. Commodore John Stevens and five other members of the NYYC saw the queen’s invitation as an incentive to build a racing yacht the likes of which humbled Her Majesty’s yachtsmen. Hearing that the America’s crew were keen to compete against them in the race around the Isle of Wight and showcase the full potential of their boat, the yachtsmen pushed back. But as public pressure mounted, they had no choice but to eventually concede.
The America won the competition and claimed the trophy, which was originally called the £100 Cup. This was donated to the NYCC under the terms of the Deed of Gift, which allowed the cup to be made available, indefinitely, for international competition. This then became the America’s Cup. That’s why the event is viewed as having the oldest trophy in international sport and has since become the pinnacle of the yachting world’s competitive calendar, whenever it happens.
…whenever it happens? How does the America’s Cup work?
The event has no regular schedule – the competition is triggered when a qualified yacht club challenges the Defender, or the team who won the cup in the previous edition. (see list of Challengers and Defenders below).
The Defender determines the timing of each match, some rules of engagement and the venue, and because of this, the deck is skewed in their favour: challenger teams have to truly beat the odds to claim victory. You only need to look at the winning clubs to see how formidable a feat this has been, with the New York Yacht Club holding on to the America’s Cup for 24 editions (from 1851-1980) before relinquishing their grip to the Royal Perth Yacht Club. Following that, trophy holders were the Royal Perth Yacht Club, San Diego Yacht Club, Société Nautique de Geneve and Golden Gate Yacht Club, with the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron holding onto it from 2017 to the present day.
The American Cup World Series is spread across four races over a weekend – two on Saturday and two on Sunday. Points are accumulated throughout the series with Sunday racing constituting double points.
For the 36th America’s Cup taking place in the southern-summer between 6th-21st March, 2021. The Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand will race against the winner of the Prada Cup, the Challenger Selection Series in a best of 13, aiming to be the first one to seven points.
And with 2021’s competition introducing the AC75 Class Rule, the parameters have been set for the teams to develop and race the fastest sailing monohull on earth to sail its way around Auckland.
Sounds exciting! What does the race course look like?
Running across the wider Hauraki Gulf and south along the North Shore beaches around North Head, the race course area encompasses the inner Waitemata harbour to downtown Auckland CBD, across Auckland’s Eastern suburbs to Tamaki Strait. This course will offer a variety of route options, wind directions and conditions that will make for an exhilarating and challenging race.