NEW YORK CITY - MAY 7 2016 the 35th annual America's Cup yacht race was held in New York Harbor with Statue of Liberty in the background. Photo: a katz / Shutterstock
It is a series of yacht races taking place over the span of a month…or so. It is held every three years…or so. It is a sport that makes no pretense of being available to the common man, at least as a competitor. Its official title, “America’s Cup Presented by Louis Vuitton”, fairly drips privilege. And yet, it is compelling sport and compelling television for tens of thousands of boating race fans worldwide. It’s the America’s Cup. And, according to americascup.com, gets underway May 27.
First, some history: America’s Cup (Not “The” America’s Cup. That would be gauche.) was first offered as the Hundred Guinea Cup in 1851 by the Royal Yacht Squadron of Great Britain. The contest was to be a race around the Isle of Wight. The cup was won by the America, a 100-foot schooner from New York City. We, naturally, renamed it America’s Cup. The American winners of the cup donated it to the New York Yacht Club in 1857 for a perpetual international challenge competition. In 1987 the San Diego Yacht Club took over the U.S. competition.
In the 166 years since the Cup was first in play, there have been 34 contests. The United States has prevailed 26 times. The most recent iteration of the best-of-17 series was in 2013. That’s when Oracle, captained by James Spithill, came from seven races down for a dramatic victory over Team New Zealand in the waters of San Francisco Bay. Oracle Team USA will be in action again this year. They will face challenges from sailors out of the UK, France, Sweden, New Zealand, and Japan.
According to Wired, the boats just get faster and more high-tech. These vessels are like luxury yachts the way Formula 1 cars are like the Prius in your driveway. The folks after sailing’s greatest prize sink fortunes on the latest modern technology and materials. That effort and expense yields vessels that don’t so much plow through the water as fly above it.
The crystal waters of Bermuda will host this year’s event. Racing starts with the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers on May 26. The top challenger will meet Team USA beginning June 17.
americascup.com, wimp.com, Wired, Encyclopedia Brittanica
Gildshire Reporter, Kim Hastings