The America's Cup World Series is producing some seriously hot comptetion. Rob Melotti reports from the final event of the season
All eyes were on the Artemis team at the end of the three races held on Sunday in Bermuda. Their run of bad luck continued as they collided with an umpire boat before the start of race 2, yet went on to win that race and win the weekend overall. But it is fair to say that Land Rover BAR and Oracle Team USA, who both struggled in the fast conditions, are still the favourites for the grand finale back on the island in 2017. Oracle skipper, Jimmy Spithill has become a firm favourite in Bermuda and performed a few sail-pasts for the benefit of his young children’s classmates aboard one of the many huge spectator boats out on the water. And anyone who bets against Ben Ainslie is either very brave or pretty foolish.
All of which is not to ignore the amazing achievement by Emirates Team New Zealand to finish top of the fleet after nine races. Nor the improvement by Softbank Team Japan, which will accelerate now that they have moved their operations to Bermuda and will be permitted to do more training on the Great Sound.
However, it is hard to believe that the combined might of Oracle and BAR will be defeated in the long run. Next year is round two of the World Series – a continuation of the fleet racing from this year – featuring confirmed weekend regattas in Chicago and Portsmouth (and more expected). Whoever comes out on top takes a point as a head-start into the finals the year after.
Once 2017 rolls around, the teams will switch to the AC48 boats for the Challenger Qualifiers and the final match against the holders, Oracle. So the format changes from fleet racing to one-on-one match racing and the boats change from being one-designs to being top-secret unique creations that will share certain basic hull and wing shape/size features. This is the point where the enormous army of technicians, designers and builders from both Oracle and BAR will emerge, blinking into the sunlight and, it is expected, blast the rest of the field off the water.
The AC48s will have three wingsail flaps to enable the sails to twist from top to bottom as they pick up speed. The hydrofoils will be trimmed on the fly using hydraulics. They are significantly wider than the AC45s being used in the current event. In short, these new 48-footers are anticipated to be faster than the 72-footers that stunned the world in San Francisco in 2013.
Bermuda proved to be an engaging and excitable host venue. The lack of wind and subsequent heavy rain on Saturday ruined some peoples’ weekends – the music stars at the concert reportedly did their best to get the crowds going. The crowds on the water were enormous, but views from land are definitely not easy to find. The small sailing area means room for manoeuvre on and off the course is severely restricted and hopefully organisers will scrutinise the accident before the start of race 2 to see if anything can be done to prevent it occurring again.
But the public – on the island and around the world – are engaged. Sailing has broken through to new audiences. The big American networks were out in force – this event will inspire new people to have a go at sailing. It may seem on the surface, that foiling catamarans and their body-armour-wearing crewmen are entirely removed from the normal boating public, but that is simply not the case. Like Formula 1 and the Premier League, this is an everyday activity amplified, sculpted and styled – but it’s still sailing!
Overall standings: https://www.americascup.com/