While much of the yacht racing world has had its eyes glued to the Volvo Ocean Race these eight past months, the behemoth that is the America’s Cup has also been slowly but surely lurching into motion, following the publication of the official AC75 class rule in late March.
Here at home, the New York Yacht Club’s “American Magic” campaign (so named in honor of the schooner that started it all back in 1851) continues to pick up steam, with its sailors first winning the Ficker Cup and then taking second overall this past April in the Congressional Cup, behind former World Match Racing champion Taylor Canfield of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Interestingly, while renowned U.S. sailor Terry Hutchinson is currently leading the effort, at the helm is Kiwi America’s Cup veteran Dean Barker, the skipper on the losing side of the Jimmy Spithill-led “Comeback” on San Francisco Bay in 2013.
“So far, the overall experience has been very good,” said Hutchinson. “The Ficker and Congressional Cups were an opportunity to test ourselves, to see where we are, and to apply some pressure [to our team]. Over 12 days, American Magic had a record of 39-7 against some really strong competition. Unfortunately, we didn’t win on the last day of the Congressional Cup, but we did a lot of really good things as a team.”
Speaking of Spithill, while there’s still no sign of his ex-boss Larry Ellison, it appears he remains undaunted by the shellacking he received as helmsman for Oracle Team USA at the hands of the current Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, in Bermuda and has now signed on with his former rival, the Challenger-of-Record, Italy’s Team Luna Rossa Challenge.
And speaking of shellackings, it appears Britain’s Sir Ben Ainslie, whose Land Rover BAR squad didn’t do so well in Bermuda either, has also not yet had enough and will make another attempt at returning the Auld Mug to its birthplace. Not only that, but it appears Ainslie (who was also Spithill’s tactician for the 34th Cup in San Francisco) now has the funds to make that happen, after securing $153 million in backing from British petrochemicals magnate James Ratcliffe, for what is now being called INEOS Team GB.
As for the characteristically tight-lipped Kiwi Defenders, who the heck knows? After unveiling the admittedly odd-looking new 75-footer with its pivoting T-foils legs that will be used to sail for the Cup in 2021, a cone of silence has fallen over the Auckland-based camp.
That said, there is one thing we can be sure of, and that is that robots need not apply: this thanks to a clause in the AC75 rule that states, “There shall be 11 crewmembers unless reduced by accident, who shall all be human beings.”
In the words of Emirates technical director, Dan Bernasconi, “It’s a little bit tongue-in-cheek, but you never know. People are always looking for the last bit of performance to get out of the boat. Whether anyone would turn up with a crew full of androids, who would know?”
Who would know, indeed? Especially since with $153 million at his disposal, Sir Ben, at least, will be in a position to buy himself some pretty exotic toys. Makes those old nationality debates seem almost quaint by comparison. For the latest on the inevitable craziness that is the America’s Cup, visit americascup.com.