Skip to main content

Cup Watch: Destination Newport

When the advance guard of America’s Cup 34 descends on Newport, Rhode Island, this month for the AC World Series regatta, you can forget the game that left town in 1983. In those days it was controversial (honest!) that top people were paid (under the table) to sail ocean races, and that these same people would show up expecting to compete for the Cup.

When the advance guard of America’s Cup 34 descends on Newport, Rhode Island, this month for the AC World Series regatta, you can forget the game that left town in 1983. In those days it was controversial (honest!) that top people were paid (under the table) to sail ocean races, and that these same people would show up expecting to compete for the Cup. These days an avowed mission of AC34 is to create a Formula 1-style event for pros. 

In the past, aficionados spoke proudly of “the chess game” of controlling an opponent with subtle right-of-way rules while sailing perhaps at no more than a swimmer’s pace. Many an hour passed at Bannister’s Wharf with fans debating race moves that remained mysterious if not entirely opaque to most of the eyes that beheld them. With hard-wing catamarans now “normally” sailing beyond true wind speeds, with hardcore helmeted athletes on board, and with tactics subsumed by the emergency that is each race, the game is more like combat chess. 

John Kostecki, tactician for Oracle Racing’s 2010 win in Valencia, said, “I do everything on the AC45 but drive and trim the wing. The front three people are all strategists, helping the helmsman, who has the least to do, so he makes most of the decisions.”

This on a boat moving fast enough to pull a water skier.

AC45 teams returned to the America’s Cup World Series with the big guy of Oracle Racing, Larry Ellison, musing to journalists that the 45s look so good, they might have fulfilled his America’s Cup vision by themselves. The AC72s, meanwhile, seem intimidating, but until they’re sailing, nobody knows. I maintain that Dennis Conner and company in 1983 came close to successfully defending the Cup with a slower boat, and had they defeated Allen Bond’s superior mousetrap, Australia II, “Bondie” would not have tried again and the America’s Cup probably would have been safe for another generation.

But then, the Cup would not have been set free to become whatever it is becoming. And the earth would still be flat. 

Photos courtesy Gilles Martin-Raget/34th America's Cup

Don't forget: SAIL is giving one lucky winner a trip to Newport, Rhode Island, to race in the America's Cup World Series on June 28! Enter by June 4, 2012.

Related

promo-2048x

Just Launched Mid-sized Cruisers

With so many manufacturers dreaming up bigger production boats, more and more mid-sized cruisers fall on the smaller end of their lines. However, “smaller” does not mean less, and the tricks for optimizing larger models have helped with squeezing more enjoyment into less LOA. As ...read more

05-DSC_0638

Charter: Lake Tahoe

A sail on Lake Tahoe has been on my bucket list since the day I first laid eyes on it, and come hell or high water, I decided I was going to someday charter a boat there. North America’s largest and deepest alpine lake, Tahoe sits at 6,225ft above sea level and straddles the ...read more

East-River-Rapids

Escape from New York Part 1

I was never supposed to take my boat through New York City. After getting sucked backward through the Cape Cod Canal on my way south from Maine, when the speed of the current exceeded the maximum speed of my little electric auxiliary, I wanted nothing to do with Hell Gate and ...read more

LEAD-Celeste-in-the-Tuamotu

A Watermaker Upgrade

As a classic-boat sailor, I’ve long held that simpler is the better. I still think this is true: a simpler boat is cheaper, she has less gadgets to break down and there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing you’re able to handle a bit of discomfort. Thus, for a long time, I sailed ...read more

01-LEAD-IDECsport_180919_032

Sailing Speed Records

Although the 1903 defender of the America’s Cup, Reliance, was deemed a “racing freak”—the boat pushed design rules to their limit and couldn’t be beaten, at least in very specific conditions—designer Nat Herreshoff was nonetheless onto something. A century later, purpose-built ...read more

BVIFeetup

Chartering with Non-sailors

Three tips on managing the madness First-time charterers and first-time sailors aren’t at all the same thing. One group may struggle with beginner chartering issues, like sailing a multihull, catching a mooring or dealing with base personnel. For the other group, though, ...read more

AdobeStock_455372159

A Gulf Stream Crossing at Night

Even the dome of light glowing above the city behind us had disappeared as if swallowed in a gulp by Noah’s whale. The moon was absent. Not a star twinkled overhead. The night was so dark we could have been floating in a pot of black ink. The only artificial lights to be seen ...read more

00-Lead-549215sJL2uLEa

Summer Sailing Programs

Every year, countless parents find themselves navigating the do’s and don’ts of enrolling their children in a summer learn-to-sail program for the first time. While the prospect of getting your kid on the water is exciting, as a sailing camp program director, there are a lot of ...read more