The fastest ever America’s Cup is about to begin. The pinnacle event of our sport should have started today with four races of the first Round Robin. The wind, though, won the first day of racing, and the America’s Cup Event Management called it off due to forecast gusts of over 30 knots. Safety first is the rule, even more so if you are racing with a 72 foot catamaran with wing and foils.
The sailing community has been waiting for three years, and it’s got to wait a day longer. Both Opening Ceremony and the first races will take place on Bermuda Great Sound tomorrow, Saturday May the 27th.
Here’s what you need to know – well explained from our friend @Craig Leweck of @Sailing Scuttlebutt
DEFENDER: Oracle Team USA is still the Defender and haven't lost a step. While skipper Jimmy Spithill is no American, he's won the last two Cups, so this is no time to be checking green cards. The technical multihull skills accrued by this team since launching their 90-foot trimaran (August 2008) for the 33rd America's Cup are a mighty sword. Challengers beware!
CHALLENGERS: There are five teams, and if the practice sessions are to be believed, the elimination series will be a battle between Artemis Racing (SWE), Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), and SoftBank Japan (JPN). While it is hard to count out Ben Ainslie with Land Rover BAR (GBR) and Franck Cammas with Groupama Team France (FRA), these two first-time teams are not yet ready to sit at the big boy table.
SCHEDULE: Prepare to be confused. The convoluted race schedule has good competition reasons but is bound to baffle the over-poured barfly. Here we go:
• America's Cup World Series (2015-16)
These lead-up races to the 2013 America's Cup were a glorified exhibition, so they re-purposed the plan this time to give it value. Land Rover BAR, winner of the 2015-16 World Series, gained a two point advantage now going into the first stage in Bermuda. The Defender got one point. Everyone else is on zero. Amazingly, those occasionally random World Series races may have an impact in Bermuda.
• First Stage (May 26 to June 3) – America’s Cup Qualifiers
All six America’s Cup teams - yes, that includes the Defender - will compete in a double round robin match race series where each competitor races every other team twice. Each win earns one point, and the four Challengers with the most points advance to the next round. This is where the Brits or the French could get eliminated, but with Ainslie's 2-point advantage, the French will need to beat them twice and do a little better against the field to survive.
• Second Stage (June 4 to 12; may end earlier) – America’s Cup Challenger Playoff
The Defender now gets out of the way, with the top four Challengers split into two Semi-Finals (best of 9) with the winner of each match to meet in the Final (best of 9) to determine who will take on Defender in the America’s Cup Match.
• Final Stage (June 17 to 25; may end earlier) – America’s Cup Match
Oracle Team USA will take on the best Challenger, with the winner of the 35th America's Cup to be the first team to claim seven points. The caveat is if one of these two teams had previously won the Qualifiers (first stage), they will begin this Match with a one point advantage, meaning they will only need to win six races while the other team must win seven races.
Where are the Star sailors? In every team there is a good representation of Olympic champs from different classes, Sir Ben Ainlsie himself has 5 medals alone for his Land Rover BAR, gold medal in 49er Peter Burling is helming Team NZ and Gold+Silver medal 49er Nathan Outeridge is at the helm of Swedish Artemis Racing. This team is the one where you can find two legendary Star sailors, beginning with the team CEO Ian Percy, gold in Bejing and silver in London with Andrew Barth Simpson and gold in London Freddy Loof – one of the few swedes in the team.
Good luck to everyone, may the best team win the oldest trophy in the history of sport.