America’s Cup: Show and Go in Chicago

Published on June 12th, 2016

Like a memorable rock concert, the America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) nailed its performance for the seemingly sold out crowd on Navy Pier (June 10-12) in Chicago, IL. After a widely panned presentation in New York, a change of venues brought out the best in the entertainers. Chicago had both show and go.

The song set started on Friday with some favorites, particularly the capsizes by Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA. Saturday offered that mellow section of the concert when fickle winds allowed for bathroom breaks and drink refills. And then Sunday closed strong with fresh winds and encore sets.

In the landscape of the ACWS, racing has to occur within the television window. As a safeguard, a ‘substitute’ race is held on the practice day (Friday) that could later be used as a keeper if needed. The race was won by SoftBank Team Japan, and when a wind delay on Saturday pushed the racing outside of the television time period, that race became a keeper.

After over a two hour delay, there was a race on Saturday, won wire to wire by Emirates Team New Zealand, but as it was held outside of the television window, it became the new substitute race, to be used only if a full schedule was not held on Sunday. As it turned out, the Kiwi win didn’t.

After the 90+ degree temperatures on Saturday, a cold front that night delivered for Sunday a cooler day and winds in the teens. With one race now counting from Friday, the schedule called for three double-point races for the six teams, with the course in the lee of Navy Pier. It was game on.

The first two races were wire to wire wins for Land Rover BAR (GBR) and Artemis Racing respectively. But it was the consistency of Artemis, which now held a 1-2-1, that gave them a seven point lead over the Brits with one race to go. And then it got interesting.

Artemis went for the leeward end start, but found themselves behind four boats at the first turn. “We knew the distance from the mark to the boundary was quite small, so we set up low to make sure we could make the turn at the mark,” explained Artemis skipper Nathan Outteridge. “Unfortunately we didn’t get the jump off the line like we wanted, and then at the gybe we got fouled by the French which set us back to last.”

SoftBank broke loose with the lead, but the other three boats – USA, GBR, and NZL – had gone out of bounds. “When we saw the other boats had been penalized, we got to work,” Outteridge continued. “We’d been sailing so well to that point, and given the course was relatively long, we just began picking our way through the fleet.”

It was another wire to wire win, boosting SoftBank to their first podium finish (third overall) and the only team to score two bullets in the four race series. Artemis had moved up to second in the race, but needed to ease off the throttle at the finish to avoid trouble with the Brits and Kiwis, dropping them to fourth… still enough for the event win.

While the Brits matched Artemis’s scores on Sunday, their fifth in the dicey Friday race dropped them to second overall. “Today showed what the sport is all about when we get the right conditions,” remarked British skipper Ben Ainslie. “This kind of racing, with the spectators close but with the race course in strong, steady winds, is brilliant.”

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Background: The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) racing circuit forms part of the 35th America’s Cup programme, with ACWS scoring contributing to the selection of the 2017 America’s Cup Challenger. The ACWS will feature fleet racing in one design foiling AC45 catamarans.

ACWS 2015
July 25-26: Portsmouth, UK
August 29-30: Gothenberg, Sweden
October 17-18: Bermuda

ACWS 2016
February 27-28: Muscat, Oman
May 7-8: New York, USA
June 11-12: Chicago, USA
July 23-24: Portsmouth, UK
September 10-11: Toulon, France
November 19-20: Fukuoka, Japan

ACWS 2017 – One event expected

Using a format of fleet racing in foiling, wing-sailed 45ft catamarans, the America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) winner will be the team with the most points accumulated from all the ACWS events.

In 2017, the six teams (5 challengers and 1 defender) will compete in the new 15-meter AC Class, beginning with the America’s Cup Qualifiers, a double round robin match racing series which will reduce the five challengers to the top four teams. In this series, the winner of the America’s Cup World Series starts the America’s Cup Qualifiers with a 2 point advantage (runner-up in ACWS begins with 1 point advantage).

At the conclusion of the America’s Cup Qualifiers, only the four challengers with the most points (each match win earns 1 point) advance to the final stage to determine the challenger which will face the defender in the 35th America’s Cup. Complete schedule.

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