America’s Cup: Yes, We Are Talking About Practice

Published on May 1st, 2017

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
Think NFL preseason, the time of year when teams line-up for reps before the games really count. This was the analogy put forth by America’s Cup defense skipper Jimmy Spithill as the six sailing teams participate in organized practice races in Bermuda.

Knowing that NFL teams use the preseason more to determine who they are going to cut than what plays work best, Spithill is pretty much telling us to enjoy the view but not spend too much money in the concession stands. The beer is expensive… save your money for when it counts.

Having an organized preseason for the America’s Cup is something new, and while the concept shatters the aura of not knowing how teams will line up, I am thankful they are getting this chance to sail in anger. While the teams already have a good handle on who will be their starting roster, they don’t have a handle on how to sail the America’s Cup Class boat.

The learning curve is pretty steep right now, and if we want to see elite racing when it counts, and not people falling off boats or skippers struggling to control their steeds, this preseason plan is critical. When the lights get bright and television cameras are rolling, we want clean blocks and one handed receptions…. not a bunch of ‘Three and Outs’.

Whatever relevance these practice races will prove to have, it is with some optimism that after a truly nightmarish campaign for the 2013 America’s Cup, Artemis Racing has thus far been the form team. Fast through the water and smooth through the turns.

“If we were racing the America’s Cup today they’d have to be the favourite,” said Russell Coutts, CEO of the America’s Cup. “The French have started to improve the control of their boat and we’ve seen some improvement from Land Rover BAR.”

But you can’t win if you can’t finish, and Coutts sees that as one of the areas teams need to be focusing on. “The revolution with this America’s Cup has been quite incredible but there’s still a long way to go with some of the teams in terms of their reliability.”

Kind of like when top fuel dragsters are on the start line, they get the go light, and one of the cars suddenly blows an engine. Watching the other one at full speed is still pretty cool, but that’s only for four seconds. The America’s Cup course is 22 minutes. We saw one boat races in 2013… we don’t need that again.

So while I will miss the aura of the past, of not knowing, this is not that America’s Cup. That America’s Cup had a 15 minute grind upwind where fractional differences would gradually add up. This America’s Cup is some kind of high flying, bow blowing, g-force pulling spectacle.

I want these boats to be well sailed or else the game, when it counts, will struggle to keep both boats in the same frame. So keep on practicing…

Background: The 35th American’s Cup has attracted six teams (5 challengers and 1 defender) that will compete in the new 15-meter AC Class, with a series of qualifiers beginning on May 26, 2017 that lead to the start of the America’s Cup Match on June 17, 2017. Complete schedule.

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