America’s Cup: Is starting upwind a game changer?

Published on November 10th, 2020

Professional sailor and coach and America’s Cup veteran Cameron Dunn reports for Live Sail Die on how the AC75 isn’t the only be game-changer for the 36th America’s Cup in 2021.

Since the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco and throughout the 35th America’s Cup, held in Bermuda, we were used to reaching starts, where the teams had a 2-minute pre-start, followed by a full-on drag race reach to the first mark, before screaming off on the downwind VMG leg to the bottom gate.

Gone were the days of a full 5-minute pre-start, the conventional dial-up followed by a few circles and then the subtle jockeying for position on the final approach to the upwind start, all incredibly tactical, but in slow motion in comparison to what we now have.

In Bermuda, we were enthralled by the amazing acceleration off the start and the high-speed drag race to Mark 1, with the AC50’s sailing at well over 30 knots and sometimes into the 40’s. There were many tactical options depending on whether you were the leading or pushing boat. A benefit of the reaching starts, other than the high-speed action, was that the boat that lost the start, unless they really mucked it up, would usually round Mark 1 right on the stern of the lead boat and very much still in the race heading down to the bottom gate on Leg 2.

A small but significant change to the course for the 36th America’s Cup, taking place here in Auckland just a few short months from now, is the change back to upwind starts. There will still be the 2 minute pre-start that we are now accustomed to, with the port entry boat entering the start box at 2:10 and the starboard entry boat entering at 2 minutes, but instead of a reach to Mark 1 and then off downwind to the bottom gate, the boats will start on an upwind leg to Mark 1, then into a full length downwind leg to the bottom gate.

I see this as a significant change, and I am not sure it is a change for the better. – Full report


36th America’s Cup
In addition to Challenges from Italy, USA, and Great Britain that were accepted during the initial entry period (January 1 to June 30, 2018), eight additional Notices of Challenge were received by the late entry deadline on November 30, 2018. Of those eight submittals, entries from Malta, USA, and the Netherlands were also accepted. Here’s the list:

• Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)

• Luna Rossa (ITA) – Challenger of Record
• American Magic (USA)
• Malta Altus Challenge (MLT) – WITHDRAWN
• Stars + Stripes Team USA (USA) – STATUS UNKNOWN
• DutchSail (NED) – WITHDRAWN

Of the three late entries, only Stars+Stripes USA remains committed, however, it is unclear what entry payments have been made, nor is there knowledge of a boat being actively built or sailing team assembled.

Key America’s Cup dates:
✔ September 28, 2017: 36th America’s Cup Protocol released
✔ November 30, 2017: AC75 Class concepts released to key stakeholders
✔ January 1, 2018: Entries for Challengers open
✔ March 31, 2018: AC75 Class Rule published
✔ June 30, 2018: Entries for Challengers close
✔ August 31, 2018: Location of the America’s Cup Match and The PRADA Cup confirmed
✔ August 31, 2018: Specific race course area confirmed
✔ November 30, 2018: Late entries deadline
✔ March 31, 2019: Boat 1 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ 2nd half of 2019: 2 x America’s Cup World Series events (CANCELLED)
✔ October 1, 2019: US$1million late entry fee deadline (NOT KNOWN)
✔ February 1, 2020: Boat 2 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ April 23-26, 2020: First (1/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Cagliari, Sardinia (CANCELLED)
✔ June 4-7, 2020: Second (2/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Portsmouth, England (CANCELLED)
• December 17-20, 2020: Third (3/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Auckland, New Zealand
• January 15-February 22, 2021: The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series
• March 6-15, 2021: The America’s Cup Match

Youth America’s Cup Competition (CANCELLED)
• February 18-23, 2021
• March 1-5, 2021
• March 8-12, 2021

AC75 launch dates:
September 6, 2019 – Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Boat 1
September 10, 2019 – American Magic (USA), Boat 1; actual launch date earlier but not released
October 2, 2019 – Luna Rossa (ITA), Boat 1
October 4, 2019 – INEOS Team UK (GBR), Boat 1
October 16, 2020 – American Magic (USA), Boat 2
October 17, 2020 – INEOS Team UK (GBR), Boat 2
October 20, 2020 – Luna Rossa (ITA), Boat 2


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