Initial thoughts: 36th America’s Cup

Published on December 21st, 2020

Adam Cort, Principal Editor for SAIL magazine, gives his initial thoughts on the state of the 36th America’s Cup in the wake of the World Series regatta and Prada Christmas race down in Auckland.


It all pretty much comes down to one thing: pray for wind. On the plus side, following a handful of days of practice racing and a score of races as part of the World Series, it looks like the Prada Cup challenger elimination series, in particular, could result in some fun competition.

For example, presumably all four teams, INEOS Team UK, the Defender Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team and New York Yacht Club American Magic, were holding back a bit. But there was still definitely some good boat-to-boat action in a few of the pre-starts and a number of fun lead changes out on the course.

During a press conference following the Christmas Race, American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson said he was impressed by how close the teams were given the fact they were all racing brand-new boats never before tested in the heat of battle, and he’s right, mostly.

The exception is INEOS Team UK, which despite having Sir Ben Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, at the helm is still both noticeably slower than the competition and having trouble with maneuvers. Those hoping for close racing might also be a bit concerned about ETNZ, which came out of the blocks fast, and seemed to only grow stronger with every start.

It would be a shame if the finals become a cakewalk for the Defender, which made winning the one and only World Series of the current Cup cycle look pretty easy. That said, Luna Rossa and American Magic were also both fast and nimble—and you can bet they, and INEOS UK, will only be all the faster when the Prada Cup begins in January 2021. Unlike ETNZ, they also have the advantage of being tested in this same Prada Cup elimination series, which runs from January 15 to February 22, before sailing for the Cup itself.

Which brings us back to the question of wind. In short, it appears the boats need boatspeeds in the high teens, which in turn only requires about 8-9 knots of true wind to get foiling. But if and when that fails to happen, things can get ugly fast.

Case in point, the first race in the ultimately cancelled Christmas race between ETNZ and INEOS Team UK. In marginal conditions of around 9 knots, the Kiwis were able to get airborne as they should, but the British couldn’t, and what was supposed to be a race, quickly turned into a combination slaughter/farce. – Full story

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