America’s Cup: Answering the questions

Published on March 10th, 2021

Julian Everitt, yacht designer and previous editor for Seahorse magazine, asked a lot of questions prior to the first race of the 36th America’s Cup. Now with two races in the tank, do we have any answers? You decide….

Are we on the eve of the greatest America’s Cup match ever in the 170 year history of this most iconic of sporting endeavors? Will we see the esoteric art of sailboat racing finally emerge as a mainstream competition that can take its ‘proper-place’ alongside Formula One as a technology driven sport that will appeal to the widest possible audiences across the globe?

Well, if I’m not wrong, that essentially encapsulates the mission statement and or dreams of current America’s Cup philosophy. So how’s it all going?

Pre-match tension is, perhaps surprisingly, boiling down to the same old big questions. Who has the faster boat? Will maneuverability be more important than straight line speed? How critical will be the start?

We could almost be eavesdropping into the speculation surrounding the match of 1987. Will the raw speed of Stars and Stripes provide the killer punch or will the Kookaburra team control the pace and nullify the straight line advantages of their opponent?

I’m guessing the whole sailing world is now poised, waiting, for the key moment – some few minutes into the start of the first race in a few hours’ time. We can’t wait! Is the future of the America’s Cup – indeed the future of sailboat racing hinging on this critical time?

Certainly, for the first time ever, the all-important non sailing public will see the significance of this being played out at an entertaining 50 knots. Speed being the guarantee of mass interest. The telltale flashes of high energy foam spraying from the foils as the protagonists battle, tack for tack, over glacial waters will captivate, in a way that never could be imagined in bygone eras of plodding dinosaurs crashing through huge seas at pedestrian speeds.

The new, highly televisual world order, focuses on the relentless nature of highly fit men grinding handles to create oil pressure so that the smallest number of sailors possible, can manipulate taps and levers to keep flying, while the driver/pilot/helmsman, for all the world, looks just like a Formula One driver.

It is so easy to see why this spectacle is so much more alluring to the uninitiated who struggle with the images of flaying genoas, kite hoists, and drops and the achingly slow progress of the competitors.

Foiling is assuredly the future of America’s Cup racing! But is it the best future?

Compelling arguments have been made endlessly for maintaining the foiling technology and all that it brings to the sport of sailboat racing and the encouragement of an ever wider audience base. Devastatingly fast, these boats are technological triumphs undoubtedly, but are we likely to see them develop beyond one-event wonders?
Much will depend on who wins when hostilities commence between the Italian challengers and the New Zealand defenders and that’s a hard call to make. Probably fair to say that the racing will be close, but in terms of score lines it may pan out, like so many America’s Cup matches, somewhat one sided.

If New Zealand prevails, and they are the current bookie favorites, then the foiling future is secure for at least one more cycle. Whether or not they will defend the Auld Mug again in New Zealand is less clear.

The massive financial hit of the pandemic will have ramifications for the future of the Cup in New Zealand, but then the fierce national temperament might outweigh the potential monetary benefits of farming the event out to a paying host nation. But what we do know is the tender documents for hosting the next America’s Cup are already in play – just in case.

It also seems likely that the foiling future will be further secured by nominating Britannia INEOS as the Challenger of Record. One of the many unique elements of the America’s Cup is that unless a Challenger of Record is agreed before the finish of the final race of the match, then the defenders leave themselves open to a Deed of Gift challenge from anybody with the right credentials. This challenge can, quite literally, be made as the winning boat crosses the finishing line for the last time. Reasonable to assume, however, that this won’t happen!

INEOS, with their new found credentials, might choose to play the continuity card and help NZ stage the event, once again, in home waters. They might use the might of their millions to stage a New Zealand defense in U.K. waters. Unlikely yes – but you never know. I very much doubt that the event, as it is, can be made attractive enough for a Middle East venue.

Of course, if the Italians win, it might be the end of flying boats simply to give themselves home town advantage. This is the norm for America’s Cup winners and I can’t see any reason that Prada won’t fully utilize their hard won defender rights and throw a completely new set of rules into the pot. Foil assist rather than flying foil might be the Italian recipe.

America’s Cup Match Scoreboard (wins-losses)
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL): 1-1
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team (ITA): 1-1


After advancing as the winner of the PRADA Cup, Italian challenger faces the Kiwi defense in the best of 13 series. The 36th America’s Cup Match racing schedule has two races per day planned for March 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, and each day after that until the first team has won seven races.

More information:
• America’s Cup format, standings, and how to watch: click here.
• Complete America’s Cup coverage: click here
• Additional America’s Cup information: click here

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