Sep 30 2013

The 34th America’s Cup

History of the Cup

The Auld Mug (or more formally the “Royal Yacht Squadron £100 Cup”) was originally contested in 1851 between the America and 15 yachts of the Royal Yacht Squadron in a race around the Isle of Wight.

It is the oldest continually contested championship and the Cup was held by the New York Yacht Club from 1851 to 1983 (also a record).

After the defeat of Liberty by Australia 2 it’s bounced around a considerable bit between Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland (interesting because they have no sea coast, see Canadian challengers between 1870 and 1881), and of course the US.

Fast Boats

…for Ellison, the 2013 America’s Cup wasn’t about the race, per se. It was about disruptive innovation. It was about turning yachting into a sport for the masses. As Ellison put it, he was going to reinvent the America’s Cup for “the Facebook generation, not the Flintstones generation.”

The boats are fast.  Really fast. and can hit speeds of 50+ mph regularly.  They are literally faster than the wind and run just as fast upwind as down.

There are two principle reasons for this.  First, and most important is the semi-rigid airfoil they call a wing-sail.  Because this uses aero-dynamic lift to generate power instead of just being pushed along, it’s almost equally good whatever the wind direction and can generate more lift (power) than the air speed.

The second is hydrofoils.  These lift the hull out of the water to reduce drag, the boats are literally flying.  They also use hydro-dynamic effects to control other aspects of boat behavior which allows previously impossible maneuvers like turning on a dime.  If improperly trimmed they can also cause a boat to pitchpole, capsizing end over end instead of sideways like you’re used to.  It was a pitchpole that caused the death of Andrew Simpson.

The Races were also modified to be noticably shorter, sailing 2 a day with a firm 40 minute time limit per race.  The course was shortened too, 5 legs- a Reach from inshore to the first mark, a Downwind leg to the second mark, an Upwind leg to the third mark, another Downwind leg to the fourth mark, and a reach to the Finish Line.

The Regatta

Team Oracle started the Regatta with a 2 Race penalty for cheating during the preliminaries on the 45 foot scale boats, meaning they had to win 11 Races before Emirates New Zealand won 9.  This is quite a penalty, the harshest ever given in America’s Cup.  Just what did they do to deserve this?

They used bags of lead pellets to change the trim and that’s about as cheating as it gets.

There was also a monetary fine (cost of doing business).  Of more import were the crew sanctions.  Team Oracle lost wing trimmer Dirk de Ridder (considered Spithill’s right-hand man) who was deemed the instigator of the plot.  Also boat builder Andrew Walker and Bryce Ruthenberg, rigger, who carried it out.  Matt Mitchell, a grinder, was suspended for four races.

Oracle did not start competition well, dropping 2 the first day only one of which was close and in the subsequent 3 races spliting 1 – 2 with the All Backs.

With perfect 20/20 hindsight most commentators point at the postponement called after Race 5 and the replacement of John Kostecki with Ben Ainslie at Team Oracle Tactician as the critical moment, and say that also was the day the modifications were made to make Oracle a faster boat.  Let’s remember that at the time the Regatta stood only 4 – -1 in favor of Emirates New Zealand and they went on to score 4 more victories in the next 6 races to put the margin at 8 – 1 going into Race 12.  It’s easy to forget that All Blacks were leading the Race 12 that wasn’t by a considerable margin before high winds forced its cancellation, and the abandoned Race 13 where they were a mile ahead.

I, on the other hand, think the pivotal turning point was the 5 day set of delays and postponements before Race 14 at the end of which the match stood at 8 – 3.

This is also when most people lost interest in the contest, thinking it a sure loss.

Another more important day was Sept. 16, when the All Blacks were still leading 7 – 1 and Team Oracle was struggling with finding the proper settings for the boat.  That was a “reserve day”, scheduled to allow catching up on previous postponements.  The All Blacks had the option of forcing a race day but declined use it.  This gave Oracle more time to find the right adjustments to tune the boat.

Future Developments

Larry Ellison’s oft stated goal is to turn America’s Cup yacht Racing into Formula One for boats.  He wants to create a “World Series” of yacht racing similar to what he attempted this defense with a series of regattas at various important and well known racing ports using smaller, cheaper, and more rigidly formula boats to train crews and build interest.

If you saw any of the support racing you know it can be interesting, especially the “free for all” races where you have many boats racing at once instead of just two match racing.  Kind of like Turn Left in the water (Holy chunks of flaming twisted metal Batman!).

And of course there will be TV.

Larry Ellison’s Amazing Victory and Huge Failure

By Jonathan Mahler, Bloomberg News

Sep 25, 2013 6:13 PM ET

New Zealand would probably have won the cup several days ago, were it not for the 40-minute time limit that Ellison imposed on the races. (Imagine, say, the results of the New York City Marathon being decalred invalid because it was an unexpectedly windy day and the race times weren’t fast enough.)

Ellison did this for the purposes of making the cup more TV-friendly. In fact, for Ellison, the 2013 America’s Cup wasn’t about the race, per se. It was about disruptive innovation. It was about turning yachting into a sport for the masses. As Ellison put it, he was going to reinvent the America’s Cup for “the Facebook generation, not the Flintstones generation.”

Toward that end, Ellison added helicopter-mounted cameras and microphones on the boats. He even hired the guy who brought the virtual first-down line to the NFL’s broadcasts and the glowing hockey puck to the NHL’s.

At the end of the day, though, in trying to make the America’s Cup a TV spectacle, Ellison made it anything but. Sure, the boats look cool and go fast, but they are way too expensive to build and maintain for the costs to be offset by advertising. What’s more, the event was supposed to be over days ago but was delayed several times by weather conditions. One day it was too much wind, another day too little for these finicky, high-performance craft. How, exactly, do you create a TV spectacle around an event whose timing you can’t predict? (Even Wimbledon was forced to add a retractable roof!)

NBC Gets More Than It Expected


Published: September 25, 2013

NBC got a great deal: it paid nothing for the Cup races – the America’s Cup Event Authority bought time on NBC and NBCSN and sold advertising to its sponsors – and used the race production that was hosted by the Cup. But NBC also got lucky, televising a remarkable comeback.

NBC and its cable network, NBCSN, showed 13 days of racing starting on Sept. 7. NBC averaged 1.05 million viewers on the first two days; through the next 10, including Tuesday, NBCSN averaged about 165,000 viewers – about twice what it usually attracts from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.

Put into context, the America’s Cup races attracted more viewers for NBC Sports Group than for Major League Soccer games (111,000) but fewer than it received for its live Tour de France coverage (287,000) or its Formula One races (203,000 to date).

The America’s Cup was once a much stronger draw. The event became a late-night sensation in 1987 from Fremantle, Australia. In the final race, when Stars and Stripes defeated Kookaburra III, nearly 1.9 million television households watched on ESPN.

So I don’t think there’s any need for Mr. Ellison to get unduly pessimistic about his prospects.

There are rumors that the race will move from San Francisco to Lanai, the Hawaiian island Ellison recently purchased.  That’s a Billionaire (#8 worldwide) joke folks.  Lanai is too remote for the crowds Ellison craves, and why would h want to stink it up with crowds and media, not to mention the time zone problem (races would start around 10 pm ET).

Another frequent complaint is that there aren’t enough Americans in the America’s Cup.  You hear this most strongly from the Kiwis who have indicated that they might not mount a challenge next cycle and have complained for years that all their best talent is hired away.  There is a possibility that there may be some kind of “nationality quota” in the near future.

The next challenger of record for the Cup is set to be the Hamilton Island Yacht Club from Queensland, Australia.  As challenger of record they will negotiate with the defending Golden Gate Yacht Club (actually Larry Ellison) about the rules for the next round.  Don’t pretend they have a lot of influence though, the New York Yacht sat on the Auld Mug from 1920 to 1930 and again from 1937 to 1958 because they didn’t like the cut of the challenger’s jib.

After the racing there was a lot of talk about changing the formula.  I don’t think the AC72s are uniquely dangerous or expensive.  A big rap against them is that when you’re foiling and dip your bow you can easily get an end over end crash.  This is unusual for a boat, but falling off your foils is almost always pilot error.  Likewise, the formula is so different and so new this time around that everything is incredibly expensive.

I think that if you keep the formula the same you reduce the learning curve and standardize the parts making them cheaper.  The costliest things at the moment are research and development, and training.  Now that potential rivals have had a change to see and learn from the mistakes of these prototypes I think that you can expect the next roud to be faster, safer, and cheaper so that more teams can participate.


2013 America’s Cup Official Site

Below the fold you will find a sampling of stories from Bloomberg News, Bloomberg News Video, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The San Jose Mercury; as well as complete OFFICIAL Video coverage of all Races, Postponements, and Press Conferences with a short summary of each Race’s action and the reason for delays and postponements.

Selected News Paper Articles


Bloomberg Video

New York Times

The Guardian

San Jose Mercury News

The Race in Video


These are the FULL OFFICIAL Videos and are 2 hours viewing time each.  They include the full broadcast commentary including the dull parts where they’re sitting around trying to decide if the course conditions are correct.  Feel free to skip that, though there’s a lot of good information in it.

Together with the Press Conferences there’s a little less than 41 hours of total video.

They are recorded in 720p, 1280 x 720 High Definition and are quite large, 2 Gb or more apiece.  I downloaded them from YouTube using Free YouTube Download and it took me about half an hour to download each race or postponement segment or 10 and a half hours for the whole thing including the Press Conferences.

Your milage may vary.

A complete set will likewise fit on 11 DVDs or 2 x 25 Gb Blue Rays.

Each Race is accompanied by a short summary of the events.

Pre-Race Skippers’ Press Conference (40:35)

Races 1 & 2 (1:59:11)


In Race 1 the All Blacks led at the first (Reach) mark and held on through the downwind leg (second mark).  Oracle was close (4 seconds) and the lead changed several times upwind to the third mark where the All Blacks led by 25 seconds.  After that they extended their lead to 36 seconds.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 1 – -2

In Race 2 the All Blacks led throughout finishing 52 seconds ahead.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 2 – -2

Press Conference Day 1 (21:36)

Races 3 & 4 (1:59:01)


For Race 3 Oracle was able to draw a penalty at the first mark and were 18 seconds ahead downwind (mark 2).  Then Oracle got boxed in by the course boundry and fell behind 29 seconds during the upwind leg (mark 3).  The All Blacks sat on that lead to the finish (28 seconds).

Score- Emirates New Zealand 3 – -2

Race 4 had Oracle ahead 6 seconds at the first mark and they kept that lead to finish 8 seconds ahead.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 3 – -1

Press Conference Day 2 (21:09)

Race 5 (1:59:04)


Oracle led on the first two legs building up to a 150 yard lead.  Around mark 3 (up to downwind) they called for a foiling tack, a radical quick turn.  Something went wrong and they dropped off their foils.  The boat practically came to a stop.  After they got sailing again the All Blacks had a 300 yard lead (450 yard delta).  Emirates New Zealand won by 1:05.

After the debacle Team Oracle called its one and only postponement (usually used to fix broken equipment) to re-group.  They had one day of practice to install and test boat modifications and they replaced Tactician John Kostecki (San Francisco native) with Sir Ben Ainslie, multiple Olympic Gold Medal winner for Britain and Skipper of the Team Oracle B team boat.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 4 – -1

Press Conference Day 3 (21:05)

Races 6 & 7 (1:59:05)


In light winds Oracle did not show any noticable improvement.  They led by 12 seconds at the second mark and lost 55 seconds upwind.  At the finish the All Blacks were 44 seconds ahead.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 5 – -1

Race 7 completed the sweep.  The All Blacks led from the first mark to the finish which at 1:06 ahead was their largest of the Regatta so far.  It was at this point people stopped whatching what was clearly going to be a blow out.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 6 – -1

Press Conference Day 4 (22:45)

Race 8 (1:59:04)


Disaster for the All Blacks!  While cruising to an easy victory thery lost hydraulics in their Mainsail midway  through the upwind leg.  This nearly caused a spectaculat capsize and to top it off they were penalized for failure to give way.  Still they managed to finish a mere 52 seconds behind.  With their second victory at all in the Regatta, Team Oracle was now at 0.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 6 – 0

Oh, and the second race was abandoned when the wind strength limit was exceeded while the All Blacks were comfortably ahead.  Some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed.

Press Conference Day 5 (24:16)

Race 9 & 10 (1:59:05)


Race 9 was an Oracle victory when it could have been a defeat without the postponement.  They showed speed upwind which they never had before.  With the win they score thier first actual point.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 6 – 1

Race 10 was called by some the most exciting.  The All Blacks turned an overlap position at the first mark into a 3 second lead and increased it to 11 seconds downwind.  In the upwind leg the lead changed 3 times.  At the fourth mark Oracle elected to dip in the wind rather than jib and that cost him 100 yards and the race.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 7 – 1

Press Conference Day 6 (18:30)

Postponed Races 11 & 12 (1:59:03)


Both teams came to race, but the wind was too high until the passage of the starting time limit.

Press Conference Day 7 (12:42)

Note- From a different source.

Race 11 (1:59:03)


All Blacks from start to finish though again Oracle showed speed it hadn’t had before upwind.  At the fourth mark, the All Blacks traded speed for position stopping Oracle in its tracks.  Victory margin 15 seconds.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 8 – 1

Race 12 was postponed after a wind delay right as they started forced a re-start that exceeded the time limit.

Press Conference Day 8 (21:39)

Race 12 (1:59:03)


Over anxious to put the Regatta away, the All Blacks had a poor start.  Oracle once again showed great upwind speed.

The second Race was postponed due to high winds and the time limit.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 8 – 2

Press Conference Day 9 (27:04)

Race 13 (2:10:03)


The wind was very light and for the first time in the Regatta the boats could not get enough speed to foil.  The All Blacks had a devastating 1000 yard lead and the Auld Mug in hand when the 40 minute time limit for the race expired which forced a re-start.

The second try at race 13 was a different story.  The All Blacks led at the first mark by 3 seconds, but at the third mark was not only penalized for interference, they also lost control of their lines and had to jib twice to round the mark.  This left them practically standing still and Oracle went on to win by 1:24, their largest margin in the Regatta at the time.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 8 – 3

Press Conference Day 10 (23:00)

Postponed Races 14 & 15 (1:58:57)


The wind was in the wrong direction so racing was postponed.

Note- No Press Conference Day 11

Race 14 & 15 (1:59:04)


Race 14 was an easy victory for Oracle which was showing itself the equal of if not better than the All Blacks in speed after the modifications an tuning that started before Race 6.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 8 – 4

Race 15 the All Blacks led at the start, but it was erased by the first mark.  Oracle showed her heels the first downwind leg and was about a minute ahead at the second mark, but the All Blacks were able to cut that in half upwind.  They never got any closer.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 8 – 5

Press Conference Day 12 (27:08)

Race 16 (1:59:05)


Light winds meant only Race 16 could be run, but by race time they were strong enough that Oracle could foil even if the All Blacks had difficulty.  Starting the upwind leg Oracle’s advantage was 13 seconds and the All Blacks initiated an old fashioned tacking duel, but on the second downwind leg Oracle was able to extend its lead to 23 seconds and finish 33 seconds ahead.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 8 – 6

Press Conference Day 13 (28:51)

Race 17 & 18 (1:59:07)


The All Blacks had to take 2 penalties at the start of Race 17 which put them 18 seconds behind at the first mark.  Oracle added 11 seconds downwind but the All Blacks were able to claw 10 of them back going upwind.  That was it though and Oracle finished 27 seconds ahead.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 8 – 7

In Race 18 the All Blacks had their best speed of the Regatta, 47.57 knots (55+ mph).  As a result the led at the first mark by 5 seconds and kept it during the first downwind leg.  Going upwind they had a poor tack and fell off their foils.  Oracle took the lead and led at the finish by 54 seconds.

Score- Emirates New Zealand 8 – 8

Press Conference Day 14

Press Conference Day 14 (24:05)

Race 19 (2:38:34)


The only other “winner take all” races in America’s Cup History were in 1920 and 1983.  The All Blacks got the best of the start and had a lead of 100 yards going into the upwind leg.  Oracle showed off its newfound and surprising upwind foiling ability again and that was all she wrote.  Oracle retained the Auld Mug by 44 seconds at the finish.

Score- Team Oracle 9 – 8

Press Conference Day 15 (1:08:46)


  1. ek hornbeck
  2. TMC

Comments have been disabled.