Tag Archive: America’s Cup

Feb 21 2021

The America’s Cup 2021 – The Challengers

In case you weren’t aware but yours truly is a person of the sea. I was raised on an island and cannot remember not knowing how to swim. Over the years, I also learned how to sail and have owned a sail boat. Needless to say I love watching the Summer Olympics boat races and …

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Jun 26 2017

America’s Cup: American Defenders Last Race?

The America’s Cup is down to match point in the latest battle of the billionaires for the trophy, affectionately known as the Auld Cup. The challenger from New Zealand leads the American team 6 – 1 after 8 races in this best of seven match. The race is being held in the turquoise blue waters …

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Jun 17 2017

America’s Cup 2017: Finals- Day One

Well the Battle Off Bermuda has come to this- Oracle USA v. Emirates/New Zealand. Please don’t tell me you’re surprised, this was completely predictable about 10 seconds after the close of the last series. As we proceed it will be first to 7 victories, Emirates/New Zealand will start at -1 (that’s right, negative numbers) because …

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May 28 2017

America’s Cup 2017: Day 2

Not a good day on the water for Land Rover BAR or SoftBank. Groupama finally got in the win column. Emirates/New Zealand swept. Oracle USA split but leads the Louis Vitton Cup for also rans by 2. In detail- Oracle USA sailed 3 races, they won against Land Rover BAR, lost to Artemis, and won …

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May 27 2017

America’s Cup 2017: Day 1

History First of all, it’s not called the America’s Cup because it belongs to the United States (though History might seem to validate that assumption it’s simply the accidental by product of the fact that the holder of the Cup gets to make the rules for the next competition) it’s named after a boat, the …

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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.

Sep 08 2013

America’s Cup 2013 Race 3 & 4

Perhaps I shall be able later to touch on the storied history of the oldest continually contested championship in sports, but today I’d like to briefly catch you up to speed on the current contest.

The rules play a huge part in the eventual outcome and the first rule is that the team that holds the Cup gets to make the rules.  Now it’s not true that the challengers get no input at all, besides the veneer of ‘sportsmanship’ they can always decide not to contend and indeed the cup has languished for decades.

In this particular contest Larry Ellison and Team Oracle have decided to make the race ‘state of the art’ and try and build the same kind of audience that Formula One enjoys.

So far there have been mixed results.

The boats themselves are quite high tech, with 33 foot semi-rigid airfoils instead of sails.  The most noticeable feature is that they are hydrofoil catamarans and under most racing conditions look as if they are balancing on two tiny struts at the tail end of the boat.  Visually it’s spectacular and they’re very fast, 50 miles an hour or more.

Also the course is in shore with only downwind and upwind legs and a short reach just before the finish.

Wow, exciting you say, well hold on a second.  As it is the series is generally considered a bust.  The inherent problem is that as with most forms of unlimited racing one or another team establishes a technological edge which manifests itself early and consistently and each lap only makes things less competitive.

The boats are so expensive that only half the teams predicted could afford to show up and most of them were clear ‘also rans’ from the git.

Then there has been bad luck including a fatality as Artemis dropped the bow (did I mention the two tiny foils at the back?) and capsized breaking the prime boat and putting them out of contention.

Oh but wait you you jingoistic Team USA fans, it gets worse.  As it turns out the All Blacks (Team New Zealand) have the fastest boat so it will only be good starts and luck that brings victories.  Also Oracle has been penalized 2 races for illegal modifications during the run up series and they lost the two initial races yesterday and so they find themselves in the unenviable position of needing 11 victories in the remaining 15 races to New Zealand’s 7.

Tough sledding indeed.

Aug 25 2013

Louis Vuitton Cup

What’s the best way to vaporize money?

Tear it up in the shower.

Seriously, you should never, ever bring anything on a boat you’re not prepared to lose over the side.

Including your life.

The big news of the 2013 America’s Cup is and will be the tragic death of Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson in the Artemis capsize and no Nelson ‘ha-ha’s’ despite the amusing coincidence of names.  He was an Olympic gold medalist.

The question is how did we get here and the answer is simple enough.

You see the real problem is that yacht racing is horrifically expensive and breathtakingly dull.  The solution, according to billionaire Larry Ellison of Oracle, the computer database company, is to make the boats faster and sail them closer to shore.

Oh, they’re fast all right.  Semi-rigid air foils push them up beyond ambient air speed and drag reducing hydrofoils literally lift them up out of the water at a blistering 40+ knots (50 mph or more to you lubbers) and the viewing in San Fransisco is free since they can’t figure out a way to charge for it.

The only real competition is the New Zealand Kiwis with dreams of past glory backed by Emirate Petro Bucks but if you want a thumb on the scale victory for USA! USA! USA! this is as close to a sure thing as you can get, better than Olympic Men’s Basketball (or Women’s, go Huskies).

Relax and enjoy the flaming chunks of twisted carbon fiber.

Oct 07 2012

America’s Cup 2012: San Francisco Regatta

The America’s Cup is the world’s oldest trophy dating back to 1851:

America's cup 1851In 1851 a radical looking schooner ghosted out of the afternoon mist and swiftly sailed past the Royal Yacht stationed in the Solent, between the Isle of Wight and the south coast of England, on an afternoon when Queen Victoria was watching a sailing race.

As the schooner, named America, passed the Royal Yacht in first position, and saluted by dipping its ensign three times, Queen Victoria asked one of her attendants to tell her who was in second place.

”Your Majesty, there is no second,” came the reply. That phrase, just four words, is still the best description of the America’s Cup, and how it represents the singular pursuit of excellence. [..]

Thus was born the America’s Cup, named after the winning schooner America, as opposed to the country.

The America’s Cup is without a doubt the most difficult trophy in sport to win. In the more than 150 years since that first race off England, only four nations have won what is often called the “oldest trophy in international sport.” For some perspective, consider that there had been nine contests for the America’s Cup before the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896.

Gone now are the stately yachts, replace by carbon fiber catamarans that cruise the race course at speeds exceeding 30 knots, unimagined in 1851.

The race format has been changed to three different stages:

  • The America’s Cup World Series at international venues, of which today’s race is part;
  • The Louis Vitton Cup, the America’s Cup Challenger Series, is used as the selection series to determine who will race the Defender in the America’s Cup Finals;
  • The 34th America’s Cup which brings the competition back to the United States for the first time in 18 years.
  • Today’s race in San Francisco is the final of the regatta that began on October 2nd. Saturday’s race was a hair raising event that saw one of these giant catamarans capsize, righted by the crew and going on to win.

    Oracle Team USA Spithill took a lot of speed into the first mark when both bows went into the water. The boat stopped and nose dived into the San Francisco Bay. All crew were safe. The Oracle Team USA’s support team quickly pulled the boat back up and got it back ready to race.

    ‘We broke most of the frames in the top of the wing, so we’ll repair them tonight,’ Spithill said. ‘But, that’s the beauty of these boats – they’re very, very strong. You can continue racing even if you do have broken frames.’

    The final is being broadcast live on NBC but if you don’t have TV, you can watch it here at Stars Hollow, Live;

    The full replays of this week’s regatta can be viewed here.

    Jul 01 2012

    2012 America’s Cup World Series: Newport

    When last we visited our heros, Billionaire by the Bay Ralph Ellison of Oracle and his rag tag team of highly compensated ex-patriot New Zealand mercenary dock rats, they had emerged triumphant from their titanic struggle to retrive the Royal Yacht Squadron £100 Cup from the shiftless, coastless, and mysterious Swiss bankers.

    These villains had used the wide open rights the Deed of Gift gives the cup holder to set the terms of the next match in ways that make a successful challenge impossible and yes, yes it is much more reprehensible when a foreigner does it, no matter how many times you’ve done it to him.

    Sadly this titanic struggle between evil and slightly lesser evil went almost entirely unnoticed by United States audiences despite its lopsidedness, perhaps because it was only available as a live simulcast from Valencia.  Because Billionaires crave celebrity with the searing secret lust of any random reality ‘star’ this situation must be corrected.

    And so America’s Cup 2.0, re-imagined for the new century.

    Now there are some things that are very good about this, the return of the Louis Vuitton Cup for one, but there are others that invite consideration.

    A goal (not the only one) is to make the sport more like Formula One.  As a way to expand their schedule they’ve instituted a second series of more frequent races which is purported to acclimate crews and managers to the capabilities of the new equipment.  Because they use smaller boats support staff and crew are greatly reduced making it somewhat less expensive.

    These contests are held in the traditional picturesque watering holes, this week in Newport R.I., and so far have been quite exciting (though hard to find) because of the wide variety of wind conditions and ‘Regatta’ races with all the boats out on course bashing into each other.

    As you might imagine the Oracle crews dominate like 2011 Red Bulls.

    But this article in The New York Times describes some of the other ways they’re working to make it more telegenic-

    America’s Cup Updates As It Trawls for Viewers

    By JOSHUA BRUSTEIN, The New York Times

    Published: June 27, 2012

    The task of changing this belongs to Stan Honey, whom the America’s Cup hired as its director of technology last year. Honey has made a career out of creating augmented reality for sports broadcasts. He is best known for the glowing first-down line in football telecasts, and he has also developed glowing hockey pucks for N.H.L. games, the illuminated strike zone for baseball and various graphics for Nascar races.

    Sailing is in more dire need of augmented reality than perhaps any other sport, said Honey, a former professional sailor. Boats tack back and forth, trying to catch pockets of wind that will propel them through a race’s various legs. It can be difficult to determine who is ahead, or what strategy is being employed to remain there.

    “If you don’t put the graphics on the water, you end up with people saying, O.K., white triangles on a blue background,” Honey said.

    So Honey has developed the LiveLine system, a virtual playing field that lies on top of the telecast. On television, boats fly flags identifying themselves. White lines appear at regular intervals, and blue lines mark the boundaries of the pitch, turning a patch of open water into something resembling a nautical football field. Yellow circles surround the motorboats that mark the end of each leg, identifying the areas where the changes in which a boat has the right of way can come into play.

    Honey’s team has ended up changing how the races operate. Race officials now watch the sailing on monitors from a control room on the shore, and any decision that relies on the objective knowledge of a boat’s position is made using the same positional data used to create the graphics.

    The new approach has also inspired some new rules. Until recently, the penalty for certain fouls required a team to stop its boat and spin it in a circle. Now, a virtual line appears two boat lengths behind the offender, which must move behind the line to pay off the penalty. For 10 seconds, that line moves at the same speed as the boat. After that, the line slows to three-quarters of the boat’s speed.

    The America’s Cup has also begun using computerized data analysis to change the course of the race while the race is in progress, to make sure that the event fits easily into broadcast time slots.

    You can see the results starting at 2:30 pm on NBC.