Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Vs Emirates Team New Zealand
Yacht Style|Issue 58
The America’s Cup, contested in foiling 75-foot monohulls, will be won by the “boat” that spends least time touching the water, and sails best in nearly no wind. Hardly traditional yachting values. Strategic starts and boat speeds of these 50+ knot craft are still crucial, however, and the spectacular action can be watched live on TV or online.
Bruce Maxwell

The Italians have never won an America’s Cup. This is the second time they have made it to the final, by completing a comprehensive 7-1 rout of Sir Ben Ainslie’s INEOS Team UK in the late February Prada Cup matches for challengers.

Their previous finals appearance was 21 years ago, when they triumphed amid 11 challengers from seven countries, including five American entries, and went up against the same Kiwis in the same place, losing 5-0. That 30th AC was the first time America had been neither Defender nor Challenger.

The British, bereft of the auld mug since losing an opening race around the Isle of Wight in 1851, had a topsy turvy 36th series, going down 0-6 in the December “worlds” because they couldn’t foil in lighter airs, then sweeping the Prada Cup round robins 5-0 in moderate conditions, but sinking back to 1-7 ignominy against Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in mostly moderate winds of the Prada Cup final.

New York Yacht Club’s American Magic syndicate had earlier been literally wiped out when their boat capsized in a round robin race, sustaining a hole in the hull which, although mended, led to forfeits and a limping, less-than-optimum farewell. Their contest effectively ended with the capsize.

The Americans can still say that they have won the AC in 29 of the 35 events, which are held roughly every 4-5 years, prior to this outing in island-strewn Hauraki Gulf waters, just outside Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.

The Australians were first to remove the auld mug from its bolted-down plinth at New York Yacht Club when they won in 1983 in Newport, Rhode Island. The Kiwis won three times, first in 1995 in San Diego, California.

Then they defended successfully in Auckland in 2000, before the land-locked Swiss, with considerable help from Kiwi aces Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth, took the contest to Europe for the first time, winning again in Valencia, Spain, after which American billionaire Larry Ellison’s BMW Oracle syndicate reclaimed the silverware in an acrimonious and litigious one-on-one contest in mismatched multihulls.

By San Francisco in 2013, the switch to multihulls was confirmed and they were up on foils, an amazing sight, as the action was beamed around the world to far greater audiences than had shown an interest in the past. The Kiwis went 8-1 up, and then unbelievably lost 9-8 in a series that is still fraught with conspiracy theories.

Ellison hung on until Bermuda in 2017 when the New Zealanders comprehensively beat him for their third win. Miffed, he went away and started his own series, called SailGP, in 50-foot foiling catamarans similar to those used in Bermuda.

Thus the 75-foot foiling monohull evolved as a steed for the 36th AC. The concept was different again, obviously, and the giant arms and foils attached to either side of the hulls do look a bit ungainly, rather like angry ants out on the racecourse, albeit at speeds over 50 knots, similar to the AC50 catamarans.

Sail GP took some steam out of new AC entries, which were reduced to three challengers, but this is still a healthy turnout for such an event.

Last year the pandemic also put paid to practical tune-up racing when pre-AC “world” regattas in Sardinia and Cowes were cancelled. The final “worlds” in Auckland in December was the first time that these revolutionary, newly-minted boats had sailed against each other.

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