>b>Some of the best sailing teams in the world are coming to Cascais, Portugal in August for the opening event of the 34th America’s Cup. The America’s Cup World Series – Cascais will feature 10 boats, sailed by nine teams, representing eight countries.
Crews filled with previous America’s Cup winners, Olympic medalists, world champions, plus round-the-world racers and record setters will contest the first event of the revitalized Cup competition. While some of the more established teams will rely on more experienced hands, new teams from new countries to the Cup are bringing in talent from other disciplines, shaking up the old guard.
Once such sailor is 2004 Olympic medalist Chris Draper (GBR), the new skipper of Team Korea, who is leading his first Cup team: 'We’re really excited to be racing these AC45s, even though we are conscious we have some ground to catch up to some of the other teams. Cascais is known for its consistently strong breeze; I’ve sailed there quite a lot in the past, and looking at the race areas, we are expecting offshore and shifty conditions. The racing area up under the town will be very tricky but offer some great spectator opportunities, it should be spectacular with ten boats all starting off the line together.'
The crews for each team have been selected knowing the physical demands the new AC45 catamarans will place on sailors. Powered by a towering 22-meter rigid wing sail, the AC45s are athletic boats, sailed by a crew of just five. Designed to put the best to the test, they are incredibly fast, dynamic, challenging multihulls capable of redlining at 30 knots (35 mph/55 kph) - the new America’s Cup is not for the faint of heart.
Here is a rundown of the top sailors leading each crew: James Spithill (AUS), helmsman, ORACLE Racing Spithill:
James is the youngest skipper to ever win the Cup at the age of 30. Having spent his life match racing monohulls, he made the switch to multihulls for the 33rd Match look easy, leading his team to a 2-0 win to claim the Cup. 10 years earlier, at the age of 20, James became the youngest helmsman in America’s Cup history when he skippered Young Australia in the Louis Vuitton Cup.
After winning the Match Racing and Melges 24 World Championships in 2005, he was named the Australian Yachtsman of the Year for 2005-06. In recognition of his Cup victory, in 2010 he was given the Australian Male Sailor of the Year Award. Terry Hutchinson (USA), helmsman, Artemis Racing:
Terry brings a wealth of America’s Cup and one-design experience to Artemis Racing as helmsman. He joined Artemis Racing for the Louis Vuitton Trophy regattas and RC44 Championship Tour in 2009. That same year Terry also added the Audi MedCup circuit title (with TP52 Quantum Racing) to his impressive list of accomplishments, which includes winning the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2007 (5-0) as tactician of Emirates Team New Zealand. Terry Hutchinson is also well known for his results in the, J24, Farr 40 and Melges 24/32 Classes in the US and Europe. Dean Barker (NZL), skipper, Emirates Team New Zealand:
Dean Barker has been working hard at sailing catamarans in 2011 and was rewarded this month with a win at the Boston regatta of the Extreme Sailing Series. He had a successful 2010 in monohulls, winning the Louis Vuitton Trophy regattas sailed at Auckland in February, La Maddalena, Italy in May and Dubai in November. He also led his team to the season championship in the Audi MedCup circuit for the second successive year.
Dean first sailed with Team New Zealand in 1995 but he opted for an Olympic campaign rather than to travel to San Diego. He was back with the team for the successful defence in 2000 and stayed with the team for 2003. As skipper for the 2007 challenge, he led the sailing team through the pre-regattas of 2005 and 2006, the victory in the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2007 which earned the team the right to face off against Alinghi for the America’s Cup; a match that has been hailed as the most thrilling for years. Bertrand Pacé (FRA), skipper, Aleph:
Bertrand Pacé is without question the most experienced French America's Cup sailor. He has been either skipper, helmsman or tactician in no fewer than six America's Cup cycles ('87, '92, '95, '99, '02, '07) and has experience right back to the 12 Metre era of the 1980s. He has won in most fields of yacht racing, from match racing (World Champion in 1994), to offshore racing (Admiral's Cup winner in 1991), to one-design (Tour de France winner in '79, '80, '81, '87, '88, '97, '10), to multihulls, and everything in between. Mitch Booth (AUS), sports director, China Team:
Mitch began his sporting career aged four when his mother taught him the basics of sailing on Pittwater, near Sydney (Australia). Together with his father, he won his first State Championship as a seven year old. His break-through came at the age of 17, with a second place finish in an Australian Championship guaranteeing his participation at the World Championship in the USA. Mitch and his crew went on to win the title in a 100 boat, nine nation, fleet. Ever since, Mitch has made his life as a professional sailor in projects as varied as Olympic sailing to Ocean racing (Maxi Cats) to keel boat racing.
Off the Water Mitch has been involved in many sailing related activities including updating the Olympic Tornado Class cat, design and build of A Class cats, the creation of Extreme 40 , sailing Manager for America’s cup team (1995 ) and technical adviser to the International Sailing Federation. Loick Peyron (FRA), skipper, Energy Team:
Loïck Peyron is one of France’s most decorated sailors and one of the world’s most accomplished multihull specialists. The French ORMA multihull circuit attracted the best multihull sailors to compete in the ultra-lightweight, super fast 60-foot ORMA trimarans, and with Fujicolor 2 Peyron won the Championship four times during the late 90s and early 2000’s. Alinghi hired Peyron for his multihull talent and helming skills for the 2010 America’s Cup, when he operated as back-up helmsman.
A veteran of over 40 Atlantic crossings, in the beginning of 2011 Peyron put that offshore experience to good use when he won the Barcelona World Race, a two-handed race around the world, with Jean-Pierre Dick in an Open 60 monohull. Aside from his America’s Cup commitments, Peyron has been appointed skipper of perhaps the most powerful sailing boat in the world, the 40-metre maxi trimaran Banque Populaire V, with an attempt at breaking the fastest time around the world planned for later this year. Even in his early 50s, there is no sign of Peyron’s life slowing down. In fact it seems to be getting faster. Vasilij Žbogar (SLO), helmsman, Green Comm Racing:
Slovenian sailor Vasilij Žbogar is new to multihulls and new to the America’s Cup. But he has shown an extraordinary talent for performing under pressure, winning a bronze medal in the Laser singlehanded dinghy at the Athens 2004 Olympics, followed by a silver medal in China 2008. His motto in his Istrian dialect, 'Krepat, krepat ma ne molat!' translates to, 'You can die, but never give up!'
His enthusiasm and passion for life have made him one of the most popular sportsmen in Slovenia, and standing at 6’3' his athletic good looks have proven a hit with the opposite sex, having been voted Cosmopolitan's European sportsman of the year in 2004. Chris Draper (GBR), skipper, Team Korea:
Chris Draper is one of the best high-performance sailors in the world. The British sailor has won the 49er World Championships twice, in 2003 and 2006, and took the Silver medal in the intervening years. He won an Olympic bronze medal at Athens 2004 in 49ers, dominating the Class for many years while winning two European Championships in 2004 and 2005, and was runner up twice. Although still a multihull novice at the time, in 2009 he steered Oman Sail Masirah to victory in the highly competitive pro circuit in Extreme 40 catamarans, the Extreme Sailing Series. He made a return to Olympic campaigning for London 2012 and won the 49er European Championships for a third time in 2010, but the lure of becoming helmsman for Team Korea in the America’s Cup World Series proved too great, and 33-year-old Draper is now fully focused on a future in the America’s Cup. Torvar Mirsky (AUS), skipper, Venezia Challenge:
Torvar Mirsky is a young, up-and-coming match racer who is looking to follow in the footsteps of other great Australians in the America’s Cup such as John Bertrand, Peter Gilmour and James Spithill. Now 25 years old, Mirsky cut his teeth in competitive dinghy classes such as Lasers, 420s, 505s and 49ers. After competing in a number of youth match racing events in Australia and New Zealand, he formed the Mirsky Racing Team. The young team scratched its way on to the international circuit, resulting in an invite to the World Match Racing Tour. Since then Mirsky has won Grade 1 match racing competitions in Portugal and Australia, culminating in a silver medal at the 2009 Match Racing World Championships.
While he has built up considerable experience in match racing, multihulls are a new part of the sport for Mirsky. In 2011 he has been competing on the Extreme Sailing Series tour before joining Venezia Challenge for the Italian team’s assault on the 34th America’s Cup. Russell Coutts (NZL), helmsman, ORACLE Racing Coutts:
Russell is the most successful skipper in the history of the America’s Cup. He has won the America's Cup four times; three times as skipper (1995, 2000, 2003) and once as CEO of BMW ORACLE Racing (2010). As a skipper, he is undefeated in the America’s Cup and holds the record for most consecutive America’s Cup match race wins with a 14-0 record.
His sailing career also includes an Olympic Gold Medal in the Finn class (1984) representing New Zealand, and he has been named twice ISAF World Sailor of the Year (1995, 2003). In 2005 Russell co-designed the popular RC44 one-design high-performance monohull. He has been honored as a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (2009) and Commander of the British Empire (1995).