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What next for the America's Cup?


28 Jun 2017

What next for the America's Cup?

2017 America's Cup Final Race  Ingrid Abery
Emirates Team New Zealand won the 35th America's Cup in emphatic fashion. A 7-1 victory over ORACLE TEAM USA was a fair result for the total dominance Peter Burling and his team have shown throughout this campaign.

The Kiwis had to completely rebuild after their devastating defeat in San Francisco, where ORACLE TEAM USA came back from 8-1 down to win the 34th America's Cup. Funding had to be sourced, new personnel recruited and time was short... but the New Zealand team have always proved to be great innovators, and in this they have completely changed the game.

Ahead of the 34th America's Cup in San Francisco it was the Kiwi team who managed to foil the huge AC72 catamarans, but they showed their hand early and the other teams, in particular the defender ORACLE TEAM USA, were able to develop their own foiling technology and, with a huge amount of resource, overtook the New Zealand team on the boat speed front to snatch victory when it looked certain that the cup was heading to New Zealand.

Oracle Team USA winning the 34th America's Cup  ACEA / Ricardo Pinto

Emirates Team New Zealand learnt from their mistakes. As the 35th America's Cup approached they were training indoors to perfect their 'cyclor' system for generating power, but this was just the start of their innovation. All the other teams had similar L-foils and conventional - or as conventional as a 50ft foiling catamaran can be - control systems. Nearly everything about the New Zealand boat was different: heavily canted foils with marked kinks on horizontal element, extreme rudder elevators and 'X-Box' style controls for Glenn Ashby on the wing trim. They knew they had to be extremely innovative and aggressive on their design philosophy and they've changed the game.

It's not just in the design that Emirates Team New Zealand have proved dominant. On the water they won seven of the nine starts against ORACLE TEAM USA and have been tactically brilliant around the race course. Of course boat speed makes you a tactical genius, but their only foot wrong was when they chose not to cover the American team upwind in the one race that they lost.

Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand are truly worthy champions. Jimmy Spithill was magnanimous in defeat and clearly emotional on the water when he congratulated the Kiwis.

A number of questions now arise about what will happen in the 36th America's Cup:


The one certain point is that it'll be held in Auckland, most likely in 2021. Grant Dalton voiced his disapproval of the two-year cycle that the other teams had signed up to, and said it was the main sticking point against them signing the accord that all the other teams had committed to.

What will happen to the America's Cup World Series? Dalton hinted at hosting an event in Bermuda, which would suggest that warm-up events are set to continue. What format they take, what boats they are sailed in, and whether they have any bearing on the 36th America's Cup itself are a different matter.

Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series racing in Japan  Ricardo Pinto / Oracle Team USA

One interesting comment Dalton made in the Press Conference was about unifying sailing. Will we see the America's Cup teams sailing in circuits like the 52 SUPER SERIES?

Will be see America's Cup teams racing in the 52 SUPER SERIES?  © Max Ranchi Photography

I believe it is highly unlikely that we'll see the Defender of the 36th America's Cup taking part in the Challenger Series, like we did in Bermuda. In my opinion this just muddied the water, and trying to explain how Emirates Team New Zealand started the 35th America's Cup Match on -1 point was tricky to say the least.

Nationality Rule

With such a strong and deep pool of home-grown sailors, it seems highly likely that the 36th America's Cup will have a far stricter requirement for sailors to be from the home nation of the campaign. Somewhere between 50% and 75% or sailors as opposed to the one sailor for the last event. This will be fine for countries such as Great Britain, Italy and Australia (should they choose to mount a campaign).

Strong support for Emirates Team New Zealand during the 35th America's Cup  © BMW | Studio Borlenghi


With the Challenger of Record already being announced as Circolo della Vela Sicilia - which brings Luna Rossa back into the America's Cup - we know that the Italians are back in the game. Land Rover BAR have already committed to a second campaign, but it will be interesting to see which of the other teams that took part in Bermuda will continue. Much will depend on Grant Dalton and Emirates Team New Zealand's announcements in the coming weeks.

Luna Rossa Challenge training in their AC45 catamarans in Cagliari  Luna Rossa Challenge 2013

Also will Larry Ellison try to regain the trophy? It took him a long time to win his first campaign and losing it this time will be tough. Will he want to go through the process again?

Ernesto Bertarelli was quick to congratulate Emirates Team New Zealand on their win. Does this signal that Alinghi will be making a return to the America's Cup?

The Alinghi team have remained active on the D35 and Extreme Sailing Series circuits  © Xaume Olleros / OC Sport

Paul Cayard said that he expects twelve challengers for the 36th America's Cup with nine actually coming to fruition.

Type of Boat

Debate is already raging about whether the event should be in monohulls or multihulls. Traditionalists hark back to the days of the J Class and the majesty of big monohulls, while the new 'foiling generation' point to the high speeds and pure adrenaline excitement of the 50 foot catamarans.

J Class yachts at the America's Cup Superyacht Regatta  Ingrid Abery

There is no doubt that the 35th America's Cup was eye-catching on TV - as long as you could access it - and I believe Pandora's Box has been opened. The America's Cup, as the pinnacle event in our sport, should be all about innovation; foiling cats are here to stay in my opinion.

Grant Dalton did point out though that he didn't want the America's Cup to be all about power generation and hydraulic oil pressure, and I believe this is where we'll see the changes in the rules. I think a 60 foot foiling catamaran with far more automatic ride-height control, which should remove the need for constant grinding, could be used. Also I believe we'll see a move back to soft sails rather than wings, with a downwind screecher so that there are still sail changes onboard. This approach could pacify the traditionalists whilst keeping the next generation of sailors enthused.

Grant Dalton with the America's Cup   © BMW | Studio Borlenghi


One of the great features of the 34th America's Cup was the live coverage and streaming on YouTube. This made it accessible to nearly everyone on the planet and the footage was spectacular.

Liveline graphics at the 34th America's Cup  © ACEA

The 35th America's Cup had the same incredible graphics and some superb commentary, but was difficult to watch on platforms such as BT Sport in the UK. Don't get me wrong, I think Clare Balding, Matt 'Catflap' Cornwell, Stevie Morrison, Shirley Roberton, Paul Cayard, Ken Read, Alec Wilkinson et al did a superb job providing colour to the event, but I'd love to see it open for all to see.

AC LiveLine – Emmy Award-Winning Graphics Package  Ainhoa Sanchez

Sailing is not football and we need the eyes of the world able to watch the top end of the sport in all its glory. Making the event free to view for all would help sponsors get the airtime they demand and help put sailing on a truly global stage.

The next couple of weeks are going to be interesting as the announcements are made and could have far-reaching implications for our sport. Watch this space!

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