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The America’s Cup Might Change into the F1 of the Ocean Subsequent 12 months. Right here’s Why.

The America’s Cup Might Change into the F1 of the Ocean Subsequent 12 months. Right here’s Why.

Last September, when throngs of Catalonians and sundry yacht-racing aficionados poured through the gates of the Alinghi Red Bull Sailing Team’s new base in Barcelona’s Port Vell Harbor, they were treated to a level of spectacle never before seen in more than a century of America’s Cup competitions. In a notoriously money-soaked sport famous for over-the-top egos and breathtaking displays of spending, that’s no small feat. Unlike the exclusive black-tie galas of yore, this affair was billed as an open house, with no entry restrictions. Red Bull athletes—BMXers, breakdancers, slackliners, cliff divers backflipping from the deck of a 75-foot sailboat suspended by a crane—captivated the crowds until the sun went down, the light show went up, and the DJ took the stage amid exploding fireworks and popping Champagne corks. The Red Bull circus was unmistakably in town, here to give a sneak peek of the full extravaganza to come when the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup gets underway in Barcelona. It’s shaping up to be the international sporting spectacle of 2024, and not just because Red Bull knows how to throw a hell of a party. 

In fact, the contest has already started, with the preliminary regattas of the AC40s (used by teams to develop the foil shapes and systems for the larger AC75s to be featured in Cup racing) in Barcelona in September—won by New York Yacht Club American Magic—and, later this month, in Jedda, Saudi Arabia. This year, the Cup promises to finally become F1 for the ocean: a high-tech, big-dollar, elite racing series with a sprawling fan base and the made-for-reality-TV drama of billionaire bankrolls and temperamentally different teams all striving for ultimate glory. 

It wasn’t always this way. The world’s oldest international sporting competition, the America’s Cup first sailed off the coast of England in 1851, when the only yacht fast enough to beat the best of the British fleet was America, of the New York Yacht Club. From that day on, what is now known as the America’s Cup is a defender-versus-challenger contest, with no second prize. That cutthroat ethos could be why, for 173 years, the regatta has lured titans of industry, billionaire adventurers, and eager gate-crashing syndicates. 

This year’s cast of characters is worthy of a Hollywood screenplay. There are the scrappy but perennially underfunded Kiwis, who have won three America’s Cup matches via smart sailing and sheer force of will, and their seeming opposite number, France’s Orient Express team, self-described underdogs financed by the deep pockets of the Accor Group and L’Oréal. Then there are the billionaires: Ernesto Bertarelli, owner of Swiss Alinghi Red Bull Racing Team, winner of the 2003 and 2007 Cups, who left the competition after losing in 2010. Fashion magnate and owner of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, Patrizio Bertelli, looking to avenge his close loss to New Zealand in 2021. Doug DeVos and John “Hap” Fauth, team principals of the American Magic syndicate, trying to bring the ornate silver “Auld Mug” back to the New York Yacht Club’s vacant trophy case in Manhattan. And INEOS’s Sir James Ratcliffe, the second-richest person in the U.K., attempting to claim the ewer for England for the first time. 

The intertwining of prominent teams and Formula 1 powerhouse brands—Alinghi with Red Bull Racing, Luna Rossa with Pirelli, and INEOS with Mercedes-AMG Petronas—has elevated the Cup’s standing on the international sporting stage, with the potential to attract a massive audience that might know nothing about sailboat racing but is likely to appreciate the bleeding-edge technology found in the custom AC75 race boats. These 75-foot monohulled foilers are the most complex racing yachts ever built, highly engineered wonders designed to “fly” rather than sail across the water, capable of lift in just 6.5 knots of wind but strong enough to survive an extreme crash in 25 knots, when the boat is often running at double the wind speed. And reliability is as important as velocity: Unlike in F1, America’s Cup teams are allowed just one boat. 

Intrigue has always been integral to the Cup’s culture, with spy teams—including long-lens photographers, surveillance equipment, even frogmen trying to discover hull-design enigmas beneath the surface—looking to expose their rivals’ secrets. Each boat’s inner workings, the cloaked, precise systems of hydraulics and electronics called mechatronics, are known to only a few, but there’s ample opportunity to observe how competitors’ modifications play out in real time during practice sailing this spring. 

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Once challenger racing is underway for the Louis Vuitton Cup Challenger Series—a sailing slugfest that could potentially see 53 races from August through October before the winning team advances to take on defender Emirates Team New Zealand—redesigns of hulls, foils, or sails are no longer an option. One by one, point by point, teams will be eliminated. Billions of dollars, countless data points, years of practice and dreams, all scuttled in about a month. If that sounds like great TV to you, you’re not alone: All the drama, passion, and heartache will be on full display for the first time, with a docudrama à la Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive in the works. The dramatics could last until the final race in the best-of-13 America’s Cup Match next October—and the best news is, it’s all only just getting started. 

Source: Robb Report

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