The America’s Cup
dates back to 1851, when a schooner named ‘America’ beat the best English sailors in a race around the Isle of Wight. Only four nations over the 166 years have taken the trophy home: America, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland (not bad for a landlocked country). England is not on that list, but with the British Land Rover BAR team going into the America’s Cup Match with a powerful 2-point advantage after winning the World Series, 2017 may well change that.
The six teams may be competing for international sport’s oldest trophy, an ornate silver ewer fondly known as ‘Auld Mug
’, but they will be doing so in vessels that no longer so much resemble the sailing yachts
of old as they do futuristic flying boats that skim above the water at blistering speeds of up to 50 knots. With sails the size of Boeing 737 aircraft wings, these 48-foot wing-masted foiling catamarans use hydrofoils to lift off the surface at top speed, ‘flying’ above the water to avoid water drag. In this way, the America’s Cup yachts of 2017 can travel at more than 2.5 times the speed of the wind in a 16-knot breeze. Now that entire races are conducted above the water’s surface, the sport’s fixation with hydrodynamics and hull design has been replaced with an obsession with aerodynamics, with airplane manufacturers and F1 engineers brought in for their expertise. Oracle’s skipper, Jimmy Spithill
, has even attained his private pilot’s license to help him control the yacht when it’s airborne.
All of this supercharged technology will make for some intense racing action during the 2017 America’s Cup. With flying yachts, epic speeds, a high element of danger, athletes at the height of their prime, and a stadium-like racecourse hugging the shore for brilliant spectator action, there’s good reason for the Cup’s new moniker: F1 on the water. With the racing taking place in the huge natural amphitheatre of Bermuda Sound, fans will be able to get a great view from onshore—and an even better one from onboard a luxury America’s Cup charter yacht.