After waiting 92 years for the America’s Cup to return to New York, the day that was so anxiously anticipated finally arrived. By the end of the weekend, Emirates Team New Zealand won the America’s Cup World Series (ACSW) with 52 points. And this was after they got hooked on a starting buoy and managed to free themselves in a winner-take-all final race on Sunday, May 8. The “home” team, ORACLE Team USA, came in a close second with 50 points, followed by Groupama Team France with 44 points.
Mother Nature didn’t give the six teams a very nice New York welcome. On Saturday, the racing was abandoned for lack of wind. Then on Sunday, there were reports of huge wind shifts from the west to the north and ranging anywhere from 5 to 20 knots. Racing in the Hudson, which is nicknamed the “river that flows both ways,” was a big concern for all the teams coming into this event.
Right from the start, the six skippers showed some concern about racing in New York. For sailors, a major challenge was the Hudson’s wind and current conditions. To adapt to the strong tidal current, which during the race would be running south with the outgoing tide, organizers planned on using heavier anchors and longer chains than usual to secure the race buoys, which are called marks. As for the air, the canyon of high-rises in Manhattan’s Financial District and in Jersey City could negatively affect the all-important wind that is the sailor’s fuel. “But a breeze from the east—and slightly less so, from the west—would become shifty and turbulent as it sifted through the buildings and swept across the racecourse,” said Nathan Outteridge, 30, the captain for the Artemis Racing team from Sweden. “It adds a new element and dimension to it and makes it trickier.”
New Yorkers turned out in droves to welcome the teams from around the world—and gave them a great New York welcome. 75,000 spectators were in boats large and small to watch these super-fast beasts, and on Sunday, 100,000 spectators were onsite.
Even though there wasn’t any wind on Saturday, the cats were towed through the spectator field
to strut their stuff. These nearly identical catamarans carry a 70-foot solid sail that looks like an airplane wing and are equipped with L-shaped hydrofoils that let them glide dramatically out of the water. One would think that without racing, the day might be a bit boring. Not at all! To see these cats so close up that you could almost reach
out and touch them was an experience not to be forgotten. It was
a bit disconcerting when some of the teams actually waved at spectators, reminding all of us that this was not the real deal—at least not until the wind filled in. Which it never did!
The promised “stadium sailing” actually occurred on Sunday with three races completed. Even though Emirates New Zealand came out on top, at one point it looked like ORACLE Team USA might win during the final race. Skipper Jimmy Spithill and crew won the start and led around the first two mark roundings. But Dean Barker’s SoftBank Team Japan grabbed the lead by working the right side of the course while ORACLE Team USA struggled on the right side. In the end, the reigning America’s Cup champion placed second in the race and second for the series. “The crowd was insane,” said Spithill. “Today was great for the fans. In these conditions you have to roll with the punches and keep fighting. We wanted to win but we’ll take the second place. The Kiwis got a Hail Mary there at the end, but you have to take your hat off to them and congratulate them.”
A bit about the ACWS: The series was revived as heats ahead of the 2017 America’s Cup. The AC45 specification was changed to accommodate hydrofoiling capabilities, with the winner of the series earning two points and the runner-up receiving a single point in the new America’s Cup Qualifiers. And if you remember the 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco, ORACLE Team USA rallied from an 8-1 deficit to win the Cup 9-8. So while spectators are treated to an over-the-top spectacle, it is quite serious racing for these six teams. Next up in the ACWS is Chicago. Let’s hope by then that the TV news coverage will get the timing right and not cut away to a commercial during a race finish. One can only hope!
Results from New York: Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series New York Final Standings: 1. Emirates Team New Zealand—52 points; 2. ORACLE Team USA—50 points; 3. Groupama Team France—44 points; 4. SoftBank Team Japan—42 points; 5. Land Rover BAR—42 points; 6. Artemis Racing—40 points.
Results Overall: The Louise
Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Overall Standing (after five events):
1. Emirates Team New Zealand—
244 points; 2. ORACLE TEAM USA—236 points; 3. Land Rover BAR—227 points; 4. SoftBank Team Japan—203 points; 5. Artemis Racing—201 points; 6. Groupama Team France—194 points.