The America’s Cup yacht race is the longest-running – and one of the most prestigious – sporting events in the world, attracting a global audience with seriously deep pockets, all of whom will be keeping their eyes locked on the upcoming 2021 match, due to take place in March 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand.
For this match, the 36th edition, will feature brand new yachts, the likes of which are incredibly technologically advanced and equally expensive. However, to some sailing traditionalists (read: ‘old farts’), they’ve veered too far away from what it means to be a sailing boat all in the name of generating larger sums of income.
At least, that’s according to the NZ Herald, which recently published a story claiming “leaders in the sailing world” want future editions of the America’s Cup to consign the futuristic hydrofoil-based yachts to the bin and “return to a more traditional form.”
The current generation of foiling boats are, sure enough, a spectacle, not just for fans of the esteemed racing series, but for those with merely the slightest interest in sailing or sporting competition. However, according to NZ Herald, Chris Culver, commodore (chairman) of New York Yacht Club told Sailing World that if American Magic – the NYYC’s competing team for 2021 – “win’s this year’s Cup they would ‘put the boat back into the water’”.
The winning team of the America’s Cup gets to decide the design of the boats to be used in the next series (which takes place every four years). Emirates Team New Zealand is the Defender going into the 2021 America’s Cup race, and upon their victory at the 2017 race in Bermuda, decided to introduce the brand new foil boat design, the AC75. The team is also able to stipulate specific rules, and in this instance, has set the minimum number of sails required, minimum hull volume and number of foils.
The three competing teams are allowed to play around with areas including the hull shape and foil flaps. What is so cool about these boats, however, is that the foils on either side of the main hull allow the boat to be lifted out of the water and to essentially fly across it, in as little wind as possible.
It’s features such as this that sailing purists believe to be deviating too far from the tradition of the sport.
The NZ Herald also cites Riccardo Bonadeo, a famed Italian sailor, as agreeing that these technological advancements are a little too much.
“There must be technological evolution, but on boats that sail”, he told La Stampa, “I share the New York Yacht Club’s idea of new 80-100 displacement hulls for the next edition.”
“With the AC75 we have entered another dimension, where aerodynamics are more important than hydrodynamics. In fact, we speak of flight, not navigation. And the seafaring skills of the crew are no longer enhanced, but other characteristics are required of the latter.”
“In short, I don’t see the art of sailing. Which for me means taking advtange of the wind according to its variations and the sails I have available.”
While the future of the actual America’s Cup race is in no doubt, the boats used to compete in it are. Ultimately, only the winner can decide. In order to challenge for the America’s Cup, the three competing teams must race in the Prada Cup first, to determine who goes through to race against Emirates Team New Zealand.
The three challengers this year are the Challenger of Record, Circolo della Vela Sicilia with their team Luna Rossa Challange, led by Max Sirena. Ineos Team UK, led by Olympic Gold Medalist Sir Ben Ainslie and representing the Royal Yacht Squadron, and American Magic, led by Terry Hutchinson and representing the New York Yacht Club.