The America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) clock is set for the historic port city of Vilanova i La Geltrú along the beautiful, mountainous Spanish coast. Weather wreaked havoc today as thunderstorms and heavy rain forced postponement of the opening ACWS regatta earlier today.
The ACWS is the first preliminary event for the next America’s Cup. Racing will resume tomorrow (Saturday, September 16) and Sunday at 6:30 a.m. PDT in the United States. You can watch the races on YouTube; search “America’s Cup.” Or go to www.americascup.com. This regatta is the first ACWS in AC40s.
American Magic is the US entry for the America’s Cup, which will take place in fall 2024 in Barcelona, Spain. The American Magic team represents the New York Yacht Club and is based in Pensacola, Florida. Tom Slingsby and Paul Goodison are the two helmsmen and are responsible for steering the boat and flight control. Slingsby is an Olympic gold medalist and was part of the afterguard on the America’s Cup winning team in 2013. Goodison is a three-time International Moth (sailboat, not insect!) World Champion. Joining them this weekend on board will be Riley Gibbs from Long Beach and Michael Menninger.
“It’s huge,” said Slingsby. “As a team we haven’t raced much together, so it’s a chance to improve as a team. If we beat whoever, it would give a mental edge to know that our team can beat your team in equal boats. I happen to think the mental game is very important in the America’s Cup.”
The AC40 is a foiling monohull approximately 40-ft long, about half the size of the larger AC75 that will be used for the America’s Cup Match. Most of the systems are only a pushbutton away to adjust the foiling aspects and angles on the wings and rudder and control the self-tacking headsails. The AC40 is sailed with just a crew of four. Batteries have replaced traditional grinders to supply power to control the foils and sails. Foil arms raised in and out the water one at a time provide increased righting moment (stability) and reduce the amount of drag or friction in the water.
These boats essentially fly over the surface of the water and can travel at amazing speeds of more than 45 knots! To date, practice time for all the teams in this downsized version of the real thing has been largely a splish-splash affair of daily capsizes. Hardly an hour goes by without an image of an AC40 going down in the drink, as it if were a large white stork or albatross feasting on a wayward herring.
The crewmembers on the AC40, like on a full-sized Cup Class AC75, are essentially strapped in their cockpits like fighter pilots, with only helmets visible to minimize wind resistance. There is no scurrying about on deck changing sails and riding the rails as in a traditional racing sailboat. If organizers elected, they could probably just run them by remote control or with artificial intelligence on board.
Six teams are competing for the next America’s Cup. Emirates Team New Zealand are the Defenders and represent the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Three ACWS preliminary regattas lead up to the America’s Cup next year in Barcelona.
America’s Cup World Series Teams
Emirates Team New Zealand (RNZYS)
The Kiwis have performed consistently in the practice racing in Barcelona with a tight-knit team that trusts in their process. Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and Nathan Outteridge have proven to be excellent afterguard as they learn how to sail together. Hopefully, they will shake off the effects of last week’s catastrophic wingsail collapse at SailGP in Saint-Tropez, France. With a lot of time on the water, they are the team with a target on their back. Several teams are rapidly closing the gap.
INEOS GBR Britannia (Royal Yacht Squadron)
The Challengers of Record (CoR) led by CEO and skipper Sir Ben Ainslie and flight controller Giles Scott, the Brits bring a lot of experience to the table. Crewman Luke Parkinson told it straight when he said that the team hadn’t done enough racing and sailing in the AC40 as a team. They have spent much of their training on the team’s LEQ12 prototype foiler. But they have superb coaches and a crew who can learn fast. There is no more dangerous sailor in the world than BA with his back to the wall!
American Magic Quantum Racing (NYYC)
The Americans chose to sit out the first few days of the recent practice races, preferring to complete their aero- and foil-testing schedule. But when they came to the racecourse, they were sensational. This is, no doubt, the team to beat, with Tom Slingsby, Olympic gold medalist and SailGP “kingmaker” and Paul Goodison, a three-time International Moth World Champion sharing the helm. Joining them this weekend on the AC40 are Riley Gibbs from Long Beach, California, and Michael Menninger.
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (Circolo della Vela Sicilia)
Luna Rossa made it to the America’s Cup Match last time. Francesco Bruni is a perfect foil for the mercurial genius and downright competitiveness of Jimmy Spithill. Their flight control team of Vittorio Bissaro and Andrea Tesei are arguably the best in the business. If the Italians can string together some consistent results early on, they could easily make the match-race final this weekend.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing (Société Nautique de Geneva)
Ernesto Bertarelli is back. He won the America’s Cup on his first try in 2003, so he and his young Swiss team are not to be overlooked. This “red” bull is charging! Arnaud Psarofaghis and Maxime Bachelin have formed a dynamic partnership, rooted in steady progression. Can the Swiss make it to the final? Early results in Vilanova will be crucial to their overall America’s Cup chances next year.
Orient Express Racing Team (Société Nautique Saint-Tropez)
The new “kids” on the block. Having taken delivery of their AC40 just last month, the French are methodically approaching this preliminary regatta with humility, according to their coach, Thierry Douillard. The French are brilliant sailors, of which there is no doubt. Quentin Delapierre, who drives for the French SailGP team, and Kevin Pepponet are forming a formidable afterguard. Whether they can challenge for the title in Vilanova will be a tall ask with so little time in the AC40 compared to the more established teams.
The AC40 is also the boat that the Youth and Puig Women’s America’s Cup teams will be sailing next year as a pathway for the next generation of foiling superstars to display their talents on and above the water at high speed.
American Magic’s full-size AC75, Patriot, is currently at the team’s compound in Barcelona preparing for extensive testing later this fall and into the next year, when a brand-new America’s Cup Class AC75 hits the water.
So, tune in tomorrow and Sunday to root for our home American Magic team!