New York will host the next round of an international series of sailing racing leading up to the 2017 America’s Cup this weekend, May 7-8.
Though the actual America’s Cup, the most prestigious trophy in sailing, will not be contested until next year, the lead-in “Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series” marks the first time the Cup has returned to the New York harbour since 1920.
The weekend event promises two days of very intense racing by some of the fastest sailboats in the world — all easily visible from lower Manhattan and New Jersey.
“It’s as close as you will ever get to seeing these boats race,” Nathan Outteridge, skipper of Swedish challenger Artemis Racing and the 2012 Olympic champion, said.
“It’s a really tight, confined course; we’re not going very far from the shore at all…It’s going to be a huge spectacle — and what a backdrop to do it in.”
This is the first era in which sailing has become both spectator and television-friendly, largely due to the design of the boats and events.
The individual races are about 20 minutes in length and held on a tight course close to land — a big change from the hours-long offshore races more typical of the America’s Cup.
Since the 2013 Cup, races are competed on twin-hulled catamarans that use foils to lift themselves out of the water and travel at more than two and a half times the speed of the actual wind.
They are immense vehicles, largely constructed of carbon fibre and brimming with enough technology to make a NASA engineer blush.
First time viewers should erase their preconceptions about the sport of sailing, Outteridge said.
“You’d be very impressed with how competitive the racing is and how close it is. Things change so much in the races,” Outteridge said.
Outteridge’s Artemis will face other challengers from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Japan, and France, along with current Cup holders Oracle Team USA.
Emirates New Zealand, who as the 2013 America’s Cup challenger very nearly beat Oracle Team USA, currently leads the series, ahead of Oracle by just six points.
Artemis struggled at the previous race in Oman, finishing last overall.
“We’ve been pretty strong as a team when it’s been quite windy, but Oman was a light-wind regatta and we suffered with our starting. We are really struggling to pull together when it’s quite light,” Outteridge said.
Outteridge said the team has been getting as much practice in the light winds as they can at their home base in Bermuda, but he hopes a windy course in New York will suit their strengths.
The results of the World Series races will determine seeding in the 2017 Cup, and give the teams plenty of opportunity to practice before the main event.
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