Team France has been out foiling in their America’s Cup Class yacht. Thanks to Oracle Team USA coach Philippe Presti for posting this video.
The heads of five of the six teams met in London last week to announce that their yacht clubs have signed a Framework Agreement outlining the next two editions of the America’s Cup, to be held in 2019 and 2021.
Racing will be held in a modified version of the AC Class yachts being used in 2017 (more details below). No surrogate test boats will be allowed. AC45F’s will be raced in the AC World Series until August 2018. From September 2018 onwards the new version AC Class yachts will race in the ACWS. The ACWS will include fleet racing and match racing. The final ACWS event will be held in the venue of the America’s Cup Match and the Challenger Playoffs will start right afterwards, followed by the Match.
The AC Class rule will be modified to allow racing in a wider wind range – 4 to 26 knots. This probably means adding a gennaker for light conditions and having a smaller wing for heavy air days. Remember that the original version of the AC72 Class Rule included a heavy air wing. The smaller wing was dropped from the rule, a move later regarded as a mistake, given the number of races cancelled due to wind above the limit in San Francisco in 2013.
The yacht clubs represented by Oracle Racing, Land Rover BAR, Groupama Team France, Artemis Racing and SoftBank Team Japan have agreed that if one of them wins the America’s Cup Match in Bermuda this June, they will only accept a challenge from a yacht club that has agreed to these terms. That could be one of them, a new team, or Emirates Team New Zealand, should the Kiwis change their minds and agree to these terms. The fly in the ointment is that if the Kiwis don’t agree to these terms and then go on to win the America’s Cup, this framework goes out the window. Such is the America’s Cup.
AC Race Management Regatta Director Iain Murray is running two weeks of practice racing in Bermuda, with teams sailing their AC45X test boats. This is the third time ACRM has run training races in Bermuda. All teams were invited, but neither Groupama Team France nor Emirates Team New Zealand is participating. Not only have the French and the Kiwis not yet arrived in Bermuda, they no longer have test boats – they’ve been disassembled for parts for those teams’ AC Class race yachts.
Our contacts in Bermuda say that Artemis and Team Japan seem to be going especially well, but not to read too much into that.
The umpire is making calls on the water, so there is plenty of shouting, especially in the pre-starts. The LiveLine system requires helicopters and a complete technical team to operate it – a bit impractical for practice races.
This is not just for the sailors – it’s a rehearsal for the shore crews as well. There is some flexibility in the work schedule on training days, but on race day the boat needs to be at the starting area on time. The designers will also be getting feedback on how their daggerboard designs are performing. Control systems ergonomics and hydraulics will also get thoroughly tested in race conditions.
Oracle Team USA, SoftBank Team Japan, Artemis Racing and Land Rover BAR are already established in Bermuda. Groupama Team France and Emirates Team New Zealand will arrive in February.
January: The four teams already in Bermuda will probably be sailing their AC45X test boats on the Great Sound. They are allowed to train together when sailing these boats. Groupama Team France and Emirates Team New Zealand are stripping down their test boats to build their race boats with most of the components from the test boats.
February: The four teams in Bermuda will probably launch their race boats on 9 February, after taking their 28 day “blackout period.” Team New Zealand and Team France will set up their bases in Bermuda and wait for their race boats to arrive.
February-April: The teams are not allowed to sail their race boats together. Team France and Team New Zealand will not have AC45X test boats so they will need to test and train on their own. Oracle, Artemis, BAR and Team Japan have test boats to sail against their race boats, but with only eight sailors, Team Japan’s sailing team is too small for that – they will probably only sail their race boat. Artemis only lists 11 men on their “sailing team” but the 11 includes helmsmen Francesco Bruni and Paul Goodison. They also have Loïc Peyron and and Stu Bettany listed in other departments, so they could put two boats on the water. BAR list 13 sailors including backup helmsman Leigh McMillan, so they will be able to sail both “T3” and their race boat if they choose. Oracle lists the biggest sailing team with 14. They will be able to sail two boats if they choose. Don’t underestimate the logistical challenge of putting two boats on the water – we may see the teams mostly sailing only their race boat.
May: Racing starts on 26 May with all six teams in the double round robin AC Qualifiers. Each team will race twice on at least two days, and only two substitutions are allowed between races. Remember that BAR starts with two points and Oracle has one, their reward for coming in first and second in the AC World Series. At the end of the Qualifiers, one challenger is eliminated. Oracle goes on to the AC Match while the four remaining challengers sail in the Challenger Playoffs to decide who will sail against Oracle in the AC Match.
June: The semi-finals and finals of the Challenger Playoffs run from 4-12 June. Superyachts, J Class and Youth America’s Cup racing will begin on 12 June. The big showdown, the America’s Cup Match, will be sailed on two successive weekends beginning 17 June. By Sunday 25 June we may have our winner but it might take until 27 June for one team to score the seven points needed to take the Cup.
Later in 2017: Five of the six teams want to start up the AC World Series for a 2019 America’s Cup cycle. There could be AC World Series events in Bermuda later in the Summer and another ACWS event in Chicago later in the year. If Team New Zealand wins, all bets are off – the Kiwis have other plans.