Cup shaping up to be a truly exciting event

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Firstly, a very happy new year to all readers of The Royal Gazette.

We are all delighted to see that preparations for the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda are ahead of schedule, thanks to the fantastic support, planning and very hard work of all the different entities engaged.

Four of the America’s Cup teams are now based in Bermuda, with Ben Ainslie and Land Rover BAR the latest to have made the move just before Christmas. They will shortly be joined by Franck Cammas and Groupama Team France, followed by Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand, completing the six team line-up who will soon all be training in the turquoise waters of Bermuda.

With four teams already based here the Great Sound is now busy with all these teams training on the water as much as possible as they continue their preparations for the main event, starting on May 26 this year.

The spectacular boats the teams will race in May and June during the America’s Cup are different from the AC45F boats you currently see on the water. The new America’s Cup Class (ACC) boats will be slightly bigger, 50 foot foiling catamarans. These will be unveiled beginning next month, that being the first time anyone will see just how fast a 2017 America’s Cup race boat can go. They are going to be amazing!

Equally fascinating are the sailors who will be racing these incredible foiling machines. Jimmy Spithill is leading the defending champions. Not so long ago he was the youngest skipper of an America’s Cup team, he is now looking for a three-peat — three consecutive Cup victories.

Oracle Team USA have assembled a talented design team and they have been training in Bermuda since March 2015, regularly racing against Artemis Racing and Softbank Team Japan.

But Spithill is facing what maybe the toughest line-up of challengers in the history of the America’s Cup:

Ben Ainslie — a four-time Olympic Gold medallist — is leading a formidable team and finished on top of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series. They have the largest budget in the competition and are aiming to be the first British team to win the America’s Cup.

Ainslie has won pretty much everything he has attempted to win. He will be tough to beat.

And what about Peter Burling?

A current gold medallist, the winner of the inaugural Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, and a world sailor of the year is an engineering student, so he understands technology. He is definitely one of the most talented sailors in the world and the New Zealand team, with Glen Ashby as skipper, have built a formidable reputation, competing at or near the top of the America’s Cup since 1987.

They invariably try to position themselves as the underdogs but the reality is that they are a very well funded, well resourced, highly prepared and experienced team. They are without a doubt one of the favourites at this stage of the competition.

SoftBank Team Japan are led by Dean Barker. He’s selected his team carefully and has built a very competitive, cohesive and experienced team around him. He came so close to winning last time, eventually losing 9-8, that you can be sure he’s determined and hungry to win this time.

He has the match racing experience to sail well in a tight race.

Nathan Outteridge, the skipper of Artemis Racing and a gold and silver medal winner in the Olympics, has stepped up the performance of the Swedish team, who won three events in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series.

Outteridge has considerable experience in sailing high performance, foiling boats and will have a strong influence on the development of their technology. If they get that right, they’ll be tough to beat. They have probably the second biggest budget in the competition.

And Cammas is leading the French team and has won numerous races in sailing in a large variety of boats. They are a smaller budget operation but I don’t underestimate what he and his team could achieve. They have been training hard in France and I could easily imagine them creating some innovative solutions in terms of the design features of their boat.

But apart from the skippers, these sailors competing in 2017 are the fittest, strongest, best trained America’s Cup sailors ever, and they are truly an inspiration for the next generation, coming up fast behind them.

The physical and mental demands of an ACC race boat mean that the guys sailing on them are on a par with athletes from some of the world’s most physically demanding sports. Bermuda is providing them the showcase required to prove their skills on the fastest America’s Cup boats ever, making it another true highlight of the 35th America’s Cup.

There is going to be rivalry, intrigue and ups and downs for everyone taking part, and that is a large part of what makes the America’s Cup so fascinating

I mentioned the next generation of sailing superstars, and we have them in great numbers taking part in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. Last time this was run, in San Francisco in 2013, the winners were from New Zealand and now Guy Endean, Blair Tuke and Peter Burling are some of the core members of the Emirates Team New Zealand race crew, proving that the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup is an ideal step up to the America’s Cup itself.

At the other end of the age spectrum we have the America’s Cup Endeavour Programme, an incredibly important initiative that will see every schoolchild in Bermuda aged nine to 12 have the chance to try sailing for themselves and for sailing to be integrated into the school curriculum as a platform through the STEAM education platform (science, technology, engineering, art and maths).

Who knows, we might have the next Spithill or Ainslie right here in Bermuda and now we have a way of helping that young person, or young people, unlock their own potential.

Five months seems a long time, but I can assure you that it will pass extremely quickly. Everyone involved in the America’s Cup is working tirelessly to deliver the best America’s Cup yet and, we cannot wait for it all to start in May.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Sir Russell is the chief executive officer of the America’s Cup Event Authority

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Published Jan 14, 2017 at 10:00 am (Updated Jan 16, 2017 at 9:22 am)

Cup shaping up to be a truly exciting event

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