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Schedule released for Qualifiers

The full event schedule for the 35th America's Cup in Bermuda in 2017 has been confirmed, outlining the calendar of almost five weeks of world-class sailing action, starting on May 26 and finishing on or about June 27.

The opening race will be race one of the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Qualifiers between the defender, Oracle Team USA, with two-times Cup winner Jimmy Spithill and his crew looking to start in style against Groupama Team France, led by French superstar Franck Cammas.

Racing will begin at 2pm Bermuda and will be the first time the America's Cup Class yachts and their sailing crews engage in full competitive action. The ACC race yachts are wing-sail, cutting-edge catamarans that foil above the water at tremendous speed, designed and created by each of the six America's Cup teams racing for the oldest trophy in international sport.

All the races be take place on the Great Sound, a perfect stage for the stadium-style racing that is now a core feature of America's Cup racing.

Sir Russell Coutts, chief executive officer of the America's Cup Event Authority, gave his thoughts on the fantastic range of events that lie ahead, and the perfect stage Bermuda offers for the 35th America's Cup. “I'm sure everyone associated with the 35th America's Cup is as excited as I am to be able to announce the schedule for 2017,” Coutts said.

“We are looking forward to seeing fierce competition as the event kicks off with Oracle Team USA against Groupama Team France as the first race of the day, followed by more exciting racing for all our America's Cup fans and followers. It will be a fantastic spectacle.

“All the America's Cup teams now know who they will line up with in the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Qualifiers, allowing them to plan their race strategies for each of their double round-robin races. One thing that is certain is that nobody can predict who will come out on top. That uncertainty, especially having seen how all the teams are so closely matched, shows why interest in the America's Cup is growing so quickly worldwide.

“Bermuda is gearing up for what I believe will be the greatest America's Cup ever and, with Bermuda's beautiful Great Sound as the stage for the 35th America's Cup, we have the perfect location for a truly iconic, world-class sports event. We also have a range of exciting support events which will combine to make this an unmissable five weeks of sailing action, including the Red Bull Youth America's Cup, which will showcase the best national youth teams from around the world racing in AC45 foiling catamarans, currently taking centre stage in the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series.

“In addition we have the America's Cup Superyacht Regatta and the America's Cup J Class Regatta, featuring the most spectacular superyachts afloat today and some of the most famous America's Cup yachts of old, all racing on the turquoise waters of Bermuda. The combination of all these elements add up to why I firmly believe this will be the greatest America's Cup ever.”

Spithill is clearly ready for action in Bermuda. He said: “People will witness America's Cup racing as they've never seen it before. The physical and mental demands on the athletes on board have gone up exponentially — the catamarans will be faster than last time, more manoeuvrable, and likely will foil all the way around the racetrack, given the right conditions. Most importantly, the competition is going to be fierce. We have six great teams preparing for racing next year and this is quite possibly shaping up to be one of the hardest, most competitive America's Cups in its long history of over 165 years of battle.”

The racing format of the America's Cup in Bermuda features all six teams competing in the Qualifiers. In these opening two rounds, each competitor races every other team twice, with the challengers battling for the right to advance to the four-team Challenger Play-offs, which start on June 4. Oracle then move straight into the America's Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, in which it will take on the winner of the Challenger Playoffs.

The teams finishing first and second in the World Series will carry two and one points respectively into the Qualifiers in 2017, putting even more pressure on all the competitors to finish as strongly as possible in the last World Series event, next month in Fukuoka, Japan.

The top four challengers from the Qualifiers will split into two semi-finals and this second stage of the 2017 competition will run from June 4 to 12, with the winners taking part in a finals competition to determine who will take on Oracle in the best-of-13 finals.

Also at stake in the Qualifiers is a bonus point for the America's Cup Match. If the team that wins the Qualifiers, whether defender or a challenger, also advances to the Match, it will start with a one-point advantage.

Oracle will not compete in the Challenger Play-offs. While the challengers improve through the heat of competition, the defender will need to prepare on its own for the final showdown and the races to win the 35th America's Cup.

There is a break in America's Cup Class race proceedings from June 13 to 17, during which the America's Cup Superyacht Regatta, the qualifying stages of the Red Bull Youth America's Cup and the America's Cup J Class Regatta will be featured.

The Superyacht Regatta is expected to be a truly awe-inspiring display of some of the world's most impressive large sailing yachts and may provide a perfect companion piece to the J Class Regatta, which is going to create another chapter of America's Cup history. Never before have so many of the J Class yachts sailing anywhere in the world been together for one competition in the modern era, but Bermuda will bring a significant number of them together on the same waters as a prelude to the America's Cup Match.

Also running over these dates is the Red Bull Youth America's Cup and the return of the AC45 foiling race catamarans being campaigned at present by the America's Cup teams in the World Series. In Bermuda 2017, the AC45s will be crewed by up to 16 teams of the next generation of sailing superstars, representing countries from around the world, as well as teams directly linked to the six America's Cup teams competing in the main event.

Finally, June 17 is when Oracle will take on the team that has fought its way through and earned its place in the America's Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton. From that Saturday until June 27, as needed, the teams will go head-to-head in a series of races to be first to claim the seven points needed to win the America's Cup 2017.

There is a short cessation of hostilities from June 19 to 21, when the final stages of the J Class Regatta and the Red Bull Youth America's Cup finals will take place, and then the denouement of the America's Cup Match starts on June 24.

In 2013, one of world sport's most famous stories was played out over two weeks when Oracle came back from 8-1 down against Emirates Team New Zealand, finally retaining 9-8 the trophy they won in 2010 in Valencia in arguably the greatest comeback in sailing history, if not all sport. Every single day of the planned schedule in 2013 was needed to let this story play out, and only a very confident person would make a prediction that the drama will be any less astonishing in June 2017.

For the full schedule, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”. More news about the event between now and the start of action can be found at www.americascup.com. All dates are confirmed but may be subject to change, depending on weather conditions

Ready for action: Jimmy Spithill will open Oracle Team USA's defence against Groupama Team France in the Qualifiers (Photograph supplied)

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Published October 18, 2016 at 11:31 am (Updated October 18, 2016 at 11:31 am)

Schedule released for Qualifiers

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