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Finer points to note on Great Sound course

Bermuda's 2017 America's Cup is on. Today, the first six races of the 30-race double round-robin qualifying stage of the historic 35th America's Cup, presented by Louis Vuitton, will be sailed on the Great Sound. All eyes will be on this competition, so let's take a look at what you will see.

The top four of five “challengers” after the Qualifiers move into the Play-offs, with the top team choosing its opponent. If there is a tie for first in the Qualifiers, the challenger with the best finish in the World Series is the winner. The fifth challenger goes home. Oracle Team USA, the defender, then goes off alone to practise for their Cup defence in the America's Cup Match starting on June 17.

A win for Oracle in the qualifying rounds is important. The America's Cup protocol says: “If the winner of the AC Qualifiers is a competitor in the match, the competitor who did not win the AC Qualifers shall start the Match with a score of minus-one point.” This makes it a -1 for the opponent rather than a +1 for winner and means the Qualifiers winner still needs seven points to win.

To put the -1 point on Oracle's score, a challenger who wins the Qualifiers stage would have to make it through the Play-offs semi-finals and final and into the Match.

The format for the Qualifiers is a double round-robin. The winner of each match gets one point. The loser gets zero. Land Rover BAR won the America's Cup World Series, so they begin with two bonus points in the Qualifiers. Oracle were second and carry one bonus point into qualifying. Extra races will also be held tomorrow to get the show back on schedule.

The course area will be set for windward-leeward racing on the Great Sound. The first leg “shall” be a reaching leg and the final leg “may” also be a reaching leg to the finish. There are six course options that select the number of legs to be raced and there are three finish options.

All of the courses have a starting line that is parallel to the wind direction. Red, white and blue Louis Vuitton America's Cup-branded marks are set at each end. The pre-start entry line extends away from the course at a 90-degree angle to the start line. One end of the entry line is the windward start-line mark. That is the side the port tack boat enters from. The other end of the entry line is marked by a mark, and this is the end where the starboard tack boat enters.

All of the courses start with a starboard reach — wind from the right-hand side — and this first leg is a blast reach to a pink Vineyard Vines turning mark in the middle of the sailing area.

The boats leave this to the port, or left, side and gybe downwind where they round either one of the two white BMW leeward gate marks and tack back upwind to another gate with a pair of red Oracle marks.

The starting sequence is three minutes long. The warning signal is given at three minutes, The port tack boat can then enter the pre-start area at 2min 10sec before the start. The starboard tack boat may enter at two minutes before the start. The ten-second difference allows the port tacker time to get clear ahead of the starboard tack, right-of-way boat.

Both boats must be on the pre-start side of the entry line by one minute before the start.

If the selected course is a three-leg course, the boats may have been instructed to finish at the windward gate area or go to a finish line set up on either side of the middle mark. The race committee can choose the number of race legs from three to eight, and the three finish-line set-ups. The length of the legs may also be adjusted. The time limit for leg two, the first downwind leg is ten minutes. The time limit for each race is 25 minutes. Course lengths will be selected based on wind and boat speed needed to complete the course in about 20 to 22 minutes.

America's Cup 35 will be fast races. The pre-start time is short, basically two minutes from entry until the race starts. As we have seen in practice, a lot can happen in two minutes: boats can break and boats can be broken. And the sailing will be close, quick and fast. In practice there have been two capsizes and each team has had a “crew overboard” incident or more.

What else can happen? Tune in today.

The great and good: waters of the Great Sound in Bermuda, which will host the action (Photograph by Ricardo Pinto/ACEA/AP)

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Published May 27, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 27, 2017 at 1:12 am)

Finer points to note on Great Sound course

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