Here in our home state of Rhode Island, America's Cup traditions are plentiful and mean something to the locals who can remember when the trials were held off the coast of Newport. In fact, there is still the “AC” buoy sitting in the ocean at the entrance to Narragansett Bay. Maybe there’s nostalgia in this event in the area or perhaps a bit of envy that the Cup finals will be held in San Francisco Bay in 2013 that revs up the spirit of the races in Newport.
Yesterday, June 28, was the start of the official races in the Newport edition of the America's Cup World Series, a string of 10 preliminary races which started back in August 2011 in Cascais, Portugal and leads up to those storied finals in September of 2013. The format for these races is the AC45 Multihull “wingsail” vessel, a practice catamaran, 45 feet in overall length, used by the crews to hone their skills even further before they design and race the AC72 class in the Louis Vuitton Challenger Cup series and in the finals against the defender of the 34th event in the oldest challenger series still being competed.
This short series of races in Narragansett Bay off of Fort Adams in Newport is part of the trials for the AC World Series cup, which will end its competition in Venice Italy in April of next year. The idea behind the AC45 races is even more than just practice for the crews. It’s designed to bring the AC Championship into the current age with streaming video footage from the boats themselves as they speed along at 20 knots. And don't worry about the winds for the day; these boats work just as well in light winds as they do in small gales. They are built for speed and some really neat, adrenaline infused sailing over the prescribed course. And with the “as live” video online and coverage of the races by broadcaster NBC, you will have a chance to get the view if not the sensation of the race from the boats.
For those that don't know the history of the America's Cup, we have to fill in some gaps. It all started in August of 1851 off the coast of England, when the New York Yacht Club entered a schooner into the Royal Yacht Squadron's 100 Guinea Cup challenge, and rode away as the winner. That schooner was called “America.” The syndication owners of America then donated the cup to the New York Yacht Club under a Deed of Gift, which stated that the trophy was to be "a perpetual challenge cup for friendly competition between nations." Thus, the America's Cup was started in honor of the schooner and not the country from which it sailed. And today the competition still endures. Over the years, mono-hulled boats competed for the trophy and the finals were held off Newport until the cup was relinquished to an Australian contender in 1983. Since then, only three other countries have succeeded in winning the trophy. The last challenge was taken by the BMW Oracle team representing the US and based out of San Francisco, where the 34th challenge will be held.
Last week, the South County 12 Meter Regatta of former America’s Cup winners and contenders raced off Narragansett Pier in an event celebrating RI’s storied yachting past as a lead in to this week's competition. This was the first ever 12-meter yacht race to take place in visibility of Narragansett. This day long festival featured six classic and traditional 12-meter yachts: American Eagle, Weatherly, Columbia, Intrepid, Nerfertiti, and Northern Light. These boats have some pretty interesting history, highlighted by a collection of photographs, memorabilia and artifacts displayed during the event. A reception was held at Narragansett's “Towers.”
But America's Cup is now more than just racing. Through the America’s Cup Healthy Ocean Project, a collaboration between the America’s Cup and leading ocean conservation groups, the America’s Cup Event Authority will use the global reach and appeal of the world’s greatest sailing event to inspire millions of people to CARE about the Ocean, encourage public ACTION for the Ocean and leave a physical ocean LEGACY.
So, there is plenty of international opportunity for following and promoting the races, and yourselves, in the coming year. Get caught up in the spirit of America, the swift schooner that started it all over 150 years ago.
Image Credits: Ed Hardie