Some unusual facts about the race, its history and background and the sailors taking part
1. Britain has never won the America’s Cup
Despite the inaugural America’s Cup race taking place in Cowes in 1851, Britain has never won the “Auld Mug”.
The USA has won it 28 times, New Zealand three times, Switzerland twice, and Australia once.
2. Winners decide the race locations
The winner of the America’s Cup match has the right to decide the rules for the next contest, including the types of boats to be used, the location of the race course and when the race will take place.
In 2021, the Cup will take place in Auckland, New Zealand.
3. New Zealander Russell Coutts is the America’s Cup’s most successful racer
New Zealand sailor, Sir Russell Coutts has won the America’s Cup five times, including three times as skipper, where he has a perfect 14-0 record on the water (1995, 2000, 2003).
He was CEO of the Oracle Team when it won the America’s Cup twice with 13 wins and 8 losses in 2010 and 2013. Both times with James Spithill as skipper and helmsman.
4. It costs a billionaire’s fortune to take part
The entry fee for the 2021 America’s Cup is $2 million per team – but that is barely the tip of the iceberg.
The cost of running a team, developing some of the most high-tech boats in the world, the support crews, sailors and infrastructure runs to tens of millions.
During the 2013 America’s Cup, Oracle Team USA, underwritten by billionaire Larry Ellison was rumoured to have spent around $200 million securing their eventual victory.
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5. The America’s Cup trophy
The famous silver trophy was made by London silvermaker Garrard in 1848, two years before the 100 Pound Cup that kickstarted the America’s Cup and is actually a claret jug.
The cup has its own travel box and typically has its own seat on any plane in which it is flown, where it is accompanied by a cup minder to ensure it remains safe.
6. The Cup has been vandalised
In 1997 in New Zealand, a Maori activist damaged the America’s Cup trophy after hitting it with a sledgehammer. It was subsequently repaired by Garrard of London.
7. One of the key New Zealand sailors grew up in a landlocked area
Glenn Ashby, the skipper and mainsail trimmer of Emirates Team New Zealand in 2017 (Pete Burling was the helmsman while Ashby’s skipper role saw him take crew directing responsibilities from Burling’s shoulders), grew up in Bendigo, Victoria, in Australia. He learnt to sail on a lake that was often near dry.
The 43-year-old, who goes by the nickname Gashby is once again an integral part of Emirates Team New Zealand as mainsail trimmer and is fast becoming one the most respected sailors in the America’s Cup.
8. A most persistent challenger
British tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton challenged for the trophy five times between 1899 and 1930 in his yachts Shamrock through to Shamrock V. Although he never won (he was awarded a specially designed cup for “the best of all losers”), he is credited as introducing the idea of sponsorship in sport. An Ulster-Scots businessman, his challenging yacht club was Royal Ulster Yacht Club in Bangor, Northern Ireland.
9. What’s in a name?
There are many sailors who have strange superstitions. There are those who never wear the regatta shirt at the regatta, some will not have a haircut during the event (both of those are held by ex-America’s Cup skipper, Nathan Outteridge). Others will not have green anywhere on a boat and yet others still insist bananas onboard will banish them to the back of the fleet.
Ben Ainslie is not averse to a little superstition too and uses a lucky name for all his boats since his early Olympic days. They are all called Rita. When INEOS took over the team for this 36th America’s Cup, INEOS CEO, Sir Jim Ratcliffe apparently wanted a suitably patriotic name so they came up with Britannia, which usefully has Rita within it an can be seen picked out in orange on the team’s graphics.
10. The famous schooner America had a sad end
The gaff schooner America won the race that promoted the establishment of the America’s Cup, beating 15 other rivals in a race round the Isle of Wight organised by the Royal Yacht Squadron on 22 August 1851.
Read more about that race and the controversies and questions that have burned ever since.
The trophy for which the modern event is raced was named the America’s Cup after the winning yacht.
America continued to race until being sold to the Confederate State of America for use as a blockade running in the American Civil War After she was scuttled in Dunns Creek, the yacht was raised, repaired and renamed America by the Union, and served on the Union side for the remainder of the war.
After the war, America was used as a training ship at the US Naval Academy.
America was again sold, and went back to competitive racing. After falling into disrepair, the vessel was sold to the America Restoration Fund, who donated her to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.
By 1940, the gaff schooner had been sorely neglected. The vessel’s condition deteriorated even further after the shed where America was stored collapsed in a heavy snowstorm.
The ship was finally scrapped and burnt in 1945.