It takes 105 containers, 35 support boats and a 160m ship to carry the Amerca's Cup World Series circus

I’ve been getting a tour of the America’s Cup World Series encampment in Plymouth today with Peter Ansell, onshore operations director (pictured above). The scale and scope of the organisation is staggering. It is an army on the move.

All that the ACWS needs, apart from water to race on, is space for their set-up. This is a portable village and infrastructure designed to be built and operate out of containers and be as self-sufficient as possible.

Almost everything needed is packed up and shipped between venues in a 160m self-unloading ship with cranes, which is currently rebunkered and at anchor off Cawsand.

The cargo is over 1,000 tonnes of equipment for the race set up, including 105 containers with electrical workshops, offices, kitchens, toilets, forklift trucks, bikes, 35 different boats from mark boats to RIBs to medical boats and umpire jetskis. They even ship the 20m race committee boat and their own 35m crane for launching the boats and shifting the containers.

Everything is taken between venues to allow the ACWS to set up on a bare site. There is a container with two 270kVA generators capable of providing all the power needed for the teams, race operations, media centre and TV operation.

Containers have been designed with special pockets so they can be positioned with a forklift, and the kit includes a huge ‘Transformer’ style forklift that can both lift containers and be packed up to fit in one.

The hulls themselves are loaded in the ship in cradles to make four- or five-high stacks and the wingmasts pack down into containers.

Competing teams have to buy the roof of their tent, the hull and wingmast of their boats and everything else is provided, mainly free, by the America’s Cup Race Management. They are provided with four containers each, which they use as storage, fit out as boatbuilding and machine offices and which also form part of the structure for their tents, as shown in the photo below.

China Team base

The China Team base. You can just see two of their four containers
forming the right hand structure of their base.The race management put
the containers in place and the teams erect the roof over the top

The management also provides for the TV operation, which is a village in itself. This has to be one of the largest scale exercises in sport. On any race day there are 55 cameras in operation, four on each boat, plus three on helicopters and the rest on race marks and chase boats. In total, the TV operation involves 114 people.

They work out of a specially designed footprint of 16 interlocking containers, currently set on an eyrie on Plymouth Hoe.

On a smaller scale, two containers provide a structure for a sail loft tent provided for all the teams to use. The race management, which has 93 people on site here in Plymouth, also comprises a core of eight security staff, with their own container office. They are responsible for site safety, risk assessment, security and liaising with local fire authorities and emergency services.

Even the housekeeping for the 93 people on the race management team is an interesting logistical challenge. Lunches and laundry, bikes, shuttle services between the base and hotels, doctors and physios are all provided – the team even ship their own barbeques for evening get togethers.

When this event is finished, it will all be packed up again. The setting up and breaking down takes around a week each. The ship is already bunkered for the next leg, to the Panama Canal and onwards to San Diego. Plans are being finalised for the venue there which will dictate exactly how the cargo is reloaded at Millbay Docks next week.

Then, as one of the team here described it to me: “The animals get put back in their cages, the Big Top gets taken down and the circus moves on.”


The America’s Cup Race management base, made up from a structure of six containers


 Inside the race management base, with workshops left and right, offices at the bottom and a crew mess and eating area in the middle

Electrical container

In the electrical engineers’ container – everything needed to keep 35 different vessels going

Race committee container

Race committee’s container with lockers and a drying room for drysuits and foulies


Forklift truck, golf buggies, lots of push bikes and the race management’s own 35m remote controlled crane in the background

 Media centre

Media centre – a superb facility where everything works!