The America’s Cup is under way, just like 7 years ago, but now spans the Atlantic

Exactly seven years ago I was living in Auckland deep in the thick of America’s Cup action reporting on the Louis Vuitton challenger selection series. The Brits were 24 hours away from the start of the quarter finals where their first match was against Team Dennis Conner’s skinny USA-77 Stars and Stripes.

Today, seven years later, the Brits are back on the water in an event that looks and feels very much like the America’s Cup but isn’t. The Louis Vuitton Trophy may use version 5 America’s Cup boats, it may involve flights of match racing and has drawn in many of the big names from previous America’s Cup events, but it isn’t the America’s Cup.

Or is it?

As another key issue in the bitter, long running dispute between Defender and Challenger for the 33rd America’s Cup is resolved the match between the two monster multihulls is decided, the big match in Valencia draws closer. Yet in Nice, many of those who would have been competing in the America’s Cup, had it been the multi challenger event that was originally planned, are racing borrowed ex-America’s Cup boats in the Louis Vuitton Trophy. Among the eight teams that are competing, Emirates Team New Zealand, Team Origin and BMW Oracle Racing represent three of the big teams. There are newcomers too such as the Russian Synergy Team as well as those like Artemis that are new in team name rather than in personal experience with Terry Hutchinson and Paul Cayard making the calls to their crew of AC hot shots.

Elsewhere, Italy has a team, Azzura Challenge and the French have two, Team French Spirit led by Marc Pajot and Alll4One with Stephane Kandler and Jochen Schumann in charge. With names like these it’s difficult to convince yourself it’s not the America’s Cup. But it isn’t. So why are they here?

Officially this is simply the first of five events that will take place over the next 12 months in a series that has the appearance of a spoiler to the current two player only America’s Cup. And while you won’t get any LVT official to say this, it’s funny how the LVT looks like the early stages of a Challenger selection series in its own right. Which in turn makes me wonder whether we aren’t seeing the beginnings of a new style of America’s Cup, one in which the potential Challengers have taken control of their own selection series rather than allowing the Defender to be so closely involved in their event.

Could this be the new America’s Cup? It’s early days and way too early to tell, but it’s funny how Nice suddenly feels like the real deal, albeit in reverse. The Challenger, BMW Oracle Racing is limbering up on the other side of the Atlantic with it’s monster multihull and it’s brand new solid wing mast while the Defender is busy organising the event in Valencia. Meanwhile, the Challengers that didn’t make it this time around have got themselves organised and are already rehearsing for the 34th America’s Cup.

And from a British perspective, with three straight bullets, it looks like being a much better day than seven years ago.

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