Everything you need to know about the 36th America’s Cup
Follow the build-up to the 36th America's Cup as the teams prepare for the 2021 sailing showdown in New Zealand
The 2021 America’s Cup is the 36th edition of the event and will take place in Auckland. It promises to be one of the most exciting matches in recent history.
Four teams racing in fully foiling AC75 monohulls which were conceived specifically for the event by the Defender (current holder of the Cup), Emirates Team New Zealand and Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa Pirelli Prada.
What is match racing?
Though the America's Cup was first contested in 1851 (and won by the schooner America from which the trophy gets its name), this race was between a fleet of boats. A challenge by the British in the 1870s was also conducted as a fleet race.
By 1880s, following a protest from the British, the America's Cup was decided in a head-to-head match race where two boats sail against each other.
Match racing is a particular skill and encourages aggressive manoeuvres using the rules to put your opponent at a disadvantage. This cut-and-thrust racing, where the only objective is to beat your opponent, has long been at the heart of America's Cup racing and produces a thrilling spectacle.
What is the difference between the Prada Cup and the America's Cup?
Now named the Prada Cup, the Challenger Selection Series was known for many years as the Louis Vuitton Cup. This too has taken the form of a match racing contest for many years, with challengers going head-to-head.
The current holder of the America's Cup, the Defender (Emirates Team New Zealand) does not take part in this event.
In 2021, the programme begins with playoffs for the Prada Cup Qualifiers on January 15, a month-long round robin format with each team racing each other team a total of four times.
The top team in the round robin series will progress to the Prada Cup Match (the final of the challenger series). The second and third placed team in the Prada Cup Qualifiers will race against each other in a Semi-Final, with the first team to four wins going through to the Prada Cup Match. The loser is then out of the competition.
The Prada Cup Match will take place in February with the first team to seven wins progressing to the America’s Cup Match itself, where they will take on the Defender Emirates Team New Zealand, from 6-15 March.
Who are the 2021 America's Cup Teams and helmsmen?The teams lining up for the event are the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand; Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa Pirelli Prada from Italy; American Magic; and INEOS Team UK.
Emirates Team New Zealand
Without doubt the team to beat. As Defender they are guaranteed a spot in the America's Cup. They also (alongside the Challenger of Record) get to pick the venue and the boat. As such they will have something of a headstart on most of the other teams in terms of understanding the new AC75 design.
The single downside to being Defender is that as you do not take part in the Challenger Selection Series, your competition will spend time ahead of the match duelling and will come to the America's Cup totally ready to fight. The Kiwis will be out training hard during this time but it can be difficult to stay match-fit without the cut and thrust of real competition.
The Kiwis have a long and proud America's Cup history having won it on three previous occasions in 1995, 2000, and most recently 2017.
They are also acknowledged as a leading field in understanding hydrofoiling having introduced the concept in their failed attempt to win the AC in 2013.
Helmsman - Peter Burling
Peter Burling will steer Emirates Team New Zealand's AC75 in the 2021 America's Cup. He is a remarkable talent and his rise from skilled youngster to one of the top sailors in the world has been swift.
Burling was a dominant force in the 49er Olympic skiff leading up to the Rio Olympics where he and crew (and America's Cup team member Blair Tuke) won gold.
He won the Youth America's Cup in 2013 before being named helmsman for the Kiwi boat ahead of the 2017 AC, where he and his team put in a dominant display to beat then Defender, Oracle Team USA.
Luna Rosa Pirelli Prada
The Challenger of Record has some of the advantages of the Defender. They will have been able to steer the Defender in terms of the AC75 design and so had some understanding of the class rule before it was freely available to the other two challengers.
This is the sixth time challenging for the America's Cup from this passionate Italian team. They have seen success in the past, winning the Louis Vuitton Cup on their first try in 2000, where they went on to race against (and ultimately lose to) then Defender Team New Zealand.
Helmsmen – Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni
Uniquely the Italian team have gone with a double helmsman setup for this America's Cup in order to make manoeuvres slicker by avoiding the helmsman running from side-to-side in every tack and gybe.
Australian by birth, Jimmy Spithill has gone from young gun to trusted America's Cup skipper. He burst onto the AC scene in 2000 where at the age of 20 he became the youngest skipper in the America's Cup. He has since raced for many teams and skippered Luna Rossa Challenge to the final of the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2007.
He has earned the nickname 'The Pitbull' due to his aggressive style, particularly in the pre-start and in 2010 with Oracle Team USA he became the youngest skipper in history to win the America's Cup.
In 2013 he skippered a successful defence for Oracle Team USA when he narrowly beat Emirates Team New Zealand in what has become known as the greatest comeback in sporting history.
On the other wheel is Italian talent, Francesco Bruni. Bruni is a staple of the Italian America's Cup team and this will be his fifth America's Cup and fourth with the team.
He is not short of talent and he has won seven world, five European and 15 Italian championships in different classes, from dinghies to offshore yachts.
Bruni's varied background makes him the perfect foil to Spithill's Match Race-dedicated background and he is one of the smartest sailors out there.
For a great many years, the New York Yacht Club was the home of the America's Cup (the club held the trophy from 1857 until 1983!) In recent years the club has not challenged so 2021 represents their return to the America's Cup competition.
American Magic, as the team is known, came out of the blocks with all guns blazing and were the first team to launch a test boat, the first team to launch their first AC75 and the first team to launch their second AC75.
Helmsman - Dean Barker
Dean Barker has a long history with the America's Cup. A New Zealander by birth, Barker was training skipper (and final race skipper) in the successful defence of the Cup by New Zealand in 2000.
In 2003 Barker skippered Team New Zealand to the America's Cup final where they lost out to Swiss team Alinghi and in 2007 he skippered Emirates Team New Zealand to the final again before once again losing out to Alinghi.
In 2013, Barker skippered Emirates Team New Zealand to another America's Cup final, this time against Oracle Team USA and Jimmy Spithill where he got once race win away from victory, only to lose out once more.
After leaving the team as Peter Burling was awarded the New Zealand helmsman role, Barker skippered Softbank Team Japan in the 2017 edition of the Cup before being named the helmsman for American Magic this time round.
Barker is certainly a safe pair of hands and there is little he does not know about America's Cup racing. Should he make it through to the final against his former team, you can be sure he will have a point to prove.
INEOS Team UK
Despite starting the whole thing off by hosting the first ever race, Britain has never won the America's Cup. This is the prospect that drew in title sponsor INEOS and the firm's CEO, Sir Jim Ratcliffe who has provided ample investment to put together a realistic challenge.
As such, 2021 represents the first time in many, many years, the Brits can realistically be said to have enough money behind them to mount a serious challenge for the America's Cup.
Although INEOS is a new title sponsor, the team in its current form did challenge for the 2017 America's Cup under then title sponsor, Land Rover. Ultimately the team were knocked out of the competition by eventual winner Emirates Team New Zealand in the Challenger Semi-Final.
Helmsman - Ben Ainslie
Ben Ainslie is possibly the most well known sailor in the world. He is the most successful Olympic sailor of all time with four gold and one silver medal. His CV also includes wins at everything from match racing championships to big boat regattas.
Ainslie's history in the America's Cup is somewhat patchy. The Brit has won the Cup previously when he served as tactician for Oracle Team USA in their winning defence of the 2013 America's Cup, but he has also been a part of a number of failed attempts.
There is no doubt that Ainslie is one of the best sailors and match racers on the planet. He has a team around him he trusts and the money needed to win.
The racing will be faster moving than ever before. With each boat racing at up to 50mph, it is fast and spectacular. Fans of the new format argue that every team is in with a chance and the outcome has never been harder to predict.
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