And trust us... this is action.
Six AC45s have arrived in lower Manhattan for the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Series in preparation for the 35th America's Cup held later in 2017, this year contested in Bermuda. And while the America's Cup trophy has been around for 160 years, this is the first time in 96 years that racing has happened on the Hudson. And in the last 96 years, there have been a few changes.
First and foremost, the yachts. AC45s are "mini" versions of the huge AC cats we watched two and a half years ago. But these boats are not timid. "When they get up and go, we can't immediately catch up," says Ian Stuart, the shore manager and driver for the chase boat in this iteration of the race. "We can eventually catch them, but they accelerate at a speed that a normal RIB can't manage. It takes us a minute." At the moment, Stuart has 280 horsepower under his command. So this is telling.
This also means that the racing will be tight. Courses are currently set at roughly two nautical miles, and are interchangeable dependent on the wind direction. However, at the very base of Manhattan, the wind whips through the skyscrapers with much more strength and less predictability than out in the Long Island Sound. On Thursday, boats were out practicing, getting used to the strong righties that showed up out of nowhere. With six boats on a very tight course, flanked by a spectator fleet of an estimated 600 boats, there is no room for error. During the open sail on Thursday, boats were constantly avoiding NY Waterway commuter ferries and freighters in the tight channel. There were enough games of chicken to make even the most rebel sailor among us a little queasy.
[caption id="attachment_94661" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Visual of the racecourse[/caption]
Since the boats are evenly matched, Stewart says that it's hard to pick a clear winner yet. After the racing in Oman, Sir Ben Ainslie on Land Rover BAR and Jimmy Spithill on Team Oracle USA are within just one point of each other. Ainslie suffered from an OCS in the last race in Oman, and with the high tech GPS machinery onboard it was possible to call him over the line by just a few centimeters. In addition, he has recently lost teammate Giles Scott, who has left the program temporarily to pursue the Rio Olympics in the Finn class (Ainslie competed four years ago).
To speak just of Ainslie and Spithill is to forget the other exceptional skippers on the water this year. On Team Artemis Racing, Nathan Outteridge is the youngest skipper in the fleet, but has a great example to show for the strength in that: "Jimmy came into the program at a very young age, and he's done some great things," he says. In October of 2015, Artemis collided with a support boat during the prestart (read the race recap in the link provided) and had to cut away their bow pole and ditch their Code Zero with only 80 seconds before the gun. They won the start, and later won the race.
Perhaps a young skipper is more of a benefit than you'd think?
A healthy skipper certainly is. Jimmy Spithill has in recent months been recognized for his dedication to the nutrition and physique of his whole crew, and Stuart says this is all part of the plan. "These boats are so incredibly physical. Back on the Version Five boats, you had the grinder and the trimmers, and they were the big guys. But you could hide a little on that boat. The tacticians and the navigators, they didn't have to be as concerned with their strength. But on these boats, the crew come off the water after races and they are spent. Really spent. These boats take much more out of you."
--from the chase boat on May 5. Turn the sound down - there's some language.
If you're looking for a place to watch the America's Cup from land, plan on coming down to Battery Park Wharf where multiple access points for viewing will be available. If you're watching from home, the America's Cup channel will be live streaming the event. If you can't get to Manhattan, they do have an app to watch the races. Click here to download. SpinSheet will also be updating our Facebook page with regular posts, and live tweeting as well.
One incredibly new and on-trend part of this America's Cup is that they are on SnapChat under the user name Americas.Cup. You can follow the live action through that free app. SpinSheet's editor Duffy Perkins is also on Snap Chat under the username mcperk617. Follow her there.