On the Bay

Racing to the Cup

Oracle Team USA AC72 launch and first trials photo: courtesy 2012 Guilain Grenier/Oracle Team USA

As teams race ahead with preparations — and repairs — on their AC72s, the AC45s are still getting a workout around the world and here on the Bay.

You can catch the next generation of competitive sailors right here in San Francisco from Feb. 9–24, as the AC45s return for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup Trials. The trials are open to national sailing teams of six members aged 19 to 24. Each crew must hold a valid passport of the country their team represents. Equipment, including the AC45 platform and wing, is supplied to teams that have their entry accepted. The best young sailors from the trials will then battle it out in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup finals from Sept. 1–4 back here on the San Francisco Bay.

The final series of the America’s Cup World Series will be contested in Naples, Italy, from April 16–23. Oracle Team USA, with Jimmy Spithill at the helm, will be looking to conclude its incredible run through the 2012–2013 series with another win, which would make Oracle Team USA look pretty invincible leading up to the America’s Cup. The AC72 debut races on San Francisco Bay waters will be kicked off with the Louis Vuitton Cup Challengers Series from July 4 through Aug. 30. The winner of this regatta will go on to challenge the defending Oracle Team USA, sailing out of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, in the 34th America’s Cup set for Sept. 7–21.

Who exactly will be leading the USA to defend the Cup is also up in the air. Jimmy Spithill, the youngest skipper to win the America’s Cup three years ago in Valencia, Spain, has been the face of Oracle Team USA as he continues his winning streak during the America’s Cup World Series events. He has been closely followed by Oracle Team USA’s Russell Couts, the winningest skipper in the history of the America’s Cup.

To determine who will ultimately be at the helm for the Cup, there will be a defender’s trial held during the Louis Vuitton Cup, where Spithill will square off against Sir Ben Ainslie, the winningest skipper in the history of Olympic sailing and the holder of four consecutive gold medals. While they are joining forces for the defense of the America’s Cup, there will still be a fierce competition between Spithill and Ainslie for the right to lead Team USA’s defense.

Cup teams have continued to develop their AC72 designs, with many of the details being withheld as closely guarded secrets. As almost everyone around the bay is aware, Oracle Team USA suffered a major setback in October when Oracle 17 capsized and was swept five miles out the Golden Gate in a strong ebb tide, ruining the multimillion dollar wing and most of the boat in the process. Oracle has been busy rebuilding the Oracle 17 and getting ready to launch a second boat, while the challenging teams of Artemis Racing (Sweden and challenger of record), Emirates Team New Zealand, and Luna Rossa (Italy) have been steadily practicing on their own AC72s, fine-tuning the boats and their crews. Team Korea is still working toward the launch of its first AC72.

In an interesting twist, Artemis Racing has chosen not to develop a hydrofoil that lifts the boat clear out of the water for greater speed, as all the other teams have done. While the hydrofoil allows for greater speed, it also creates more drag when not in use. Instead, Artemis has focused on the development of a three-element wingsail with two hinge points. This makes for a heavier sail, but because the shape of the wing can be better controlled, it can produce more power than the two-element wingsails used by the other teams. It will certainly be interesting to see which tactic proves to be the wisest once racing commences with these high-tech behemoths.

Until then, we offer congratulations to the Golden Gate Yacht Club as it celebrates the third anniversary of its America’s Cup win on Feb. 14, 2010. We hope this is just the first of many sweet celebrations to come!

For up-to-date race information, visit www.americascup.com and visit www.oracle-team-usa.americascup.com/ to follow Team USA’s progress.

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