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America's Cup: Six month countdown begins to the first events in Barcelona

by Richard Gladwell 22 Feb 13:40 GMT 23 February 2024
American Magic passes the Sagrada Familia under construction since 1882 and due to completion in 2026 - AC40 - Day 95 - February 21, 2024 - Barcelona © Ugo Fonolla / America's Cup

The six month countdown has begun to the contesting of most prestigious trophy in sailing, and one of the oldest trophies in sport.

Six teams are entered representing some of the most prestigious yachts clubs in the world from New Zealand, Great Britain, Switzerland, Italy, USA and France.

The America's Cup regattas are expected to generate an atmosphere in Barcelona reminiscent of the city's hosting of the 1992 Olympic Games, in which 9.300 athletes competed from 169 countries.

The harbours of Port Vell and Port Olímpic will form the event venue, including the main America’s Cup Race Village together with interactive fan zones, stage and jumbo screens, teams, and sponsor activations, all of which will be completely free to access for sailing fans.

Racing will take place off the Barcelona waterfront in a two month program which starts on the 22nd August ahead of the final Preliminary Regatta which runs through to the 25th August.

The Louis Vuitton Cup, to decide the Challenger, begins with Round Robin stages from the 29th August and culminates in the Louis Vuitton Cup Final (first to 7) concluding on the 5th October with contingency through to the 9th October depending on weather.

The Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand will also sail in the first two rounds of the Challenger Series but will not be elegible to score points.

The Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup Match is a first to win 7 races series, starting on the 12th October. The Match could finish on 18th October if one team wins 7:0 and there are no race day delays due to weather. Or racing could continue until 27th October (latest possible date) if reserve days are used due to weather and the racing is close - as happened in Auckland in the 2021 event where Luna Rossa and Emirates Team NZ were tied 3-3 after three days of racing.

The longest America's Cup was in San Francisco in 2013 which ran to almost three weeks with 19 races scheduled and sailed.

Three teams have announced indicative launch dates for their AC75 race boats - being late March, early April. For reasons which are not clear, three teams have not named any indicative date. However they are expected to be later.

Under America's Cup rules all race boats have to be constructed in the country of origin of the team, which means that all the Challengers will have less distance to travel than the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand. The Kiwis have a voyage of 38-50days to freight their boat and equipment to the regatta venue.

They may charter a freighter to reach Barcelona with a minimum of delay, or fly the AC75 as they did in 2017 using an Antonov air-freighter. European teams have a less fraught logistical exercise.

Whilst the Challengers and Defenders will contest the America's Cup and the Louis Vuitton Cup for the Challenger Selection series, Barcelona will also be playing host to the ultimate pathway programme for Women & Youth athletes with the inaugural Puig Women’s America’s Cup and the return of the UniCredit Youth America’s Cup.

Both of these events will be contested in the AC40 class racing as a One Design AC40 class - which have been used by the six teams , for component testing, and race practice.

They are capable of speeds in excess of close to 50kts, and will be a handful for the 12 teams contesting the two events. Team selection is currently underway, or has been completed in some cases, and the field will be peppered with Olympic medalists and other top performers in the sailing world.

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