America’s Cup 2015 in Portsmouth
PUBLISHED: 10:45 15 June 2015 | UPDATED: 10:45 15 June 2015
For 164 years, the America’s Cup has been the carrot dangling out of reach for many British sailing teams. For 2015 it will be returning to Portsmouth, and with it comes our best chance in years of bringing it back to the UK where it belongs. Dan Wilkinson explains more
The America’s Cup is the oldest trophy in world sport, and Britain has never won it - despite the fact that the first race was organised by the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851 as a single race around the Isle of Wight, open to yachts of all nations. The prize was a silver Cup that was valued at One Hundred Pounds sterling. The black schooner America won this nascent contest of maritime supremacy, outclassing the rest of the field to be first at the finish line off Cowes. To honour that victory, it was renamed the America’s Cup and became a challenge trophy - open to sailing clubs across the globe.
American teams representing the New York Yacht Club successfully defended the Cup against all challenges for 132 years - the longest winning streak in sport - until an Australian team won in 1983. Since then the Cup has become a truly global phenomena, with challenges from all five continents, and held in locations spread around the world – Cowes, New York, Newport RI, Fremantle, San Diego, Auckland, Valencia and San Francisco.
For 164 years, the America’s Cup has become one of sport’s most revered trophies with challenges characterised famously by some of the most thrilling dramas - and bitter rivalries - in sporting history.
The first challenge to recover the Trophy and bring it back to its inaugural home was in 1869 by James Ashbury, a railway pioneer. He made two challenges in successive years - both were spectacularly unsuccessful. The next five followed the same pattern with Genesta failing in 1885, and then Galatea repeating just twelve months later. The following year Scotland’s Thistle suffered the same treatment, while both of Lord Dunraven’s challenges - in 1892 and 1895 - were repulsed but with considerable acrimony.
An extraordinary sequence of five challenges from Sir Thomas Lipton between 1899 and 1930 came closest in 1920, when he led 2-0 before going down 3-2. Fourteen years after Lipton’s near miss, the 1934 challenge by Sir T.O.M. Sopwith’s Endeavour came closest of any British boat to success. They led 2-0 and were headed for the finish of the third in the lead before a tactical mistake handed the victory and the momentum to the Americans, who then went on to win 4-2.
The first two post-war challenges came in 1958 and 1964, and were embarrassingly overwhelmed. And while Lionheart in 1980, and then Victory in 1983 failed to win the elimination series to become challengers, they were at least competitive. The same fate befell the 1987 challenger, White Crusader, while the most recent challenge in Auckland in 2003 was defeated before the semi-final of the Louis Vuitton Cup.
For the first time since its beginnings, America’s Cup Racing is returning to Britain when the world’s sailing superstars lead their teams out for a titanic battle on the Solent to compete in the World Series from Portsmouth on July 23-26. Never before in the UK has such fast and furious sailing action been so accessible to spectators with miles of close quarter vantage points available along the historic waterfront.
The America’s Cup World Series is a collection of regattas leading up to the 35th America’s Cup featuring the best sailors in the world battling it out on sleek AC45 catamarans that ‘fly’ on foils at astonishing speeds of up to 50 knots. Every race will count with vital points being secured ahead of the America’s Cup Qualifiers in Bermuda come 2017. The racing in Portsmouth will take place at almost touching distance from the onshore spectators and cannot fail to be spectacular, thanks to the big screens, family entertainment and a regatta village all happening on Southsea Common. Sir Keith Mills, Event Chairman of the America’s Cup World Series Portsmouth said: “We believe the ticket and hospitality packages and event schedule cater for all requirements – our aim is to provide ‘something for everyone’ - and to ensure this is both a sporting and entertainment event. We know ‘Britain expects’ the America’s Cup World Series to bring the world’s best sailors and entertainment and we guarantee that Portsmouth will deliver.”
How to watch
The shore side entertainment and spectator experience will be a ticket holder only event. Huge quantities of shore side tickets have already been purchased, with over 90,000 bookings made to date. The Fanzone Arena is the place to see the skippers and sailors close up, watch the official skipper presentation, the press conference and the parade of sail with expert commentary about each team. Spectators will be able to absorb themselves in all of the information about this event – the history, the boats, the technology, the sailors, the racing rules and the points system.
Naturally, given the racing will take place in such a popular area, plenty of fans will want to watch the racing from the water. The racing course will be dependent on the wind direction on each race day and will be refined and published closer to the event. The race course and racing buoys will be laid on each day of racing by the official authorities and the final layout of the course will depend on wind and weather conditions. The America’s Cup race management team will form a protective exclusion zone around the racing area made up of official marshalls and event sponsors and team boats. Only boats designated by race management will gain access to this area.
Alongside the racing and entertainment on Southsea Common, visitors can also enjoy the Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays and the Historic Dockyard taking in HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the amazing Mary Rose Museum.
The America’s Cup World Series will deliver an incredible four days of fun filled, action packed and family friendly sporting action. The event programme and entertainment kicks off on Thursday 23 July with the official opening of the race village, presentation of the skippers and then a spectacular parade of sail will provide a first glimpse of the competing teams and the boats out on the water. Friday 24 July is Preview Race day. All of the competing teams will be out testing the waters and familiarising themselves with the race course. Saturday 25 is the first official race day - when the serious action kicks off. ’Super Sunday’ on July 26 is the second official race day - and when points count for extra so this is the day that will decide the event winner. Whether you’re a keen sailor or new to the sport – this is a weekend not to be missed!
Teams competing include British team BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing), the America’s Cup defenders Oracle Team USA, Swedish entry Artemis Racing, French entry Team France and Team New Zealand. The Portsmouth event will be a historical moment in British sport as it’s the first time a British America’s Cup team will race in an official America’s Cup event on UK waters since 1851. Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) was conceived in 2011 by four times Olympic gold medallist and 34th America’s Cup winner, Sir Ben Ainslie, with the long-term aim of challenging for Britain and bringing the America’s Cup back home to where it all began in 1851.
“Our goal to bring the America’s Cup home to Great Britain starts this summer and it will be fantastic to compete on our home waters in Portsmouth at the start of that journey,” commented Ben. “The America’s Cup World Series event will provide a fantastic spectator experience with the teams battling it out literally meters away from the shore. I’ve experienced the close-to-shore British crowd during the London 2012 Olympics and it pushed me that little bit harder. In July, we will be competing against the world’s best America’s Cup teams and to have that home crowd supporting us will drive the team on.”
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