27 May 2017

America's Cup: 10 things you need to know

4:10 pm on 27 May 2017

The America's Cup sets off on its 35th regatta on Sunday morning (NZ time), and in key aspects is unlike any preceding contest for international sport's oldest trophy.

Here are the 10 burning questions to which you need answers.

1. Have all six teams got an equal chance of winning?

Are you kidding? It's the America's Cup. The rules allow only the Defender Oracle TeamUSA to build two boats, though they've taken a different approach and turned Softbank Japan into a sister team with which to share technology.

2. The winning challenger meets the defender for the first time in America's Cup Match right?

Don't be so old school. Just because that was one of the most intriguing and unique aspects of the contest, doesn't mean it has to stay that way.

This time, Oracle Team USA takes part in the two round-robins of the challenger series. The winner of these rounds, pockets a bonus point, which it can take to America's Cup Match, if it gets that far. So if Oracle TeamUSA wins these rounds, it starts the Cup Final with a one point advantage over the top challenger.

3. How do the challengers get whittled down?

By attrition and maybe psychological warfare. The bottom challenger goes home after the two Round Robins, after just eight days of racing. The other four challengers pair-off into Semi-Finals, then Finals, each contest being a first-to-five-wins affair.

4. You'd imagine this is the biggest thing since sliced bread for Bermudians?

If you believed the hype. Local Bermudians insist cricket and football are the biggest local sports, not the Cup. Sunday's second day of cup racing clashes with Bermuda's Twenty20 cricket final in which Bailey's Bay will chase its third successive title, meeting St David's at Sea Breeze Oval.

5. Who's most likely to win?

If you mean the Cup, rather than the cricket - anything could happen. Two leagues appear to have formed with observers believing there's a performance gap between minnows Groupama France, Britain's BAR, and the sharper looking teams Oracle TeamUSA, Team New Zealand, Sweden's Artemis, and Dean Barker's Softbank Japan.

Bailey's Bay and St David's have looked equally strong on their journeys to the Twenty20 final.

Emirates Team New Zealand

Photo: ACEA 2017 / Ricardo Pinto

6. Come on, can't you do any better than that?

Oracle TeamUSA are back-to-back Cup winners, with Larry Ellison's billions, Sir Russell Coutts five-times cup-winning nouse, and Jimmy Spithill's skill and dogged leadership.

Team NZ are innovators - first to foil in 2013, pedal-pumped hydraulics this time, young top Olympians in helmsman Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, and the longest history in the modern Cup.

Softbank is led by four-time Cup finalist Dean Barker, has much of Oracle's technology, and a small core of ex Team Nzers.

Artemis had a disaster in 2013, but looks sharp and fast. So take your pick at this stage.

7. What'll decide it?

Apart from the usual sporting variables, it may come down to the team that has developed the best, most precise and reliable control systems, and foils and rudders. Those are the parts where teams can do their thing, the rest is a common design.

This is basically aerospace technology, hence Airbus as an interesting partner for Oracle and Softbank. Oh, and be able to use that technology best.

8. Can I wear a Ford or Holden T-shirt in the cup village at Bermuda?

That's the V8 Supercars, silly. The rules of the event do ban "ambush marketing" of brands conflicting with events sponsors. A BMW T-shirt is fine. Having said that I've been wearing a Trekka T-shirt without problems.

9. In this day and age, is it true that there's a "Ladies Day" at the Cup village next week?

You bet! You can still buy 10 tickets for the price of nine for just $US630. There's bubbly, cocktail promotions, a fashion showcase, and mini manicures and massage therapy, and shaded seating. The website doesn't spell it out specifically but I think you do need to be a Lady.

10. Is that all I need to know?

Of course, it said at the top "ten things". I'll post the outcome of the Twenty20 final after the weekend.

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