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33rd America’s Cup Sail Race 2010

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BMW ORACLE

Photo courtesy BMW ORACLE

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The Winner: USA 17 - BMW Oracle (challenger) beat Alinghi 5 (Swiss defender) in two races
When: February 2010
Where: Valencia, Spain

Race One

In the first race, the competitive action mostly occurred before the start, including Alinghi 5 making the mistake of not keeping clear and receiving a penalty. Then, 30 seconds before the start, BMW Oracle’s USA 17 made its one mistake and stalled above the start line, letting Alinghi 5 get off to a large starting lead. Thereafter it was all speed for USA 17,which soon passed Alinghi upwind under the wing sail alone and was 3:21 ahead around the mark 20 miles upwind. The lead continued to increase downwind to the finish, where Alinghi lost more minutes doing the penalty turn. USA 17 won by 15:28, leading by over 3.5 kilometers.

Race Two

Race Two began with some initial drama on the windward first leg, and it seemed at first that there might be some real excitement and a close race. Alinghi 5 had a penalty before the start but benefitted from early wind shifts and strategy and led across the course to the lay line where both boats would have to tack for the first, upwind mark. Alinghi 5 was forced to go a way past the line, however, to avoid tacking right in front of USA 17, and USA 17 took advantage of this situation and took the lead and rounded the first mark 22 seconds ahead. From that point on, it was all speed for USA 17. After hitting speeds up to 33 knots on the second leg, a reach, USA 17 increased its lead to 2:44 at the second mark. Then it continued a simple fast sprint to the finish, with USA 17 winning by 5:26 after Alinghi 5's penalty turn at the end.

The Venue

The 33rd America’s Cup race was sailed in the Mediterranean waters off Valencia, Spain. The race courses varied for each race. The first race was 20 nautical miles to windward and back. The second race was an equilateral triangle course with each leg of 13 nautical miles, beginning with a beat to windward. Only two races were needed in this best-of-three Cup race, because USA 17 won both. If there had been a third race, it would have been the same course as the first.

The first race was delayed twice, on February 8 and 10, first for a lack of wind and then because of high waves. The two completed races were sailed on February 12 and 14.

The Defender

The Swiss team Alinghi, which took the Cup from New Zealand in 2003 and successfully defended against New Zealand in 2007, was the defender in 2010. Alinghi is hosted by the Société Nautique de Genève. Since Switzerland is landlocked and has no “home waters” as had always been the race site in past Cup races, the race was set for Valencia again in 2010, although prior to court challenges the Swiss team had chosen the United Arab Emirates for the site.

The defending boat was Alinghi 5, a catamaran 90 feet long on the water, 115 feet overall.

Skippering the Swiss team was Brad Butterworth. Born in 1959 in New Zealand, prior to losing this race, Butterworth had been on the winning Cup boat as skipper or tactician in all of the last four Cup series: winning in 2003 and 2007 for Alinghi, and in 1995 and 2000 for Team New Zealand.

The Challenger

BMW ORACLE Racing, the American team hosted by the Golden Gate Yacht Club, was the only challenger in the 33rd Cup race and the first American boat to reach challenger status since the San Diego team lost to New Zealand in 1995.

The team raced USA 17, a trimaran 90 feet long on the water, 113 feet overall, with a metallic "wing" sail instead of a conventional fabric mainsail.

The captain of the American team was Russell Coutts. Born in 1962 in New Zealand, Coutts had skippered the winning Cup boat in three of the last four Cup series: winning in 2003 for Alinghi and in 1995 and 2000 for Team New Zealand. Australian Jimmy Spithill, age 30, was at the helm of USA 17. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corp., was the primary funder and driving force behind the American team.

The Notice of Race

The Notice of Race was issued November, 10, 2009, spelling out the race schedule, location, and rules.

Of particular interest was this statement: “It is anticipated that races shall be sailed in winds having a windspeed of not more than 15 knots, and in waves of not more than 1 metre in height.”

Brief History of the America’s Cup

The America’s Cup is the world’s oldest continually contested trophy in any sport. In 1851 the New York Yacht Club sailboat America beat 15 British boats from the Royal Yacht Squadron, thus beginning the America’s Cup race history. The British challenged in 1870, but the Cup remained at the victorious New York Yacht Club. For roughly the next hundred years, every challenger was beaten in Cup races held every three to five years, first in New York, then in Newport.

In 1983 the Americans lost to the Australian team, and the Cup left the United States for the first time. In 1987 the American team under Dennis Connor brought the Cup back home, where it remained until New Zealand took it in 1995. In 2003 the Swiss team took it from New Zealand and kept it through the challenge in 2007. In 2010 the American team BMW ORACLE won and brought the Cup back to America.

Through almost 160 years of racing, the America’s Cup boats have undergone various design changes, and legal challenges have been waged over design elements as controlled by the original and amended Deed of Gift, the document that governs the race. Almost all races, however, have involved monohull sailboats of equivalent size and general design—with two highly notable exceptions. In 1988 the San Diego team of Dennis Connor defended with a catamaran, which easily beat New Zealand’s monohull, leading to a number of court battles and appeals concerning the legality of a catamaran, finally ending with the Americans keeping the Cup. The next five races involved more traditional matched monohulls, in the design often now called the “America’s Cup Class boats.” The 2010 race again involved multihulls, a trimaran challenging a catamaran—the first race of its kind in the long history of the Cup.

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