Some like it hot

The next Cup is promising to be huge as the growing list of teams and their tech partners proves something to salivate over – so bring on AC37!

Written by Rebecca Hayter

29 March 2022


There’s a timeline of dramas that runs between America’s Cups, and this stage, between AC36 and the AC37, is no different. But do not touch that dial because Bertarelli is back.

For young America’s Cuppers, here’s an anecdotal introduction to Ernesto Bertarelli, the Swiss billionaire who turned the America’s Cup inside out in 2003.

Following Emirates Team New Zealand’s masterful defence in 2000, Bertarelli casually made a withdrawal from his Swiss bank account and hired the superstars of New Zealand’s winning campaign.

Ouch. This saw a groundswell of anger aimed at Bertarelli, so he invited about 150 guests, including journalists, to lunch at a high-class hotel in Auckland. It was an extravagant charm offensive.

Somewhere between entree and main, the debonair billionaire stood to address the room. By the time the last prawn ravioli had disappeared, most of the guests had surrendered.


But not all. One of the diners stood to deliver an extensive monologue against the core of Bertarelli’s inherited wealth: fertility drugs manufactured from nuns’ urine.

Without a flicker of irritation, Bertarelli focused his attentive smile on the man who continued talking for perhaps 20 minutes. Until other diners shut him down.

It was masterful. The incident showed that Bertarelli has immense self-control, that he sees roadblocks and deals with them, and that he acts with class.

Bertarelli won the 2003 America’s Cup. He took it home to Geneva and successfully defended the 2007 America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain, having swirled its streets in his Alinghi logo.

Bertarelli doesn’t do dummy runs; he rocks up ready for battle. In the lead-up to AC37, Alinghi is a virtual guarantee that the racing will be red-hot. Alinghi has partnered with Red Bull Racing.

The energy drink may power Bertarelli’s sailors to superhuman levels, but the partnership’s real power is in the Red Bull Advanced Technologies unit that has supported Red Bull Racing in achieving five Formula One Drivers’ Championships and four F1 Constructors’ Championships.

Speed, aerodynamics, intense levels of mechatronic technology and simulation – an AC75 and an F1 car have a lot in common. And when it comes to sailing on foils, Alinghi is no virgin. It has been competing in events such as the GC32 Racing Tour and the Extreme Sailing Series.

Alinghi’s GC32 co-skipper Arnaud Psarofaghis and mainsail trimmer Bryan Mettraux are preparing their 100-percent Swiss-made crew for America’s Cup 2024.

“We want for this challenge to do something totally different, totally new, totally fresh,” says Bertarelli. (I’m flicking back through yachting magazines to see if he said something like that prior to 2003.)

Alinghi is a red foil to the staid tones of INEOS Britannia, headed by the knighted duo of Sir Ben Ainslie and Sir Jim Ratcliffe. In 2021, INEOS Britannia felt that Prada, as Challenger of Record (COR), had the advantage of inside knowledge. This time, INEOS Britannia is COR and has input into design and weather parameters, and shares credit for all the good ideas in the Protocol.

Like Alinghi, INEOS Britannia is getting firepower from car racing technology, having partnered with multiple World Champion F1 Mercedes-AMG Applied Science. Last year, lead modelling and software engineer Ingrid Salisbury joined INEOS Britannia after working as a controls engineer for Mercedes F1.

She is an expert in simulators and writes the codes to ensure the simulators give the sailors and designers what they need to improve the boat’s performance.

So far, INEOS Britannia has confirmed Ben Ainslie, Giles Scott and Neil Hunter on its sailing team. Sir Ben has been part of several successful America’s Cup campaigns but, in charge of his own ship, he seems to get distracted by the big picture. Perhaps Sir Jim Ratcliffe will oversee INEOS Britannia and Sir Ben can focus on driving his new AC75.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (LRPP), the Italian class of 2021, has confirmed its entry but has not named any of its sailing team. It would be great to see the return of the aerodynamic duo of Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruno, who job-shared the helm in 2021 and whose Australian and Italian personalities were superbly managed by Max Sirena.

Another strength of LRPP was that their second boat was only a slight modification on their first.

“We got it right the first time,” Sirena said. America’s Cup 2024 will allow only one new AC75 per team, so getting the first boat right will be essential.

Then there’s American Magic. Like INEOS Britannia, it’s racing the ghosts of tradition. Terry Hutchinson will continue as skipper for his sixth America’s Cup program. Terry is a media darling with witty quotes and candid explanations.

He can lead a team in crisis: within an hour of near-drowning, having been trapped under Patriot’s mainsail, he was fronting the media. I know I’ve said this before, but when Terry’s done with the America’s Cup, I want him in the White House.

American Magic has not announced its helmsman but has not signed Dean Barker. Paul Goodison is rumoured to be back, and Mike Buckley and Taylor Canfield, helmsmen from the Stars + Stripes campaign that failed to fly financially last time, may be in line.

American Magic’s design coordinator Scott Ferguson, two-time Cup winner, is happy with the new AC75 Class Rule.

“The first order of business is checking it against the AC36 version of the rule, and then really digging into the new wording,” he says.

“The designers will review the aspects of the rule related to their individual areas of expertise, and work will begin to explore the revised design space.”

Ferguson says that the racing in Auckland clearly influenced the new rule.

“One of the shortcomings of the AC75 Class [during AC36] was racing in light air. The rule changes have addressed this by expanding the foil span box by 12.5 percent and reducing the weight of the boat by about 11 percent. Both changes are key to improving light air performance.”

This brings us back to the drama surrounding the choice of Host Venue [now decided as Barcelona.] Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) commodore Aaron Young acknowledges the frustration.

“There has been some interference from a few people with claims of money offered and threatening legal action,” he says.

“This, frankly, has not helped the process, and has cost the club a lot in time and also financially. The RNZYS has always said very simply that we would like to see the AC37 in Auckland, however, it needs to be realistic and viable.

“That means financially viable for Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) to win, along with local and government support for the event.”

On the bright side, RNZYS has accepted the above challenges and received interest from other teams, presumably without billionaires as best friends. The Protocol for AC2024 has several cost-cutting measures to encourage more teams to enter before the cut-off on 31 July 2022.

Enter the new One Design AC40 – a seriously cool, four-person foiling monohull. It’s a simplified, scaled-down version of the new generation AC75 and is piquing plenty of interest among private sailors keen to get airborne.

The AC teams will use their AC40 boats to practice match-racing skills and as a development mule for new rig or foil designs. The AC40 fits into a 40-foot container and, in its one-design configuration, will be used for the first two preliminary regattas before the AC37 Challenger Series.

The AC40 will also be used for the new America’s Cup Women’s Regatta and America’s Cup Youth regattas. Other major cost-savers are the reduction of AC75 crew from 11 to eight, and the afore-mentioned limitation of one new AC75 per team.

This is a bold step, considering the drastic changes that the UK, USA and New Zealand made between boat one and boat two for 2021.

The AC75 will be the boat for at least two more America’s Cup events. Incoming teams can buy hand-me-down AC75 boats from 2021, with instructions on how to modify them for 2024.

They can start sailing them for 20 days from 17 June 2022 to get a head start; existing teams and teams building new boats cannot sail before 17 September.

The third preliminary regatta, at the Cup venue, will feature the third-generation AC75 yachts that are being built for the America’s Cup series. They’ll rock up with plenty of swagger: ETNZ has something to prove against Alinghi as payback for 2003 and 2007; Jimmy Spithill, if he’s back, has something to prove against ETNZ as payback for Bermuda 2017.

And then to the Challenger Series Round Robins in which every team, including the Defender, races every other team once. The results from the Defender’s races won’t count toward seeding for the semi-finals, but they will give ETNZ a valuable tune-up in racing the AC75.

A quirky cost-saver is an end to recon – that’s short for reconnaissance, which is a fancy word for spying. Spying will be disallowed because it’s expensive.

Instead, teams will publish their data for the benefit of their opposition and their fans. In the weirdest way, I’m a little disappointed: some of the best stories in the America’s Cup are around the spy game.

In continuing with the AC75, ETNZ has saved on costs but compromised on surprise, and it will need to up its game to retain the Cup. It has announced a superstar line-up to support skipper Peter Burling: Blair Tuke, Andy Maloney, Nathan Outteridge, Glenn Ashby and Josh Junior.

With Outteridge out-racing Burling at the SailGP and the Olympics, ETNZ may be considering a dual-helmsmen role. Their grinders, or cyclors, are yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe to AC37, the SailGP is an intense, ruthless battleground birthed by former AC duo Russell Coutts and Larry Ellison. It’s crazy, crazy spectator viewing: eight or more SailGP foiling catamarans, fleet racing at speeds up to 110 kilometres an hour in 15-minute races.

Before tuning in, it helps to drink Red Bull diluted with high octane and don’t even think of watching if you haven’t been to Specsavers.

In no way is SailGP a fortune teller’s dream to predict the America’s Cup, but you can’t help taking note when it’s full of AC stars such as Jimmy Spithill, Francesco Bruni, Nathan Outteridge, Sir Ben Ainslie, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke racing with and against each other for various nations.

As a concept, SailGP is simpler than the America’s Cup – and a post-graduate course in foils and ultra-fast boat manoeuvres. It’s a great training ground for America’s Cup 2024, which promises the world’s fastest monohulls, crewed by the world’s best foiling sailors.

And now that we can exhale and cheer for ‘Barça‘ as the Host Venue for AC37, we have one more reason to celebrate. It’s going to be espectacular!

Stay tuned.



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