America’s Cup action

For those who don’t know me well, my main sport is sailing.  I never played organized football in high school (and of course that means no college either), but I was one of the bay area’s best youth sailors.  I won’t bore you with my list of championships won as a teen, because the point of this post isn’t my accomplishments.  I’m just giving some background on the below post and follow up posts on the America’s Cup:

The Americas Cup is the superbowl of sailing.  It’s where the big boys go with their VERY expensive toys to prove that they’re the best.  The America’s cup happens every three to four years and the cost of a competitive campaign is around 200 million dollars.  Since sponsorship dollars can’t raise that much, most of the sydicates are owned by billionares like Larry Ellison (of Oracle fame) or Ernesto Bertarelli (a biotech billionare) or Patrizio Bertelli (of Prada fashion fame) and then supplimented by sponsorship dollars.

The America’s Cup dates back to 1851 when a US boat called “America” sailed to England and won a race around the Isle of Wright called the “One Hundred Guinea Cup”.  It then took the trophy back to the US and dared challengers from England to come take it back.  Over time, more countries became interested in winning the cup from the US.  With each successive victory, the cup more firmly established its name as the Americas Cup.  In fact, the winning streak of the US lasted 132 years (the longest sports winning streak ever) and 24 victories before the Austrailians won it in 1983.  In 1987, the next race after 1983, the US won it back, defended it twice in 1988 and 1992 before losing it to New Zealand in 1995.  New Zealand became the first country outside the US to successfully defend in 2000, in the first cup match that didn’t include a US team.  In 2003, New Zealand lost the cup to Switzerland.

Which brings us to the 2007 cup, currently going on in Valencia, Spain (nowhere to sail in Switzerland)…

The format of the America’s Cup is fairly complicated.  Unlike most boat races where there are lots of boats in the same race, the America’s Cup is what is called match racing.  There are only two boats in each race.  Furthermore, because one race isn’t very indicative of who the better boat is, there is a series of races, similar to how basketball and hockey have 7 game series to determine the winner.  In the America’s Cup, it’s a best of 9 series.

To add to the complication, more than one country is interested in challenging for the cup each time it is held.  Some times there is more than one challeger from a single country (Italy has 3 this time).  As a result, there is a long regatta held before the America’s Cup to determine who gets the right to challenge for the Cup.  That regatta is called the Louis Vuitton Cup.  For 2007 the format of the LV is as follows:

  • There will be two round robins, where each boat races every other boat.
  • At the end of those round robins, the top 4 teams (two points for each win in the round robins plus 1-4 points for seeding based on pre-LV Cup racing) will go to the semi-finals, a best of 9 series.
  • The winners will race in the LV Cup finals, another best of 9 series.
  • The winner of that series gets to race in the Americas Cup.

This year there are 11 challengers.  Only one of those teams is from the US, BMW Oracle Racing.  It’s funded by Larry Elison, CEO of Oracle and is sponsored by the Golden Gate Yacht club (each team needs a yacht club sponsor) in San Francisco.  Three different Bay Area yacht clubs (Golden Gate, St. Francis and San Francisco) have challenged for the Cup over the years and although they’ve come very close, they’ve never been able to win.  The Cup was always raced in New York during it’s first stint in the US for 132 years and was then in San Diego for its second stint.  If BMW Oracle were to win, the Cup would be brought back to the Bay Area for it’s next iteration in the 2011 timeframe.  For all Bay Area sailors, the idea of the Cup being in the Bay Area is very thrilling, and so we’ll all be rooting for BMW Oracle to win, as will most US sailors who want to see the America’s Cup back home.

Next up… the current LV Cup standings.

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