September 2013: The Oracle Team was sailing for the America’s Cup in the San Francisco Bay and 1:8 behind the New Zealand Team. Spectacularly, after 15 race days, the Oracle won 9:8. In all of history, sailing never received so much attention.
This win enabled billionaire Larry Ellison, owner of the Oracle, to set the time, the place and the rules for the next America’s Cup race. And change them Ellison did: with faster boats, bigger boats, no more sails, more athleticism, shorter (and more broadcastable) races, and a venue where the races can be watched, in person, for free. Those are some big changes for the oldest trophy in sport.
The rules are set: The boats in the next race series will still be catamarans, though slightly shorter, enabling them to sail - or fly - with the same speed. Five challengers will be competing: England, Sweden, Italy, France, and New Zealand. With an entrance cost and budget of more than $100m, it’s certainly a pricy competition!
The place is set: Three US cities competed to host the event: San Francisco, San Diego, and Chicago. But none of them made the cut. The lucky winner was Bermuda, a British overseas territory. Reportedly it’s also a financial decision: The tax status of the island and a $77m investment package alongside the event contributed to the decision. And of course, geography was a key factor: since Bermuda is located between the US and Europe it becomes more attractive for European companies to pay for broadcasting rights.
The time is set: The event will be held from June 20th to July 23rd 2017. At that time of year Bermuda enjoys pretty stable 12 knots of wind. Not too small for the high-tech race boats and also not too high like San Francisco – where one of the cats flipped.
The 65,000 residents of Bermuda celebrated the award of the event like Carnival. But they still have to wait a while: Four races with smaller cats are planned in preparation, one in Bermuda. And only in 2017 the full optimized large high-tech cats will arrive in the Great Sound.
And last, the most important question for anyone who’s both cruise and sports sailing addicted. By booking the right cruise, can I watch a race from my balcony? Unfortunately the answer is no: All three ports Hamilton, King’s Warf and St. George’s are close, but not that close. But when you plan to be in Bermuda during the event, you better hurry to book your excursions as tourism to the island is expected to be at an all time high. From the last Americas’s Cup in San Francisco we know: Things sell out quickly!