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The French America's Cup Orient Express Racing Team made AC history on Tuesday, August 23rd) with the maiden sail of their new AC40 sailing boat.

The team launched their boat with its stunning blue and gold livery to match the sailing talent onboard, at the western end of the Port Vell in Barcelona.

The anniversary of the first running of the America’s Cup in 1851 was the perfect day to launch, and the team was supported by a round of applause from the shore crew, management, and supporters as they familiarized themselves with the launch protocols and rig settings. 

Despite the current weather pattern causing sub-normal breezes, the team was undeterred and splashed and locked in sails this morning. Quentin Delapierre and Kevin Peponnet took charge of the AC40, supported by trimmers/Flight Controllers Matthieu Vandamme and Jason Saunders. The team sailed on auto-pilot and began learning the nuances, dialling in a smidge of windward heel at times and playing with ride height. France is back at the top table and the significance of this moment is huge. 

Straight out of the box, the French sailors looked comfortable and had just enough breeze to maintain flight on the one-design set-up once released from the RIB. One Design sails were raised with the biggest J1 up front, and a fast tow out of the port and along the Barceloneta gave the crew plenty of time to dial into the foil settings before the tow line was spiked. The team's base at the Port Vell became an operational sailing base today, and this is only the beginning of a whole new chapter in French sailing.

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Thirty-one years ago, she carried the hopes of a nation, and no care and expense were too much for New Zealand's 1992 America's Cup Challenger.

But the highly-specialised boats which were developed at that time to fit in with the requirements of then-current America's Cup rule were useful for only one thing - racing for the Auld Mug, as five times AC Challenger Thomas Lipton of the Royal Ulster Yacht Club used to describe the much-fought-over piece of Victorian silverware.

"No longer a sporting icon, she has become an environmental hazard"

So if they were successful, the AC boats might be preserved in some Maritime Museum. But if they failed - as this boat did - it really should have been straight to the knacker's yard. However, it seems nobody in Auckland - where the America's Cup-holding Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron already has severe financial problems - had the hardness of heart to administer the coup de grace, and the boat had been left lying on a remote mooring for years, with everything that could be easily and usefully liberated long since gone.

Now the mooring has parted, and she has come ashore on a beach. No longer a sporting icon, she has become an environmental hazard. As one local resident put it, "I couldn't care less about America's Cup history (ouch!), but if this thing (ouch! again) isn't moved soon, we're gonna have a beach full of eternal kevlar rubbish, and there'll be real trouble for somebody".

More from Stuff in New Zealand here

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Ireland's first-ever challenge for the Youth and Women’s America’s Cup sailing championship has ended without an invitation to Barcelona this Autumn.

Ireland's bid was pipped at the post by an Australian syndicate, where two clubs in Sydney combined their efforts and resources. With this and their recent commitment to purchase an AC40, they won the final invite for the Championships.

Emerald Challenge, after announcing the intention to win a bid for an entry to the Women’s AC and the Youth AC back in November, had been 'feverishly working' on their Irish bid, as Afloat reported in January.

CEO & Skipper of Emerald Challenge Charles Cullen, along with the support of the Royal St. George Yacht Club, had been busy fundraising and building a campaign from the bottom up – no small task.

"It was with great disappointment to hear that our Emerald Challenge bid was unsuccessful. However, I am extremely proud. The team put everything into this project over the last few months", Cullen said in a statement.

"We weren’t naive to how big of a challenge this bid would be for a small country when against much bigger nations. Yet, we wanted to try and give it the best effort we could", he said.

He noted, "The experience introduced us to incredible individuals from many walks of life, and we have learnt so much, and I am truly humbled to have had the chance to chase such a dream". 

The Emerald Challenge was quickly taking shape. Over 40 of Ireland's top Youth Sailors from across the country applied to be part of the program and to be considered for selection to represent Ireland at one of the most prestigious and coveted championships in sailing.

Even though we failed - I am proud of where we got & what we achieved. Which was beyond initially thought possible. We received incredible feedback from those in America’s Cup committee - who were extremely impressed with what Ireland had to offer. I want to say a huge thanks to all those who put their belief in the project, in myself & all those who gave their time & advice. Going through this experience has highlighted the desire and opportunity for high-performance sailing in the country. Hopefully, this is only the start of a great journey for Ireland", Cullen said.

Royal St George foiling champion Charlie CullenRoyal St George foiling champion Charlie Cullen who headed the Emerald Challenge bid

As the ambitious bid process progressed, a Women’s AC programme was also added. Potential sponsors were approached and a fast-moving programme was underway.

The monetary scale of the bid was in the region of €1m, with plans for the charter of an AC40 to assist with training, along with an AC40 simulator, and a training and competition plan right up to the start date of the championships. 

With the calibre of sailors that had applied to be part of the programme, a very strong bid was submitted to empower Irish female and youth athletes, drive climate awareness, practice gender equality and ultimately inspire this and future generations of sailors.

Ronan Adams- Royal St. George Yacht Club Sailing Manager said "I am greatly disappointed to hear that our bid was unsuccessful. Nonetheless, the RSGYC are extremely proud of the Emerald Challenge bid and everyone involved".

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It has been exactly one year since the announcement that Barcelona had secured the venue rights as the host city for the 37th America’s Cup and following the signing of the agreement, work has been ongoing transforming the Port Vell and Port Olímpic areas ready to host the competing teams who are setting up bases and will be onsite from Summer 2023.

Port of Barcelona America's Cup venue Port of Barcelona America's Cup venue 

All around the Port Vell, building work is now at pace as the construction of the team’s bases takes shape. For the teams themselves, winter training has been an intense period with new boats launched, new design ideas coming to fruition and sailing techniques honed through long hours on the water.

Spreading the message of the America’s Cup across Catalonia and Spain and engaging with the widest possible audience is very much key to the mission of America’s Cup Events Limited and its CEO, Grant Dalton, is enthused by the opportunity of an event with such a broad audience. Speaking about selecting Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain as host, Dalton said: “It has been an honour to work with all the host agencies in both Barcelona and across Catalonia and Spain to bring the 37th America’s Cup back to such a vibrant European venue. One year on, and we are really moving forward across the whole aspect of the event delivery and it’s thrilling to see all the teams already operating at a super-high level as they test and evaluate their training platforms ahead of building their one new AC75 for the competition in 2024.”

He also advanced some of the plans of Emirates Team New Zealand, and the sporting structure that will be based in the Catalan capital over the next few months: "In July we will be sailing in Barcelona, as well as the rest of the teams". The Defender team is in charge of designing and organizing the next edition of the America's Cup through the subsidiary of America’s Cup Event, ACE Barcelona, which, according to its CEO, has as one of its most important challenges to involve the public, as happened with the 1992 Olympic Games.

The Defender was the first to receive and launch the exciting new AC40 yachts in Auckland that the Youth & Women’s America’s Cup will be competed onboard in a very strict one-design format that will reward the talent of the very best of the next generation of sailors in the world.

“The AC40 has proven to be the most exciting new foiling class in the world. AC37 is set to be sensational with Barcelona very much the beating heart of the competition but it’s also of great significance that we’ve been able to broaden the reach by announcing the Catalonian town of Vilanova i la Geltrú as the first pre-regatta in September 2023 on the road to the America’s Cup. With 18 months to go to the start of the Challenger Selection Series we are in a very good position to deliver an outstanding event,” he added.”

The team also re-launched their America’s Cup winning AC75 from 2021 ‘Te Rehutai’ and have two AC40’s to train on. Over the year, a total of five AC40’s have been delivered to the teams, with the sixth on its way from McConaghy’s to Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in the coming weeks.

 America’s Cup Emirates Team New Zealand in training America’s Cup Emirates Team New Zealand in training

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With news that the first regatta of the Catalonian port of Vilanova i la Geltrú, is the Host Venue for the first Preliminary Regatta of the 37th America's Cup to take place in September this year, coincidentally Emirates Team New Zealand’s launched their 36th America’s Cup-winning yacht in Auckland.

Te Rehutai, is set to return to the waters of the Hauraki Gulf just over two years since the last time it was sailed for the final race of AC36.

The team’s AC75 emerged from the shed after a long hibernation on Monday for a series of rig and dock checks encompassing a mix of old and new. Visually sporting fresh new livery and technically presenting a valuable bridge between the 36th and 37th America’s Cup AC75 class rules.

“It's a really cool day for the team wheeling out Te Rehutai, which is obviously a very special boat, having won the America’s cup for us.” said Nick Burridge, Team Reliability and Maintenance Manager.

“The boat has been upgraded to meet the latest rule changes. So, we've got a bit of rig tuning, messing around with a few geometries before we put it on the water and run through a series of checks and things to make sure it'll be safe to push off the dock and go sailing when we get a favourable weather window.”

The Vilanova i la Geltrú event will take place over four days between September 14 -17 when the six international America's Cup syndicates - Emirates Team New Zealand (Defender), INEOS Britannia (Challenger of Record), Alinghi Red Bull Racing (SUI), American Magic, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (ITA), and Orient Express Team (FRA) - will race each other in AC40 one-designs.

Vilanova i la Geltrú is situated 45 kilometres southwest of the America's Cup host city, Barcelona, in Spain's Catalonia region, and the event marks the official start of racing in the 37th America's Cup cycle. More on that story here from Cup Insider

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Time is the great enemy of any America’s Cup campaign, so February and the first half of March have been a busy time with a noticeable ramping up of the intensity all around.

The northern hemisphere winter has been cold and unpredictable, whilst New Zealand has faced a poor summer of rain and storms. Nonetheless, the on-water hours have been racked up around the world, three new AC40s have been commissioned, and Emirates Team New Zealand have been getting in some two-boat testing and race training.

Here’s your latest recap of everything going down in this America’s Cup cycle…

Orient Express Racing Team

The beginning of February saw the announcement that the French are back in the America’s Cup with Orient Express Team led by Stéphan Kandler and Bruno Dubois. The team will be buying a design package from Emirates Team New Zealand, and on the water, the hard-driving Quentin Delapierre will skipper, Thierry Douillard will coach, whilst Franck Cammas will advise as Head of Performance and Design/Sailor Co-ordinator. Benjamin Muyl has been appointed as Principal Designer with Antoine Carraz supporting as Technical Director. Orient Express Team will be operational in Barcelona in Summer 2023 with an AC40 in build at McConaghy’s.

NYYC American Magic

The de-commissioning of ‘Patriot’ the famous American Magic warhorse AC75 from AC36 was done in some style. On the penultimate day of sailing, the much-modified rocket-ship was hitting 50 knots on the bear-aways and was given a final run-out on the 5th February covering over 100 nautical miles and welcomed back to base with red, white and blue smoke flares. Out with the old and in with the new though, as the team took delivery of their first new AC40 ‘America’ ahead of launching and maiden sail at the beginning of March. A team very much on the up, their winter in Pensacola Bay has been highly profitable with an assured confidence coursing through the team, now with one eye on the logistics of a move to Barcelon this summer.

INEOS Britannia

A tricky start to the month for the British with the capsize and turtling of their prototype LEQ12 ‘T6’ on the 8th February that caused extensive damage. The ‘INEOS bounce’ though was quick, with the almost immediate launch on the 15th February of the team’s AC40 ‘Athena’ that had been in the shed since October whilst the concentration had been on T6. With foiling talent to burn and deep resources all over, INEOS Britannia’s sailors barely missed a beat in getting ‘Athena’ up to speed and rocketing around the Bay of Palma. The silver-lining for T6 was that it was due an extensive upgrade just before the capsize so any upset to the programme was mitigated.

Emirates Team New Zealand

A month of two-boat testing for the Kiwis, as they continue on their path towards AC37. The established helms of Nathan Outteridge and Pete Burling began to be pushed hard in the team’s LEQ12 over short-course racing by newcomers Liv Mackay and Leo Takahashi in the One-Design AC40 overseen by Josh Junior. A new mainsail head arrangement on the LEQ12 plus some modifications to the port anhedral foil were on display for the shared recon team, whilst the announcement that ‘Te Rehutai’ the team’s Cup-winning boat from AC36 is will very soon to be back out on Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

The Italians continue to impress, training out of Cagliari in Sardinia aboard their LEQ12, the sailing team look the most assured on the water and confident in their development programme that has seen several foil upgrades through February. Marco Gradoni and Ruggero Tita have both enjoyed significant helming time, rotating in for Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill with ease. Over short courses, the Italians have looked imperious with dynamite technique and boat-handling. In February, the team ran a training camp for the next generation of Italian Youth & Women, sailing Persico 69Fs and will take delivery of their first AC40 in March 2023. The Challenger to watch for sure.

Alinghi Red Bull Racing

February 15th saw a landmark moment for the America’s Cup with the launch and maiden sail of Alinghi Red Bull Racing’s AC40 becoming the first team to sail the new class in Barcelona. Meanwhile, BoatZero went back into the shed for considerable deck modifications to reduce crew numbers from eleven to eight and introduce aero cyclors into the mix that appeared at the beginning of March, but what we saw was a step-change in the sailing team as they took charge of the AC40 and had it flying almost immediately. Just six days later, on the 21st February, the Swiss joined the capsize club as the sailors pushed harder and harder to find the limits of the AC40 having got loose on a gybe. Being based at the venue, the highly focused and settled Swiss are looking better and better with each passing month.

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All of the America's Cup teams have had an extremely busy January due to their training regimens being notably more intense. Data gathering and analysis are more crucial than ever, with only a few months till sign-off for the AC75 designs. Here, we examine all of the teams and significant advancements.

Emirates Team New Zealand

The Defenders (pictured top) had a busy January as they continued to test their anhedral full-span port foil and refined the sail and rig system controls on their AC40 (AC40-1) in LEQ12 development mode. Leo Takahashi and Liv Mackay started serving as captains at the end of the month as Sam Meech and Marcus Hansen alternated with the senior testing team. The Kiwis were testing new talent with an eye toward the Youth & Women's America's Cup. As the training programme moved into a new phase, the team set up two AC40s for the first time in early February.

INEOS Britannia

INEOS Britannia Team day 19, Sailing with T6 (LEQ12) Photo: Ugo Fonollá INEOS Britannia Team day 19, Sailing with T6 (LEQ12) Photo: Ugo Fonollá 

The Challenger of Record has been very busy getting their LEQ12 prototype, code-named "T6," into full data-gathering mode while wintering in Palma. Midway through January, new sails were installed, and thanks to the team's highly technical, data-driven approach to this cycle, communication between engineers and sailors have improved. Iain Jensen and Bleddyn Mon have been instrumental in this. Although in slow motion, they "joined" the capsize club in late January. The crew intends to launch and sail its AC40 (AC40-2) that was delivered in October in February.

BoatZero - Alinghi Red Bull Racing Photo: Alex CarabiBoatZero - Alinghi Red Bull Racing Photo: Alex Carabi

Under the cautious eye of Sailing Team Advisor Pietro Sibello, the Swiss have been making progress on the sea since they set sail from Barcelona. January marked a turning point for the team on the water with a notable increase in energy and desire to push BoatZero harder in straight lines and through manoeuvres after spending four weeks in the workshop over Christmas installing a new self-tacking jib system.

American Magic boat Patriot (B2) (AC75 Class) Sailing inside Pensacola Bay in foggy conditions - Florida. Photo: Paul ToddAmerican Magic boat Patriot (B2) (AC75 Class) Sailing inside Pensacola Bay in foggy conditions - Florida. Photo: Paul Todd

The NYYC American Magic is at the top of the list for time spent on the water, thanks to numerous hours and practically endless manoeuvres. The cyclor system was re-geared in January to enhance the hydraulics' power output, and the major technological advancement was the removal of the mainsheet ram from the clew to lie on a carrier mounted on a secondary track across the cockpit. This resulted in a more organized mainsail clew arrangement, and the Americans had some of the AC75's sharpest trim.

Luna Rossa Prada PirelliLuna Rossa Prada Pirelli Photo: Ivo Rovira

The Italians, who seem rock solid in flight and precise through manoeuvres as they sail their LEQ12 prototype at race pace, day after day, had been training hard in Cagliari throughout January. This fully sensored boat has undergone a relentless data collecting campaign and was declared to have a new port foil and a new starboard foil arm. In addition to Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill, Marco Gradoni and Ruggera Tita have been taking more and more turns behind the wheel. The Italians' ability to de-power in stronger conditions by inverting the top of the mainsail has brought sail design into sharp focus. The squad held a week-long camp in Persico 69Fs at the end of January.

Orient Express TeamOrient Express Team

As Afloat reported, the French are back in the America's Cup. It's a very welcome return with the announcement that the Accor Hotel Group, using its 'Orient Express' brand has committed to K-Challenge, for a syndicate to be named the 'Orient Express Team.' The French have brought in big names such as skipper Quentin Delapierre, ocean racing legend Franck Cammas as Head of Performance, experienced naval architect Benjamin Muyl and Antoine Carraz as Technical Director. The team, led by Stéphan Kandler and Bruno Dubois will benefit from a latest generation technology package provided by the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand to allow Orient Express Team to gain time and start on equal terms with its opponents.

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Two of the primary events of AC37 in Barcelona are the Women's & Youth America's Cup Regattas, which place a strong emphasis on the upcoming generation of America's Cup sailors. The most prestigious prize in sailing is the ultimate platform for tomorrow's household names and superstars. After the Notice of Race was issued on November 1, 2022, formal invitations to yacht clubs worldwide began to be handed out on February 1, 2023.

To date, expressions of interest have been strong, with yacht clubs from some thirteen different countries enquiring, some with established pools of Women's and Youth talent, others with start-up teams looking to step up into the big time in one or both of the events.

Irish foiling champion Charlie Cullen of the Royal St. George Yacht Club aims to lead an U25 Irish team to compete in the youth America's Cup Photo: Martina OrsiniIrish foiling champion Charlie Cullen of the Royal St. George Yacht Club is aiming to lead an U25 Irish team to compete in the 2024 Youth America's Cup Photo: Martina Orsini

As Afloat previously reported, Ireland has ambitions to be in the mix with the Royal St George Yacht Club of Dun Laoghaire Harbour, aiming to produce an entry through its foiling programme. This programme aims to create a world-class team to ultimately challenge for the Youth America's Cup in Barcelona 2024. If successful, this will be the first time an Irish Team will have been involved in the America's Cup in its 170-year history.

With the six confirmed teams competing in the America's Cup sealing the first six places in the Women's & Youth events, the organisers have offered six remaining places in each event. Initial invitations are being sent to three teams that have registered interest for both regattas with strong and experienced challenges: Those entries are the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club of Canada with AC40 Team Canada as their team; a joint entry from the Royal Netherlands Yacht Club and the Royal Maas Yacht Club of the Netherlands with their team DutchSail; and the Real Club Náutico de Barcelona of Spain, the host country of AC37, with Sail Team BCN.

That will leave three slots in the Youth America's Cup and three in the Women's America's Cup. Further invitations will be issued once an analysis of the remaining Expressions of Interest is complete.

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Be careful what you wish for - it might just come to happen. This was the feeling that emerged in much of the rest of Ireland’s sailing community a year or so back, when “America’s Cup Venue Mania” was taking over in Cork. Anyone Irish who questioned the wisdom, true cost and longterm benefit of hoping to accommodate a supra-national yet somehow ephemeral event, a happening renowned for the complete and utter self-interest of its main players, was accused (mostly by a select group of Cork folk) of being unpatriotic.

For sure, “little New Zealand” made itself the focus of world sailing attention way above its weight during its years of closest direct contact with the actual AC contest on the water. But now that the circus has for the time being moved on to Barcelona, a recent gloomy account of the abandoned feeling on the Auckland waterfront had emerged.

The America’s Cup racing at Auckland in 2021. Hampered by the global pandemic, it’s reckoned that New Zealand government expenditure saw a loss of 156 million NZ dollars (€92 million)The America’s Cup racing at Auckland in 2021. Hampered by the global pandemic, it’s reckoned that New Zealand government expenditure saw a loss of 156 million NZ dollars (€92 million)


The reporter moseyed around some of the former focal scenes of the America’s Cup action, and despite it being the height of the New Zealand summer, suggested that longterm facilities viability, with profitable alternative uses emerging after the Cup has left town, has proven to be largely a pipe dream. “A maritime Xanadu” may be over-stating it, but you get the drift.

And even when it was the hub of the action, those of us who previously had cherished an image of New Zealand sailors as being a self-reliant, no-nonsense and practical people - sailors who got on with the enthusiastic sailing of their own largely self-maintained and unpretentious boats - found it difficult to reconcile that time-honoured and attractive perception with this new bling-laden image of a razmatazz-dominated display of conspicuous expenditure and kow-towing to the super-rich.

A sport of - and for - the people: the former popular image of New Zealand sailing at AucklandA sport of - and for - the people: the former popular image of New Zealand sailing at Auckland


For far from manifesting a sport of and for the people, the America’s Cup 2021 was instead an overpowering projection of ludicrously high-tech sailing machines funded by luxury international brands, oil-financed airlines and global chemical conglomerates. And though they were being sailed by admittedly exceptionally gifted people, in many cases the super-star sailors’ sense of patriotism, as shown in some cases by changed national identity, was clearly to their talent first, and their home country a very long way second.

Now admittedly if an exceptional human talent emerges, it’s part of what we are to claim that it and they belong to all humanity, with suggestions of some narrow national “ownership” being seen as a frustration of the fulfillment of that talent. While Brazil may have claimed Pele, the world felt it owned him.

Charlie Barr (1864-1911), global sailing’s first supra-national sailing star. He skippered three successful America’s Cup defences for the New York Yacht Club, and set a Transatlantic Record with the schooner AtlanticCharlie Barr (1864-1911), global sailing’s first supra-national sailing star. He skippered three successful America’s Cup defences for the New York Yacht Club, and set a Transatlantic Record with the schooner Atlantic

And in international sailing, 120 years ago Americans reckoned Charlie Barr was their greatest talent. Yet originally he was Scottish to his finger-tips, and it was only when he delivered a new Fife racing cutter across the Atlantic that he realised the American can-do approach offered much better scope for his talents than the rigid class-laden structure which dominated the top levels of sailing on his childhood waters of the Clyde.


So real talent is arguably letting itself down if it is anything other than global in its outlook. And a supra-national pinnacle happening like the America’s Cup must move its venue from time to time if it is to re-charge its batteries. But while the venue and its focus may move on, the location where it has been concentrated for some stagings of the series is left utterly behind, a place of history, stuck with itself. The dogs may bark, the tumbleweed may blow through the streets, but the caravan has moved on.

Inevitably, some places can benefit much more than others from having been part of the America’s Cup experience. But while the Cork advocates may have been convinced that their wonderful harbour and its environs would be one of the notable longterm beneficiaries in America’s Cup history, the rest of us weren’t at all convinced, with our concerns beginning with the most basic factor of all – the weather.


Few if any sports are as reliant as sailing is on the weather. Good weather makes for happy participants and spectators, and good weather with a decent sailing breeze makes for great sailing sport. But let’s be honest with ourselves – how often do we get that happy combination in Ireland?

When everything in sailing in Ireland falls into place in ideal sailing weather, its as good as it gets – as seen here at Calves Week with the Schull Harbour start. Photo: Ribert BatemanWhen everything in sailing in Ireland falls into place in ideal sailing weather, its as good as it gets – as seen here at Calves Week with the Schull Harbour start. Photo: Ribert Bateman

The fact is that, had Cork Harbour been selected, it would have been the furthest venue from the Equator of any America’s Cup location ever. And if we remove the initial race round the Isle of Wight in 1851 from the listing, Cork Harbour becomes a total high latitude outlier when set up against other previous locations, with their much higher ambient temperatures and reliable sunshine time.

Those of us who like the Irish climate just as it is have learned to accept that we’re probably in a minority. But even in this currently mild winter, we’d be the first to admit that any squad in serious longterm training and boat development towards America’s Cup participation in a Cork-staged finale would make a serious strategic mistake in deciding to have their main preparation base in Cork Harbour.

For sure, you can get delightful off-season winter sailing in Ireland – and particularly on the south coast - on brief but blissful days between October and May. But the idea of being involved through that period in a remorseless week-after-week sailing schedule, reaching towards its peak in March and April in Ireland’s weather, is too much of a gamble on luck with the meteorology.


Consequently, far from seeing a sustainable longterm re-development of Cork Harbour in the Rushbrook area at the former Verolme dockyard, the reality was likely to have been temporary-seeming alterations of little subsequent value. As to the idea of the boats being berthed each evening in Cork city many increasingly tedious miles from the race area, if it wasn’t floated on April 1st, then it should have been.

The former Verolme Dockyard in Cork Harbour is a site of enormous potential, but its functioning still has to be sustained through the Irish winterThe former Verolme Dockyard in Cork Harbour is a site of enormous potential, but its functioning still has to be sustained through the Irish winter

The early perception that Cork was simply being used as a stalking horse was proven to be right on target when the mighty resources of Barcelona, with its all-powerful system of Mayoral governance and multiple funds, suddenly came thundering centre-stage and blew every other bid out of the water.


Yet this display of raw political power and focused economic heft in no way diminishes the uniquely attractive nature of the Irish way of sailing. We have our own way of doing things, and they do quietly develop over the years to maintain and accommodate a national sailing scene which, while not being low key, certainly has no generally-held ambitions for noisy space-consuming in-your-face displays. In a broader context, it would be absurd, for instance, to think that Ireland could provide a realistic and popularly-supported Formula 1 venue.

That said, there’ll always be those who set ludicrous targets and tell us their projects “will finally see Ireland take her rightful place up in lights”. But the recent painful experiences in our neighbouring island of having a leader whose oft-touted ambition was to have everything “world-beating” showed us that, when you’re determined to have everything up in lights, then those lights often prove to have been no more than the means of igniting a crash-and-burn outcome.


Yet there are still those who point to Ireland’s long and well-documented history of recreational sailing as being a very eloquent reason for aspiring to host events like the America’s Cup. Against that, it can be argued that the essence of Irish sailing is that it’s a participant and not a spectator sport.

Yachting spectators on the Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) pierhead in the 1880s, when the railway companies provided sailing prizes to encourage public interest and day excursion customersYachting spectators on the Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) pierhead in the 1880s, when the railway companies provided sailing prizes to encourage public interest and day excursion customers

Admittedly in the exciting early days of local railway travel convenience, spectators did travel to audience-friendly locations like the pierheads at Bangor and Dun Laoghaire, and the waterfront at Cobh, to see the big boats race. But that was in a time of conspicuous economic inequality with active sailing participation being for the few, a time moreover before modern stadium sports had started to seriously develop, and long before television.

The way we sail now – somewhere in there is the main street in Schull in West Cork, and most of those in the photo will have spent the day racing in Calves Week. Photo: FacebookThe way we sail now – somewhere in there is the main street in Schull in West Cork, and most of those in the photo will have spent the day racing in Calves Week. Photo: Facebook

Yet nowadays, if you were asked to define the essence of Irish sailing, it’s as an active participant sport. Of course we have our stars, and of course there’s a national and international structure of events within which they can shine. And when they succeed they receive our attention and praise, and if they gallantly fail to make the grade, they have our sympathy. But as for actually watching others sail, your true Irish sailor will only be doing so if she or he happens to be racing against them.

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It has been a very busy lead up to the Christmas break with the America’s Cup teams all at full tilt either on the water or in preparation for what is shaping up to be a very intense New Year. Here’s a brief recap.

Emirates Team New Zealand - Defender

As the defenders of the America’s Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand endured an interrupted end of year session following their nosedive and subsequent bow damage on 21st November. But the mark of this team is that when faced with adversity they double-down on their efforts and come back stronger. The shore team were sublime, working round-the-clock shifts to affect a repair and on the 16th December, ETNZ rolled out the fully restored LEQ12 and barely looked like they had missed a beat. Then came the second AC40, , the following day and immediately the sailors had the boat flying, straight out of the box at warp speed. Make no mistake, the Kiwis are the team who are setting the level in this America’s Cup. A final session on the 22nd December saw 100% tack and gybe foil-to-foil manoeuvres and it’s the standard to match for the challengers. Expect to see two-boat testing of their AC40’s early in the New Year. Impressive.

INEOS Britannia – Challenger of Record

INEOS Britannia – Challenger of Record Photo: Ugo FonolláINEOS Britannia – Challenger of Record Photo: Ugo Fonollá

The launch of T6, the INEOS Britannia testing platform was waited on with much anticipation and its angular design saw the rest of the Cup world sit up and take notice. The planned tow-testing at scale with the fitting of a towing mast was eventually outlawed by an AC Rules Committee ruling that changed the course of the early British programme. The shore crew set to work at pace, completing a remarkable transformation of the platform in double-quick time and on the 22nd December, the team led by multi-Olympic Gold medallists Sir Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott had the ‘Silver Arrow’ flying around the Bay of Palma. Meanwhile shoreside, the power group have welcomed a new member of the team in Matt Rossitter and have been training with the INEOS Grenadiers cycling team. There’s much to cheer now for the British supporters and certainly a team that everyone will be watching in 2023.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

Luna Rossa Prada PirelliLuna Rossa Prada Pirelli Photo: Ivo Ana

After suffering from a crane protocol mis-fire saw the rig crash to the dock and some minor boat damage on the 7th November, it has been all one way traffic, forwards, for the fast-driving Italians. Sessions out in the Bay of Angels off Cagliari have been intense with Jimmy Spithill, Francesco ‘Cecco’ Bruni and Ruggero Tita driving the LEQ12 through all conditions with real style. Technique has been something for all Italian fans to cheer with their upwind windward-heel, super-fast tacks/gybes, and highly consistent flight a marvel to watch. In terms of technology, the team have been hard at work data gathering through their heavily sensored LEQ12 and the programme has been both logical and relentless. This is a team with the burning ambition to go one better than last time and bring the America’s Cup back to Cagliari. On this form, it’s hard to bet against them. 2023 will be a fascinating year for Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.

New York Yacht Club American Magic

New York Yacht Club American MagicNew York Yacht Club American Magic Photo: Paul Todd

The team very much of the moment. American Magic have completed a sublime and intense pre-Christmas training session bringing in new recruits in the power group manning the cyclors and bedding-in the superstar talents of Tom Slingsby and Paul Goodison. There has been no let-up in the systems development, and this has been equalled by the commitment from the sailors who day after day have been out in Pensacola Bay throwing in huge numbers of tacks and gybes and long, long flight times. ‘Impressive’ doesn’t do the team justice – this is a team that has fully recovered from the travails of AC36 and are busy writing a very entertaining and positive next chapter of the America quest to win back the America’s Cup. With AC40’s coming in the Spring and the design for the new AC75 benefitting from the at-scale testing of Patriot, this is a team that everyone has their eyes on in 2023.

Alinghi Red Bull Racing

Alinghi Red Bull RacingAlinghi Red Bull Racing Photo: Alex Carabi 

Based in Barcelona, the Swiss team enjoyed some late summer training through to the middle of November before taking BoatZero into the shed for some extensive surgery to fit a new self-tacking jib system. With no on-water stories to report, this young team kept themselves very busy in the gym and on the cycle trails around the hills just outside the city centre. They are looking increasingly comfortable as a collective and this was beginning to show in the sailing sessions that were getting more intense under the guidance of Sailing Team Advisers Pietro Sibello and Dean Barker. The New Year will see the team enter the most intensive period of training and testing whilst construction on their new team base has just begun literally a few hundred metres from their existing temporary base at the mouth of the port. The learning curve is steep for the Swiss but as two-time winners of the America’s Cup, you can never count them out. 2023 is very much the year for the Swiss to shine.

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