Back to the Future

The 2021 America’s Cup is returning to monohulls from space-age catamarans — and the New York Yacht Club will be a challenger.

America’s Cup
The North American Championship featured 12 Meter monohulls like the ones that once raced for the Cup.Stephen R. Cloutier

Seventy-five-foot monohulls. That's the word from Emirates Team New Zealand, defender of the 2021 America's Cup, and Italy's Luna Rossa, the challenger of record, about the type of boats that will race in the next edition of the greatest yachting show on Earth. Gone are the 50-foot foiling catamarans that Oracle Team USA's owner, Larry Ellison, saw as the sport's future, replaced by a return to tradition that the Kiwis think might attract a bevy of top-notch sailors, as they're more comfortable with monohulls.

In fact, Oracle Team USA may not participate at all. As of this writing, the challenger from America is the New York Yacht Club, which held the Cup from 1851 until 1983. The NYYC is returning to the event, in partnership with Bella Mente Quantum Racing Association, for the first time since 2002-03.

None of this is to say we’ll see Cup crew racing classic 12 Meters or J-Class yachts around the buoys off the Auckland coast the way those boats used to ply the waters off Newport, Rhode Island. Some tantalizing hints are being dropped about the possibility of foiling monohulls, which are no stranger to the racing circuit.

"We do know that cycle grinders, which powered the Kiwis’ catamaran at the most recent America’s Cup, will be allowed. And the monohulls will have more crew: 10 to 12."

For now, it’s anyone’s guess at how the next America’s Cup yachts will look. Class concepts for the 75-footers were scheduled to be released November 30, with the class rule set to be published on March 31.

We do know that cycle grinders, which powered the Kiwis’ catamaran at the most recent America’s Cup, will be allowed. And the monohulls will have more crew: 10 to 12, compared with the half-dozen the cats required.

Challenge XII
Challenge XII, designed for the 1983 America’s Cup, still races. She just got a new jet-black hull and sails.Stephen R. Cloutier

Also new will be Italian fashion house Prada replacing Louis Vuitton as sponsor of the Challenger Selection Series. Prada is a backer of the Luna Rossa team, and interestingly, ­America’s Cup organizers are saying the 2021 event is “intended to be” held in New Zealand, with Italy as a backup venue.

As ­always with the America’s Cup, intrigue is the only certainty.