295-foot Royal Huisman sailing yacht Athena
It’s hard to imagine a more acute juxtaposition in the sailing world than the scene of two AC72-class catamarans moored in front of a dock that’s gunwale-to-gunwale full of superyachts. Where AC72s rely on carbon fiber, for example, superyachts (vessel age and design depending, of course) depend on long-leaf yellow pine, teak, fiberglass and steel; where an AC72 is aerodynamically faired, the superyachts boast graceful-looking sheer lines and prominent bow sections; where the AC72 uses a hard airplane wing, superyachts carry traditional spars and soft sails; where the AC72 is festooned with sponsorship logos, the superyacht remains aesthetically pleasing. And that’s not to speak of the differences in interior finish (hint: AC72s are nothing but deck and mesh), displacement or speed. Aside from the fact that both types of yachts are wildly expensive, of course, the only real similarity between these two worlds is the small armies of professional, uniformed crew members who ensure that the vessels are always in Bristol condition.
All weekend, the purpose-built AC72s dominated the racecourse, thrilling shore-side crowds with their impressive foil-borne speeds and spectacular foil-to-foil gybes. Starting today, however, their more traditional harbor-mates took the stage. Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) are enjoying a lay day, allowing their shore crews to repair any collateral damage incurred on the racecourse and giving the superyachts an opportunity to play on the spectator-friendly course.
Unlike Cup racing, the considerably lower-octane Superyacht Regatta wasn’t televised, nor it was widely publicized around town (the clean, logo-free aesthetic applies here, too), but it certainly boasted its share of majestic lines on the water. This international event featured gentlemanly staggered starts and a fleet of eight yachts—precisely double the number of teams competing for the actual America’s Cup—that span the evolution of yacht design from a replica of the original Cup-winning schooner America to the 285-foot, triple-masted Athena to USA-76, which competed for the Cup in 2003.
Superyacht regattas have been a key part of America’s Cup rest-day traditions since the 30th America’s Cup, which unfurled in Auckland in 2000, and AC34 is no exception. The event spans three days of handicap racing (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) in two classes, Racing and Exhibition, with owners and crew of the four-strong Racing fleet using the International Super Yacht Rule to determine the winner of the America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta Trophy, which will be awarded this Friday.
The Exhibition class raced first today, with the Racing class standing by until the course emptied. Once the guns stopped sounding for the Racing class, USA-76 had captured the bullet, followed by Adele and Adela.