Billions of dollars have been spent challenging for and defending the America’s Cup since its inception in 1851, making this event the pinnacle of regatta sailing. Here’s a look at the teams vying to be king of the mountain at the 35th America’s Cup.
Oracle Team USA
American businessman Larry Ellison founded OTUSA in 2000 with the aim of wresting the Auld Mug from Team New Zealand, but was eliminated in the Louis Vuitton Cup. The team challenged again — unsuccessfully — in 2007 before embarking on a series of high-profile lawsuits against then-defender Alinghi that culminated in 2010’s lopsided Deed of Gift Challenge, which saw OTUSA claim the Cup. OTUSA hosted AC34 on San Francisco Bay but quickly found itself with a sudden-death deficit of 1-8 against Emirates Team New Zealand. The American flagged team revamped its boat and executed the greatest comeback in sports history.
TEAM STATISTIC: two-time cup winner.
The America’s Cup has been contended since 1851, but to date, only four countries — the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland — have had the honor of defending this highly prized trophy.
Swedish businessman Torbjörn Törnqvist founded Artemis Racing in 2006. Artemis initially focused on monohull racing before participating in the 2011-12 America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) and officially challenging for AC34. Tragically, the team’s first-generation AC72-class catamaran capsized during training on San Francisco Bay, killing Andrew “Bart” Simpson. The team sailed four ACWS races against Luna Rossa aboard its second-generation AC72 but lost. While Törnqvist reportedly spent more than $100 million for just 13 days of AC72 sailing, the team has won three out of nine ACWS regattas during the AC35 cycle.
TEAM STATISTIC: second-time challenger and the most recent Swedish team to compete for the Cup.
Team New Zealand
Team New Zealand, established in 1993, captured the 29th America’s Cup with a 5-0 win against Team Dennis Conner of the United States, then followed with an equally decisive 5-0 win against Italy’s Luna Rossa in AC30. Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi campaign headhunted Team New Zealand’s afterguard prior to AC31 and beat the Kiwis 5-0. Emirates Team New Zealand rebounded, but lost AC32 to Alinghi. The team was sidelined during 2010’s Deed of Gift Challenge but returned for AC34 and was the first to fly on hydrofoils. The Kiwis came within one race of winning AC34. Expect this team to be a serious contender when it hits the water in Bermuda.
TEAM STATISTIC: come within one race of winning the last Cup.
Groupama Team France
There aren’t many offshore-sailing races that skipper Franck Cammas hasn’t won, including the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest circumnavigation and the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race. Cammas founded Groupama Team France (GTF) in 2015 with the goal of leveraging his multihull expertise to win the America’s Cup, a traditionally monohull-centric affair that officially jumped to foiling catamarans with AC34 in 2012. The French-flagged team reached the podium only once during AC35’s nine ACWS regattas, a record that is partially explained by a sailing-related injury that Cammas suffered in late 2015. Consider GTF to be a dark horse.
TEAM STATISTIC: a newcomer to the Cup, but a team with some of the world’s best multihull sailors.
Land Rover BAR
Four-time Olympic sailing gold medalist Sir Ben Ainslie founded the Land Rover BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing) team in June 2014, following his success as tactician aboard Oracle Team USA for the nail-biting comeback races that concluded the 34th America’s Cup. The British-flagged team benefits from private donors, corporate sponsorship and a royal patron (the Duchess of Cambridge), and represents Great Britain’s best hope for reclaiming the Cup since the UK lost the trophy in 1851 to the schooner America. The largely British team proved its mettle by winning four out of nine ACWS regattas this cycle. Expect Land Rover BAR to be a major player.
TEAM STATISTIC: the only team to have a royal patron.
SoftBank Team Japan
SoftBank Team Japan was formed in 2015 with backing from the SoftBank Group and support from the Kansai Yacht Club, marking the first time that a Japanese-flagged team has challenged for the Auld Mug since 2000. As with most startups, SoftBank Team Japan headhunted serious talent — including helmsman/skipper Dean Barker (formerly Team New Zealand’s skipper) and sailing team director and tactician Chris Draper (formerly Luna Rossa’s helmsman) — and recruited three strong national sailors. Despite its late start and newcomer status, SoftBank Team Japan reached the podium in three out of AC35’s nine ACWS events.
TEAM STATISTIC: a Cup first-timer that’s skippered by Emirates Team New Zealand’s former helmsman.
While the 35th America’s Cup teams use largely identical hulls, each group had to design its own foil, wing and systems controls, a design project that has been described by many as massive.