The races, and the results, of the upcoming 37th America’s Cup Preliminary Regatta presented by NEOM in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, don’t count toward the real America’s Cup races next summer and fall, but they do go a long way in establishing the pecking order of challengers and defenders alike. These teams are built with and around sailors that hate to lose, so reputations are stake.
November 29, the official practice day, will mark the second time all six America’s Cup teams will meet with their AC40s in one-design trim. The New York YC’s American Magic squad emerged as the victor from the first drifter of a dust up in Vilanova i la Geltrú, Spain earlier this year, but with pitiful sailing conditions there wasn’t much to glean from the results other than the importance of a well-timed tow-in start when unassisted takeoff is impossible.
Sailing conditions in Jeddah in November have proven fruitful for Alinghi Red Bull Racing, which was first to arrive in the venue three weeks ago and has put in the most hours of two-boat training and lineups on the Red Sea. American Magic had earlier made a case to not sail the regatta on grounds of safety for the team, but that was denied by the race organization, so their AC40 assets and shore team have been deployed to Jeddah where they will soon join squads from Orient Team Express, INEOS Britannia, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and Emirates Team New Zealand.
The race schedule includes three days of fleet races, with the first two days all fleet races. The third and final day is scheduled to have two additional fleet races to seed the top two teams in a Match-Race final. Three fleet races each on race days 1 and 2, before the final day scheduled to have 2 further fleet races that will determine the top two teams to qualify for the winner’s-take-all final Match Race to decide the ultimate winner of the event.
“You have to be consistent over all three days of racing prior to the match race final and do your best to pick-up points where you can,” said Alinghi Red Bull Racing skipper Arnaud Psarofaghis. “For us it will be about boat handling, both tactically and technically. There is no margin for error to have a bad round.”
According to the regatta’s Notice of Race, the racing area is immediately offshore from the Jeddah Yacht Club and Marina in the Red Sea, and races will be broadcast live on the America’s Cup YouTube Channel at 05:30 EST on race days. The schedule for the Regatta is as follows: Tuesday 28 November Official Practice, Wednesday 29 November Official Practice, Thursday 30 November Race Day 1 – 3 Fleet Races, Friday 1 December Race Day 2 – 3 Fleet Races, Saturday 2 December Race Day 3 – 2 Fleet Races, Match Race Final (1 race).