The Protocol Governing the 35th America’s Cup gave the event’s Commercial Commissioner Harvey Schiller until Dec. 31, 2014 to announce the venue and dates of the Match, and after a year of postulating on potential host cities from San Francisco to Newport to San Diego stakeholders settled upon Bermuda, the quaint British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean.
To the chagrin of hard-line traditionalists, the June 2017 spectacle will be the first time the Match will be staged outside the defender’s territory. To which, says Oracle Team USA’s Jimmy Spithill, “That’s sport.” For the families, shore teams, sponsors, and fortunate spectators, they may certainly heed the wisdom of one Mark Twain who wrote, “You can go to heaven if you want. I’d rather stay in Bermuda.”
And so the Cup will go to the island, chosen over San Diego on the basis of what it could deliver: a hospitable and visually appealing racing venue in an ideal television broadcast time zone.
“[We wanted] great sailing conditions so racing would be exciting,” said Schiller at the announcement, explaining his rational for the remote venue. It also had to support the stadium sailing concept and have a public village accessible to sponsors and fans.
“Time zones were very important for future broadcasts,” added Schiller. “And we wanted to be somewhere where we would be embraced by the community.”
Outlining the next several years of Cup-themed racing, Schiller confirmed previously announced America’s Cup World Series venues in Portsmouth, England, Gothenberg, Sweden, Bermuda, and eventually Chicago for 2016. All events will be sailed in foiling AC45s. The Red Bull Youth America’s will return as well in 2017, also in the foiling 45s. The AC35 events themselves (qualifiers, etc.), of course, will be sailed in foiling AC62s, with possible lead-up venues still be determined.
“It’s a remarkable moment,” said Bermuda’s Premier Michael Dunkley. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity. There’s no better vivid or hospitable venue than Bermuda to host . . . with near perfect sailing, temperate year round training, time-zone location, the intimate setting of Great Sound, and hospitality of Bermuda.”
The south basin of the Royal Naval Dockyard will serve as the epicenters for sailing teams and spectators. Dunkley said the public property, in need of development, would host all team bases in one location with an integrated village and a “first ever pit-row experience.” It will provide an “unprecedented venue” for superyachts to be part of the action as well, he said. The island would be far more accessible and appealing to the superyacht fleet that transits the Eastern Seaboard in the late spring, so it’s certainly far more feasible than San Francisco or San Diego.
In terms of housing a potential influx well into the thousands, Dunkley mentioned several new hotel products were about to break ground, as well as cruise ships and long-term home rentals as viable options. “We believe we’ll be able to meet the demands,” he said.
Representing the challengers of the day were Emirates Team New Zealand’s COO, Kevin Shoebridge, Team France’s Frank Cammas, Luna Rossa’s Max Sirena, and Artemis Racing’s Nathan Outteridge. At stage right was Jimmy Spithill, with Red Bull can in hand.
“This is great news,” said Sirena. “The team is happy because we’re still working in multiple venues and now we can focus on one venue. [Bermuda] is a great place to sail, and it’s something new that gives us an opportunity to move forward.”
Shoebridge endorsed the venue as well and offered that they would continue to consider the viability of their challenge with continued discussions with the team’s commercial partners. Cammas said he agreed the time zone was good for Europe, that they’d “like to be there,” and were also continuing to work on securing sponsorship.
Artemis Racing as been operating from its old base in Alameda, Calif., and Outteridge said that since the 34th Cup ended, they’ve been designing and sailing on their own foiling AC45s. With confirmation of a venue, the design team, he said, could now start to focus on understanding the weather in Bermuda’s spring and early summer months.
“It’s a lighter air venue,” he said. “So we need to understand the weather range and design the fast boat.”
Ainslie, short and sweet as usual, acknowledged the British challenger’s ties with the island and lauded the venue as both challenging and appealing.
Spithill, a family man himself, hinted at one important point from the sailors’ point of view: Many of them have growing families, and while it can be disruptive to move from venue to venue, the wealthy resort island is a proper place to temporarily rear the Cup’s extended families. “It will be a nice fit,” said Spithill. “The racecourse is a great little track. The great thing about Bermuda is you can see it all. It’ll be challenging. We’ll get a variation of conditions, which means passing. For good racing you need passing, and we’ll get that. It’s a new track, so for all of us, it’s interesting to get out there and learn it.”