America’s Cup Battle of the Classes: The Final Showdown

Winner takes all, the final battle of America's Cup Designs: The J-Class vs The IACC.

You cast your vote all month long as we put the best America’s Cup designs of the last 166 years up against each other! Now it all comes down to just two classes, the iconic J-Class, and the much loved IACC. Who will win? You decide!


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JH1 Lionheart, the winner of the America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta in Bermuda. Gilles Martin-Raget

In 1903, motivated by the extremity of Reliance, the largest racing sloop to ever sail the Cup, under the Seawanhaka Rule, Nathaniel Herreshoff suggested a new rule aimed to make racing more wholesome and durable. What resulted was one of the most iconic classes in sailing.

Under the new Universal Rule, overall length and displacement were included in the rating to benefit the heavy hulls of the large racing sloops, without handicapping sail area. The decision was controversial for British and American clubs who wished to pursue speed as the ultimate goal for the America’s Cup class.


Under a revised Universal Rule, James Lipton would continue to seek the cup with Shamrock IV and V, but was kept at bay by American defenders, Resolute and Enterprise. Carrying on Lipton’s legacy, another British challenger, of aviation fame, Sir Thomas Sopwith mounted a series of challenges, unsuccessfully facing down Rainbow and Ranger.

Notable Yachts: Shamrock V, Ranger, Rainbow, Endeavor, Resolute


The International America’s Cup Class

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Alinghi defends against a New Zealand Challenger in the 32nd America’s Cup. Ivo Rovira

In the wake of the controversy over the Mercury Bay Challenge in 1988, a new rule was put into place. The International America’s Cup Class (IACC) was introduced to replace the 12-metre class after its 30 year stint as the preferred design. The new yachts aimed to preserve the heritage of the 12-meter by establishing restrictions that would place equal weight on yacht design and seamanship skills.


The first challenge saw an Italian team, Il Moro di Venezia take on Bill Koch and Buddy Melges’ America3. The Americans one again triumphed, but their victory was short lived. Russel Coutts quickly mounted a challenge from Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and handily defeated Dennis Conner 5-0 with his uncannily fast “Black Magic.”

The IACC would bring about a series of Cup changes of hand. While the American’s successfully defended the first challenge, New Zealand, held the trophy for several years. In 1999, another America’s Cup milestone was hit, when for the first time in the event’s history, the trophy was contested without an American challenger or defender in the finals.

In 2003, a host of strong challengers battled for the right to challenge the Cup in Auckland during the challenger selection series. The Swiss syndicate, Alinghi, having poached New Zealand sailors to aid their challenge, defeated the Louis Vuitton Cup trials and in turn took the America’s Cup 5–0 for the Swiss. Alinghi became the first European team in 152 years to win the trophy. Alinghi would go on to defend the cup again in 2007 against BMW Oracle.


Notable Yachts: SUI-100, SUI-64, “Black Magic, America3