IACC vs KZ-1

The semifinal matchup of our America's Cup Battle of the classes: The IACC vs the New Zealand Big Boat.

International America’s Cup Class

The Italian defender SUI-100 sailing against the New Zealand Challenger in 2007. Ivo Roviraheliyo/Alinghi

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



KZ-1, New Zealand, the Kiwis’ ambitious monohull that pushed the Deed of Gift design rules to the limit. ©Dan Nerney 1988

In 1988, one of the most infamous showdowns in America’s Cup history took place. After Dennis Conner won back the cup in 1987, New Zealander Michael Fy launched a challenge against the US. The battle came down to two wildly different designs, a massive 90-foot monohull sailed by the Kiwis, and the first foray into the word of catamarans, the American Stars & Stripes.


Michael Fay’s challenge against San Diego Yacht Club brought back the original rules of the Deed of Gift, a surprise to the American’s who intended to keep the cup in 12-metres. The New Zealand entry, dubbed the “Big Boat” weighed in at 39 tons, 120 feet over all, and boasted a 90 foot waterline, the largest waterline allowed by the original deed. The unusual carbon fiber design was a far cry from the 12 meters that the cup sailors were used to. The challenge would be skippered by David Barnes with a massive crew of 40 sailors from the Mercury Bay Boating Club in New Zealand. The Big Boat, while fast, would face a shorter battle on the water than off after facing down the American entry.