Well I don’t think Bermuda has ever seen anything like that before! America’s Cup racing, more super yachts than you can poke a stick at, tall ships, majestic J-class yachts, live gigs, and oh so many tourists.
Some of the many super yachts visiting Bermuda during the America’s Cup.
The America’s Cup action started on 27th May (a day after it was meant to but strong winds caused the postponement) with day one of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers followed by the Opening Ceremony which marked the beginning of the event with a fire works display over Dockyard, next to the America’s Cup Village. The Village and surrounding area (some of which was built from reclaimed land) was used as bases for each of the six competing teams, plus the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, hospitality lounges, a kids play area, media centre, big screens, stage and much more!
I must say that Bermuda’s Great Sound makes a stunning natural amphitheatre for yacht racing – if you can call the nearly 50ft foiling catamarans that. This new generation boat flies over water on foils at almost 50 knots, and turns (or to be correct, tack or gybes) like a ballerina on her toes so poised and controlled (if they do it right). It looks easy. All the while the crew of six run from one side of the boat to the other as they change direction. In this iteration of the America’s Cup, the hydraulic power on five out of the six boats was generated by arm grinders, with the exception of Team NZ that opted for leg power in the form of cyclors. Perhaps one of the biggest kept secrets of this campaign.
So after a gruelling qualifiers that saw Groupama Team France knocked out, Artemis Racing Sweden took on SoftBank Team Japan, and Emirates Team New Zealand fought it out against Land Rover BAR in the Challenger Semi Finals. One of the most remembered parts of this would have to have been the pitch-pole (capsize) by Emirates Team New Zealand which caused significant damage to their boat. But the weather gods were on their side which meant sailing the following day was postponed and they had another day beavering away in the shed to make amends to the boat. There was no turning back after that and they were comfortable winners over Land Rover BAR. In the other group, Artemis Racing and SoftBank Team Japan were closely matched and highly competitive. Both teams had everything on the line and were out for redemption. After a couple of days of wind at the upper end of the range it was going SoftBank’s way, but it wasn’t to be as Artemis cleaned up to take the first to 5 wins, and guaranteeing them a place in the Challenger Finals alongside Emirates Team New Zealand.
In between all the America’s Cup action, the Tall Ships arrived in Bermuda and were welcomed from St Georges to Hamilton with a Tall Ships Festival on Front Street. These ships were simply amazing and felt like taking a step back in time – or perhaps to the world of pirates… or was that just me?
Back to the Cup. Emirates Team New Zealand and Artemis Racing were the last Challengers standing. One of these teams would be going on to Challenge Oracle Team USA in the Cup Match. Emirates were just too strong, slick and fast for Artemis and that was to be the end of Artemis’ challenge for the 35th America’s Cup.
The Match. The opening weekend, and Emirates Team New Zealand came out on fire. Their boat speed looked superior and they were just unfazed, calm and cool. They cleaned up four out of four races on the Opening Weekend. Back to the boat shed for Oracle Team USA as they looked to use the 5 day gap between racing to make improvements to their boat. Five days later they came out, much more competitive and on the first day took home one win each. Team NZ now needed 3 to win. Oracle Team USA needed 6.
NZ and USA flags lined Bermuda’s narrow roads. Wrapped on to power poles and clinging for their lives (or until someone ripped them down), it was a very patriotic time…. and emotions were running high. You could cut the tension with a knife.
The second day of racing for the weekend was so important for both teams. If NZ could nail two more wins, they were on match point, but if USA could squeeze in two more, it was getting nail-bitingly close. It wasn’t to be for USA as NZ took home two more to claim Match Point. We were back the next day wondering if it would be a repeat of San Fran and one of the biggest comebacks in sporting history. But NZ remained composed, unflappable and simply too good. After the first race of the day they were crowned the winners of the 35th America’s Cup and it was announced the Auld Mug would be returning to NZ. With Pete Burling at the Helm, he claimed the title as the youngest helmsman to win the America’s Cup. Well done Pete.
In between the America’s Cup racing, the J-Class regatta took place off Murray’s Anchorage, these beauties were amazing to see. With a crew of around 30 they maneuverer their way around the course with what looks like, ease. Their ability to quickly put up and pull down spinnakers and gennakers was very impressive. Oh, now these are real sail boats.
So now it’s all over it’s a little strange. The pack down begins, people start to leave and it just seems to all be over too soon. I must say Bermuda really turned it on for the month of June. Let’s just hope that sailing will leave it’s mark on Bermuda and future generations will have learnt something about the sport and continue on to represent Bermuda in years to come.
Kiwi in Bermuda