The shock of being the first team eliminated from the last America's Cup has been motivating for the New York Yacht Club’s American Magic.
American Magic was the second challenger to begin training in Barcelona for the 37th America's Cup; bought two AC40s, the half-size version of the foiling monohulls that will compete next fall for sailing's biggest prize; and hired helmsman Tom Slingsby, an Australian who is one of the world's most competitive and decorated sailors.
The American-flagged crew will find out how it compares to two-time defending champion Emirates Team New Zealand and four other challengers when the first of three preliminary regattas is sailed this weekend in Vilanova i La Geltrú, Spain, a short distance down the coast from Barcelona. Practice racing is set for Thursday, and a total of eight fleet races on Friday, Saturday and Sunday will determine the top two teams that will meet in the match-race final.
American Magic's exit from the 36th America's Cup in 2021 was hastened when its yacht, Patriot, capsized and nearly sank during a race against Italy’s Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team in the challenger round-robins. The team left New Zealand without having won a race, a deflating result for the New York Yacht Club, which once enjoyed a 132-year winning streak in the competition for the oldest trophy in international sports.
“I think there's a lot of lessons learned. We worked hard to address those lessons," Terry Hutchinson, American Magic's president of sailing operations/skipper, said recently. "Our racing skills were not what they needed to be, so we purchased two AC40s. First and foremost we need to improve our racing skills and we identified that as a weakness. That's a good step forward.”
American Magic has been two-boat testing since July 1. “The learning curve is completely vertical,” Hutchinson said. “Things that we thought we knew with one boat, we completely dismissed once we got two boats next to each other. That's a massive win.”
The AC40s are sailed with a crew of just four, including two helmsmen and two trimmers.
The three challengers from 2021 are back: American Magic, INEOS Britannia and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, which lost to Emirates Team New Zealand in the match. Switzerland's Alinghi returns after a decade-long absence, this time as Alinghi Red Bull Racing, with the backing of Formula One powerhouse Red Bull Racing. France Orient Express Racing Team will make its debut.
“It has been a very busy couple of months for the team here in Barcelona, but when you stop to think about the milestone of finally getting racing again, it’s a pretty significant occasion.” Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Peter Burling said.
Australian Nathan Outteridge, who has extensive America's Cup experience as well as Olympic gold and silver medals, makes his competitive debut as a helmsman with the Kiwis.
“Looking across the fleet, I think it has to be the strongest lineup of sailors we have seen in a very long time,” Burling said. “We get such limited time to race one another, making every race critical for development of the sailing team. And the effort every team has been putting in to be ready for this event has shown that.”
Alinghi also has been training in two AC40s.
“Like every time we compete, the goal is to win," trimmer Bryan Mettraux said. "But for the first regatta of this America’s Cup cycle, the objective is also to gain experience. My personal goal is to be comfortable putting my head out of the boat as much as possible and being good at communicating. This is what will make the difference.”