PRADA America’s Cup Word Series Auckland and Christmas Race

Over three days in mid-December, Emirates Team New Zealand was triumphant, topping the results table with five wins, and only one loss (in the round 4 race against American Magic). At the other end of the table was INEOS TEAM UK with six losses. However, no-one is being complacent; everyone is well aware at how quickly a team’s fortunes can change.

The PRADA Cup Challenger Series

Since it began on January 15th, this regatta has had more than its fair share of exhilarating and heart-stopping moments. None more so than on January 17th, when American Magic’s Patriot – with Kiwi helmsman Dean Barker at the wheel – suffered potentially catastrophic damage following a high-speed crash and capsizing in a squall.

Terry Hutchinson, skipper and executive director of American Magic, spoke after the incident: “First and foremost, we are incredibly grateful and thankful that everybody is safe. The team did an incredible job getting Patriot back to the dock.” The arrival of the American AC75 back to the team base in Wynyard Quarter was due not only to the perseverance of the team, but that of the greater Auckland and America’s Cup communities. “The response from the local community here was incredible, and you can’t give enough thanks to the police, fire and local authorities for their quick response,” said Hutchinson shortly after stepping ashore, in darkness, alongside his exhausted but relieved teammates.

American Magic’s capsize resulted in a new safety rule being introduced. Now a boat is immediately ruled out of the race as soon as it capsizes, thus permitting quicker rescue assistance. Under the previous rule, the boat was only disqualified when it received outside help.

Having reviewed the incident, regatta director Iain Murray explained that he could not call American Patriot disqualified until five minutes after Patriot was on its side. Speaking to, he said: “It has become very clear to everyone that when a boat capsizes, it’s 99 per cent out of the race. We are trying to bring the safety forward to make it as efficient as we can. After reviewing what happened last weekend when they took nearly five minutes for that assistance to be given, we felt there was a four-minute window of opportunity that that help could have been directed straight at the yacht. We want to get there; we want to get a head count and make sure everything is alright. Our target is to do that within a minute, and we want to render assistance straight away. It’s a small change to the rule but automatically it allows people to get on the job.”

American Patriot capsize
American Patriot after the capsize.
Copyright COR36 – Studion Borlemghi.
The damage to American Patriot capsize
The damage to American Patriot after the capsize.
Copyright COR36 – Studion Borlemghi.

The 36th America’s Cup, presented by PRADA

These adrenaline-fuelled events reach a crescendo from March 6th to15th, when Cup defender Emirates Team New Zealand will be racing the winner of the PRADA Cup Challenger Series. The winner will be the first team to score seven points.

The racing schedule has two races per day planned for March 6th, 7th, and 10th to 15th. Additional reserve days have been scheduled but the intention is to complete the event on the weekend of March 13th-14th, weather permitting.

In Browns Bay, you can watch the races on the big screen TV in the window of Penguino’s Ice Cream Parlour in Phoenix Plaza.

The AC75

Designed to fly

In August 2012, grainy images of a 72-foot black and red catamaran seemingly flying across Waitemata Harbour caused quite a stir.


“OMG photoshopped of course,”

 “Can’t be foiling – anyone can see from that picture they’re simply launched off a wave.”

 “On close inspection it is photoshop. You can see where the bow and stern were in the water. They have cut, lifted an pushed the boat forward ½ a boat length. Shame. That was cool for about 5 min”

But it was all true! After many months of covert R&D meetings and discreet testing on Lake Arapuni in the Waikato (far away from prying eyes on Auckland Harbour), the secret was finally out: Emirates Team New Zealand had introduced foils to the America’s Cup.

Ultimately this innovative foiling “golden bullet” did not win the 35th America’s Cup for Emirates Team New Zealand – but it did forever change the face of top-flight yacht racing. The subsequent increase in performance for America’s Cup boats has been greater in the last nine years than at any other point in the event’s 170-year history, resulting in the AC75.

A new evolution this America’s Cup is the twin-skin mainsail. The double-sail skins combine with the spar to form a wing, generating the power the AC75 needs to foil.

Underwater is where things get really interesting, but the story starts inside the boat. The foil cant system is brand new technology – a battery-driven, hydraulic power-unit that supplies the energy to lift and lower the immensely strong and heavy foil cant arms. As the boat swaps tacks, the cant system is activated, placing one hydrofoil in the water, and lifting the other one out, where its weight becomes ballast. At the end of the arms lie the teams’ secret weapons – the foil wings. Apart from basic rules governing dimensions and weight, these are open territory for designers.