Victory in the water

It’s the longest-running battle in sport. This week, the America’s Cup World Series comes to Portsmouth and the epic sea clash between Ben Ainslie and his former teammate turned bitter rival resumes. The celebrated sports writer David Walsh talks to the combatants in Britain and Bermuda, and explains the history of this famous race.

Ben Ainslie goes to work by boat, docks at Portsmouth harbour and heads straight to the gym. We meet for breakfast afterwards, then talk about his sporting life and his latest challenge, one that makes winning four Olympic gold medals appear straightforward. “Before you leave,” he says, “I want to show you something.” We walk through a large room with lines of desks and onto a balcony. He looks out over the harbour, his left arm indicating the shore. “That’s where the spectators will be. Hundreds of thousands of them.” His right arm points down to the water. “The finishing line will be there. It’s perfect.”

He’s talking about the finishing line for the next leg of the America’s Cup World Series, a racing circuit featuring the best sailors in the world. The series, which began in 2015, is the first stage of competition in the 35th America’s Cup. It will end with two finalist teams going head-to-head in Bermuda next year. If Ainslie’s team wins the series, he will have a shot at the final stage. It’s his dream, perhaps his destiny, to bring the trophy back to Britain for the first time.

From here you can see the Isle of Wight, where Ainslie now lives. That’s where it all began. In August 1851, Queen Victoria sat on the royal yacht on this stretch of sea between the mainland and the island. She had come to watch a fleet of yachts compete for a cup presented by the Royal Yacht Squadron at nearby Cowes. The competitors raced once round the island, a 53-mile test involving mostly British boats. One had come from America, a 101ft schooner that looked different from all the others. These Americans were from the New World and were both entrepreneurs and sailors. To them, sport was like business. Their yacht was called America, and they had come to win.

Had they arrived in a spaceship, they might not have seemed more alien to the genteel members of the local yachting community. They seemed too eager, too sure of themselves, and there were stories of all the boats they had overtaken on their journey across the Atlantic.

Their opportunity to show what they could do came with the cup, for which they were one of many boats lined up at the start. Once the race began, most of the other competitors hardly knew which way the American boat went.

Close to the finish, Queen Victoria saw the schooner fly past. “Who is second?” she asked.

Britain’s best was Aurora, 22 minutes behind, and an hour would pass before the next-best yacht crossed the line. The trophy was taken to the United States and donated to the New York Yacht Club. It would become known as the America’s Cup, “a perpetual challenge cup for friendly competition between nations”. Perhaps that was Britain’s mistake: to regard the cup as a bit of a lark for gentlemen sailors.

Nine races would be run before the first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens, in 1896. The British boat lost every time. On water, the Old World couldn’t hold a candle to the new. The Athens Games came and went, the 20th century dawned and, every two or three years, Britain and the US would have their maritime joust. Only the margin of victory changed, never the result.

Sir Thomas Lipton was Britain’s most persistent challenger, sailing his boat across the Atlantic, fighting the good fight, returning repeatedly for more. He was known as “the lovable loser” because he accepted defeat with good grace and was able to boost his business through friendships made in sailing. The Auld Mug, as the trophy was called, had found an almost permanent home at the New York Yacht Club.

The Americans would hold it for 132 years, which many believe is the longest winning run in the history of international sport. Eventually the cup would be taken from them, in 1983, by Australia, not by a challenger from the Old World. After more than a century of failure, the British had more or less given up: a white flag flew where once there had been a mainsail.

Perhaps the country was waiting all this time for someone different. Someone who sailed to win. A competitor who feared no one. Someone who regarded a yacht race as Queen Victoria’s aide had on that day in 1851: “There is no second.” Someone with an almost un-British attitude.

Ainslie was born on February 5, 1977, in Cheshire. A key moment in his life came when his parents decided to move from the north of England to a fisherman’s cottage in Cornwall. Roddy, his father, was a keen sailor and wanted to live close to the sea. Their new home was just by Restronguet Creek, near Falmouth, a two-mile stretch of water that may have been the safest and most idyllic place for a kid to discover the water. Young Ben took to it like a duck.

His first boat was an Optimist dinghy and, once he took that little sail boat onto the water, he felt different. On land, he was shy and unsure of himself. Towards the end of primary school, boys had picked on him and the bullying continued through secondary school.

On water, he was a different animal. There, he couldn’t be pushed around or made to feel he didn’t belong. He loved being in a boat and it brought to the surface his fiercely competitive nature. He competed against two local boys and he learnt to take care of himself. The boys were unforgiving opponents and Ainslie fitted right in. The more aggressive the manoeuvre, the better. They took it, they gave it and they forgot about it — at least until they were back in the clubhouse, where they talked endlessly about it.

It was clear from his early teens that Ainslie had potential. The question was how much he wanted success. Would he carry the aggression and the will to win that he showed at the beginning into the future? He remembers the day he was forced to consider that question.

“It was a conversation I had with my dad. I was doing a race and, because something went wrong, I sort of gave up. I hadn’t realised that he was watching. I went home and he asked how the race went. I said, ‘Well, it was a bit rubbish,’ and he said, ‘Oh, that’s interesting, because I was watching and I saw that you gave up.’

“I was about 13 at the time and he said, ‘You need to make up your mind on this — you are old enough now. You have to decide whether you really want to do it. If you do, I will help you, but if you’re just going to take part, it’s a lot of time and effort from your mother and myself, and we’d have to look at that. In other words, if you’re going to do it for fun, go and do it for fun, but don’t expect us to chip in.’ That really had an effect on me and I thought, you’re bloody right. If you’re going to do this and put all this effort into it, then you have to be successful. Otherwise, there is no point.”

He didn’t just want to be a good sailor — he needed to be the best. Winning was the only thing. At times, he thought it was Mr Hyde’s response to Dr Jekyll: shy, unassertive and almost too nice on land, but he liked being the tough guy on water. Don’t mistake the person in the boat for the polite, well-mannered boy you were just talking to in the car park.

Ainslie wins silver at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, aged 19

Mostly, he won; and when he didn’t, people would see he was hurting. “Better luck next time,” they’d say. He hated passing it off lightly. “There may never be a next time,” he would think, because that was how it seemed to him.

He made good friends in sailing because, even though he was ultra-competitive, he was likeable. His contemporaries Iain Percy, Andrew Simpson and Paul Goodison all knew what he was like: the nicest fellow you’ll meet in the bar afterwards, but the most aggressive you’ve ever seen on water. The gloves came off just before he stepped onto the boat.

What his friends didn’t know was that he was an obsessive worrier. Would he have enough money for this? What if he scratched the car? Was he as fit as he needed to be? But, most of all, he worried about his weight. He’d moved into the Laser dinghy class and you had to be the correct weight, not a pound over it. By now, Percy had gone to Bristol University, and Ainslie, Simpson and Goodison would go there to see him.

His anxieties recognised no boundaries. Ainslie also worried that his teenage years were disappearing and he wasn’t doing the things a normal teenager should do. Dr Jekyll had to live his life, too. So he went partying with the boys in Bristol. Drank with them and enjoyed it. Well, up to a certain point.

“I was so concerned about the effect of alcohol on my system that I’d come home at, say, midnight, one o’clock, and go running. It may sound strange, but it’s the truth. I’d set off, pounding around the streets of Bristol in the early hours, purely because I felt really bad that I’d been drinking. I had to go for a run to burn it off, get it out of my system. It sounds obsessive behaviour, but it’s just the way I was, because I was so focused on the whole thing. I was completely fastidious about not doing anything that would harm my fitness. If I didn’t do that, I’d feel really guilty.”

He was 18 then, preparing for his first Olympic Games, in Atlanta in 1996. Teenagers don’t generally get to compete in Olympic sailing events — at that age, they’re not even wet behind the ears. But people sensed that this kid would be different, because they’d seen it. That almost crazed focus when he sailed and his utter refusal to see any rival as his superior. The GB coaches and his teammates were thrilled that he won a silver medal at Atlanta, but he couldn’t see it like that. They tried to convince him it was a great achievement for a 19-year-old and, in part, they succeeded. Still, he returned from the US with a medal in his suitcase and a grudge in his heart.

Ainslie had been beaten to the gold medal by the Brazilian Robert Scheidt. Hugely respected and recognised as the best, Scheidt got under Ainslie’s skin. This was partly because a teenager’s skin is thin, but also because of the deference that rivals showed Scheidt and Ainslie’s sense that when the Brazilian was being all classy and polite, it was predicated on his being the main man.

By the last race, only Ainslie could catch Scheidt, who was otherwise assured of the gold. Both were disqualified from that race. Scheidt moved over the start line before the gun sounded and was eliminated. Focused on not giving his rival an advantage, Ainslie went a fraction of a second later. Before the gun. Ainslie had to settle for silver — it all ended before it began. The medals were decided. Gold for Scheidt. Angst for Ainslie, who didn’t believe it had been an accident.

“I was a little bit naive — I sort of fell for it. I don’t know if I’m right, I never spoke to Robert. I don’t know whether he intentionally realised he was over the line and was hoping he would take the rest of the fleet and myself with him, or he just sort of made a mistake. I don’t actually know what went through his mind, but it seemed to me that he realised, ‘I am over the line here and, if I carry on, there is a chance I will take the others with me.’ If he did this, he was being very canny.”

Ainslie chose to see it like that. Four years later, at the Sydney Games, he was gunning for Scheidt. It came down to the last race but this time Ainslie had the advantage. Provided Scheidt didn’t finish in the top 20, the gold medal would go to the Englishman. It was clear to Ainslie what had to be done. Forget about the race, pin down Scheidt near the back of the fleet and keep him there. He raced not to win but to stop the Brazilian getting to the front.

It was unrelentingly negative or tactically brilliant, depending upon your viewpoint. Sailing people understood the skill and focus Ainslie had applied, though some still thought it wasn’t exactly sporting. Sir Roger Bannister, who has long been seen as a moral guardian for Britain’s sporting values, said it was a ridiculous way to win a gold medal. From Sir Roger, this was stinging criticism.

In Scheidt’s home city, Sao Paulo, they burnt effigies of Ainslie. Death threats followed.

Jimmy Spithill was then what you would call a fair-dinkum Aussie. He was just 21, but already knew he wanted to spend his life on boats. Big boats. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t watching smaller boats race at the Sydney Olympics. He watched that last heat in the Laser class and was riveted.

“Ben was having a battle with Robert Scheidt. One of the coolest things I ever saw. Effectively he was match-racing Scheidt, trying to take him out, and win that gold medal for himself. What he did was awesome. Unreal to watch. He was very aggressive, very competitive. Scheidt wasn’t expecting it. I don’t think he was as aggressive as Ben, who was using the rules to get an advantage.”

That pom had something. It reminded him of when he boxed a few years before and this tall, thin guy with glasses walked into the gym — no muscle, nerdy look about him. They asked Spithill to do a few rounds’ sparring with the newcomer. It wasn’t like it would be any trouble, because Jimmy could take care of himself and this guy didn’t look much.

Inside the ring, Spithill was relaxed, expectant. He got punched on the nose, he tried to hit back, but the nerd was quick, had a long reach and knew what he was doing. Jimmy got a hiding. He walked away with a lesson for life. Never again would he judge a book by its cover, and not in a million years would he say poms were soft.

Spithill grew up in Elvina Bay, about an hour’s drive north of Sydney. About 25 families lived there and journeys to school, to shops, to an airport, to wherever, began on a boat. He now resides in a £4m home in Warwick, on the island of Bermuda. This is where Team Oracle USA — a yacht-racing syndicate formed in 2003 and current holder of the cup — has its headquarters. The rewards have come because Spithill has been the outstanding ocean sailor of his generation.

At 20, he became the youngest ever helmsman in America’s Cup history when skippering Young Australia in the 2000 campaign. Ten years later, he became the youngest-ever winning skipper when Oracle beat the defending yacht, Alinghi, a European boat, in Valencia. Three years ago, he was again at the helm when Oracle produced the greatest comeback ever seen in the competition, turning an 8-1 deficit against New Zealand into a 9-8 victory.

We are sitting on a sofa at the team’s Bermuda base, and in this affluent corner of the developed world, Spithill is recalling a childhood that sounds like an Australian Huckleberry Finn.

It was like that for Spithill and his pals. Some days, they’d miss the ferry to the mainland and swim across. They’d go from buoy to buoy, stopping for a short rest at each marker, then straight to lost property at the school to plead for some second-hand uniforms. They got little tin boats for Christmas, not bicycles. When kids on the mainland were looking for cars, they were asking for a bigger boat.

A youthful Jimmy Spithill shows his prowess in Australia

He well remembers his first sailing boat. “We had this thing called the ‘council clean-up’ that happened three or four times a year. So this big barge would go around the bays and you could throw any bit of junk that you had onto it. Old fridges, televisions, that sort of thing. One of our neighbours had this old boat on the rubbish heap, Dad spotted it and we grabbed it. We then repaired it, painted it, and someone gave us an old sail. It was like an Optimist — it had a main and a jib and a spinnaker. I was probably 10 or 11 at the time and it was mine.”

He tells of a day when he and his little sister, Katie, sailed over to the mainland for a race. It was 2½ hours there, through waters that were choppy and difficult. When they arrived, they were told the race had been cancelled. They returned to the island, another 2½-hour trip, in difficult conditions. He was 12, Katie was seven. No one worried, because when it came to the water, Jimmy knew what he was doing.

Then there was their brother Tom’s first taste of competition. “Katie and I were together because you needed two in the boat for this race. Tom would have been about three and was still in nappies. Somebody hadn’t turned up and his partner was scrambling around looking for a crew. ‘Why don’t you take Tom,’ says Dad. ‘Just stick him in there.’ So they strap a life jacket on him and Tom did his first race. I think he fell asleep on the boat. They did pretty well because there wasn’t a whole lot of wind and they were super-light.”

Spithill’s other sport was boxing. “It was good because I got bullied a lot. Growing up in Australia with red hair and freckles wasn’t a good look. Now everyone wants something different, but then, red hair meant there was a target on your back. At a certain point you get sick of being the punchbag, it gets old pretty quickly. And you have a choice: you keep running away from it, or you finally say, ‘Enough is enough, time to deal with it.’

“I remember the weight coming off my shoulders when I did finally stand up to one of them. It just brought so much self-confidence. It seems funny now, but for a kid, that was an amazing feeling.”

More than anything else, the thing that Elvina Bay gave Spithill was a dream. Colin Beashel lived there. So, too, did Rob Brown. These men were part of the crew of Australia II, the 12-metre yacht that, in 1983, became the first non-American boat to win the America’s Cup. The 132-year stranglehold that the New York Yacht Club had on the Auld Mug was broken with the help of two men from Elvina Bay. Spithill grew up working with Beashel in his boatyard. To the teenager, Beashel was a god.

“I sort of saw my path because of 1983 with Australia II,” Spithill says. “Colin Beashel went to six Olympics, but the thing I loved about him was that he had no ego. Older people say that the America’s Cup campaign in ’83 pulled people together in Australia. It really lifted the whole country. I was only four and I can’t remember any of the racing, but I have a vivid memory of the party at the Beashels’. They have a slipway down from the boatyard and everyone was there. Drinking, singing, and it went on and on.”

By 18, Spithill was ready for the world beyond Elvina Bay. The businessman and seasoned mariner Syd Fischer took him under his wing. Opportunities came early and Fischer showed Spithill the way to skippering a boat in the America’s Cup at age 20.

From there, a lot of good things happened until Spithill got the chance to skipper Team Oracle. That meant working for Larry Ellison, founder of the computer technology giant Oracle, and judged by Forbes to be the seventh-wealthiest man in the world, with a $50bn fortune. It was inevitable that his path would cross with the greatest Olympic sailor, Ainslie, once he joined Oracle. Although the pair are now going head-to-head, they had worked together during Ainslie’s Olympic years but it never amounted to much, because the Games were Ainslie’s priority.

That changed after London 2012 because Ainslie had won his fourth consecutive gold medal and was ready for something different. Spithill and Team Oracle saw their opportunity: “We needed someone to come in and get the second boat going to create real competition,” says Spithill. “There weren’t too many four-time Olympic gold medallists out there and it just made a lot of sense to have Ben working with us.” Ainslie’s first taste of the America’s Cup was working for the Australian team.

At the beginning, things didn’t go as planned. Spithill’s boat capsized during a training run in 2012, suffering damage that would take months to repair. That meant the A-crew having to use the B-boat and, for months, Ainslie didn’t have much to do. The mishap set the team back to such an extent that Team Oracle found itself 6-1 down against their New Zealand rivals in the 2013 America’s Cup.

It was then that the Oracle bosses — Ellison, Russell Coutts and Spithill — agreed to make a key change. They dropped the tactician John Kostecki and brought Ainslie into the team in his place. There were other reasons why the team were able to turn an 8-1 deficit into a dramatic 9-8 victory, but none were more important than Ainslie.

“Tom [Slingsby, the team strategist] was having a hard time with JK [Kostecki] — not really getting along. They didn’t communicate as much as they needed to. One of the biggest things you see when Ben comes on the boat is that Tom comes to life, because Ben is very open to feedback, and Tom is a freaking awesome sailor.

“It was kind of like the combination of Tom, Ben and I just clicked. It could have been a complete failure — three super-competitive guys — but it worked. We just completely clicked.”

They would have liked to have kept Ainslie in the team, but that wasn’t going to happen.

In explaining his admiration for Ainslie, Spithill recalls the terrible accident in San Francisco Bay that cost Ainslie’s friend Simpson his life. It was a Thursday in May 2013, four months before that year’s America’s Cup. Teams were training in the bay, Spithill and Ainslie on board the Oracle yacht while Simpson and another of Ainslie’s close friends, Percy, were on the Swedish team’s Artemis boat. The catamarans are built for speed. Downwind they can reach 50 knots (57mph), so turning can be high-risk. Seven months earlier, Spithill had made an error of judgment in the bay and capsized the Oracle boat. “It was a miracle no one was killed or hurt,” he says now. On that Thursday in May, luck was not on Simpson’s side. He got trapped under the boat when it turned over. Ainslie watched the tragedy unfold, knowing that his two mates were in great danger, but there was little he could do. Simpson suffered multiple blows to the head and drowned.

“Andrew [Simpson], Ben and Iain had all won gold medals in Beijing. They were so close,” says Spithill. “Ben and Iain went back to the UK to be with Andrew’s family, and I remember thinking, ‘Jesus, I wouldn’t blame the guy if he didn’t come back after that.’ But he did, and it meant a lot to me. It was a sign of a real strong character.”

Ainslie went on to find happiness with the TV presenter Georgie Thompson, whom he married in December 2014; their first child is due this summer. But the tragedy is tattooed onto Ainslie’s soul. Standing on the Oracle boat, hearing that one of the Artemis boys was missing, selfishly hoping it wasn’t one of those he knew and, God forbid, that it might be Simpson or Percy. In the aftermath, he questioned what it was all for: a great sailor lost at 36; his wife, Leah, left without a husband; his kids, Freddie and Hamish, growing up without a dad.

“It was his genuineness, really,” Ainslie says of Simpson. “He was a very straightforward, straight-talking kind of guy, which probably got him into a bit of bother on a few occasions. If he thought you were being an idiot, he would tell you, and there is something nice about that.”

Ainslie contemplated withdrawing from the race. This was, in part, out of respect for Simpson’s passing, but also a reaction to his own fears. But it was soon clear Simpson’s death was a wake-up call for the sport, and new safety protocols were introduced. In the end, it was the thought of what Simpson would have wanted that inspired his friend.

“Andrew loved the sport,” says Ainslie, “and if I’d asked him, he would have been the first person to say, ‘Stop being so bloody stupid.’” Ainslie is not the kind of competitor who wants to be a tactician on someone else’s boat. His own yacht — that’s what he wanted — using the best British engineering and design, manned by a mostly British crew and dedicated to winning back the Cup that Britain lost in 1851.

Ainslie and his wife, the TV presenter Georgie Thompson, are expecting a child this summer

To start the team, he needed to raise £85m, and £25m of that had to be found in the first two months. He is the kind of man people trust and backers came forward. Ben Ainslie Racing is his brand; the team is called Land Rover BAR and they have built a boat that is competitive. In the World Series, which precedes final qualification for next June’s America’s Cup in Bermuda, Ainslie’s team lies second among five challengers. They have their chance to claim their place in the final against the defender, Spithill’s Oracle team. The battle continues in Portsmouth harbour this weekend with another round of the World Series.

Teams are known to spy on each other. Surveillance methods in previous years have included helicopters and boats, and men with binoculars and cameras. Spithill recalls how one rival team enlisted a photographer who disguised himself as a tree. There is a boat from Oracle following Land Rover BAR at all times.

Last month, Ainslie’s team did well in the Chicago stage of the World Series. They will want to build on that and, again, he will take on Spithill. “Jimmy and I can’t be best mates. We get on fine, we are perfectly respectful and we may even have a beer every now and then, but that’s all it would be. I know he is just as competitive as I am. If I am trying to beat someone they will know I am not trying to be their best friend.

“I really respect all of the guys in the Oracle organisation. They were all my teammates last time, so it is a little bit awkward now, but I think they understand. Let’s just hope we are the team in the final and have a shot at them.”

I think back to Ainslie’s childhood. Gently, I wonder why he didn’t confront those bullies back in his youth, as Spithill did. “Jimmy and I are very different people. Maybe it did take me a little bit longer [to deal with the bullying], but I certainly felt like I proved people wrong in the long term. I am quite close-guarded. I keep my opinions to myself as much as I can, but make no mistake about this: if I want to beat somebody, it might take me a long time, but I will get there in the end.”

He means this as a warning. To Spithill and any other rival. Just as when he takes me onto the balcony and points to the spot where the race will end. He sees the end of the race, envisages his team crossing the line first. One day, the America’s Cup will be returned to Britain. He doesn’t explicitly say this, but it’s almost a promise.

Face off: bold salts line up for battle

Sir Ben Aislie, Land Rover BAR

  • Age: 39
  • Age started sailing: 8
  • Nicknames: “Beano”; “Big Ben”
  • Career high: Winning the gold medal at home in the 2012 London Olympic Games, his fourth consecutive gold
  • Career low: Getting disqualified while leading the 2011 Sailing World Championships for physically threatening a photographer
  • World Sailor of the Year Awards: 4 (1998, 2002, 2008, 2012)
  • He says: “This is a historic opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done in 164 years — to try and win this cup for Britain”

James Spithall, Oracle Team USA

  • Age: 37
  • Age started sailing: 5
  • Nicknames: “James Pitbull”; “Jimmy”
  • Career high: becoming the youngest helmsman ever to win the America’s Cup, aged 30, in 2010
  • Career low: Capsizing the Oracle team’s $10m boat in 2012, causing $2m worth of damage
  • World Sailor of the Year Awards: 1 (2014)
  • He says: “I’m not an aggressive person, but obviously on the sporting field I’ll do whatever it takes”

The boats

  • Both teams are using variations of the AC45, a catamaran specially designed for the America’s Cup. Billed as a “fighter jet on water” and “the most advanced yacht ever to hit the water”, Land Rover BAR’s boat is called Rita, after the patron saint of impossible causes. Oracle, meanwhile, will take to the water on the less adventurously named USA-17. At 45ft long, the vessels can reach speeds of 50 knots and boast sails roughly the size of jumbo-jet wings. Using the same principles that enable aircraft to fly, the hydrofoils and wing-sail design produce enough speed to lift the boat, which allow it to “fly” across the surface of the water.

Landlubber’s guide to the America’s Cup

When did it begin?
The competition began in the summer of 1851. A team of sailors from the New York Yacht Club crossed the Atlantic to take on Britain’s Royal Yacht Squadron in a 53-mile race around the Isle of Wight. With Queen Victoria looking on, the US team cruised to a comfortable victory, taking home the trophy, which they then named after their race-winning boat, America.

Have Britain ever won back the trophy?
No. Although British teams consistently attempted to prise the trophy from the New York Yacht Club between 1870 and 1987, it was eventually Australia’s Royal Perth Yacht Club that beat them, in 1983, with the 12-metre-class (39ft) Australia II. Since then, teams from New Zealand and Switzerland have also taken home the Auld Mug.

How does the competition work?
The America’s Cup is only the final stage of the global competition. Before that, six challenger teams must battle it out in the America’s Cup World Series to win the right to take on the defending champions. The overall ranking points accumulated in the series determine each team’s starting score in the America’s Cup Qualifiers. The team that wins the qualifiers progresses through to take on the defending champions. The race calendar includes glamorous locations such as New York, Bermuda, Toulon and, er, Portsmouth.

What are the races like?
The World Series stages are fleet races, in which all six teams compete on the same course at the same time, battling for qualification points. The America’s Cup race itself, which takes place in a location decided by the defending champions, is a two-team duel. The 2017 America’s Cup will take place in Bermuda.

Who won it last time?
The defending champions are Oracle Team USA, owned by the tech billionaire Larry Ellison. In 2013, in one of the most thrilling races in yachting history, they overturned an 8-1 deficit to triumph 9-8 against New Zealand, inspired to victory by Ben Ainslie, who was drafted into the team at the last minute.

America’s Cup Fixtures

Races completed

  • Portsmouth, England, July 25-26, 2015, Winner: Land Rover BAR
  • Gothenburg, Sweden, August 29-30, 2015, Winner: Emirates Team New Zealand
  • Bermuda, October 17-18, 2015, Winner: Artemis Racing
  • Muscat, Oman, February 27-28, 2016, Winner: Land Rover BAR
  • New York, USA, May 7-8, 2016, Winner: Emirates Team New Zealand
  • Chicago, USA, 11-12 June, 2016, Winner: Artemis Racing

Races to come

  • Portsmouth, England, July 23-24, 2016
  • Toulon, France, Sept 10-11, 2016
  • Fukuoka, Japan, Nov 18-20, 2016

Qualifiers and Challenger Playoffs (Provisional)

  • Bermuda, May 26-June 12, 2017


  • Bermuda, June 17-18 and 24-27, 2017

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